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P.S. 344 AmPark Neighborhood School

Grades: Pre-K, K-5
Staff Pick
3961 Hillman Avenue
Bronx NY 10463
Phone: 718-548-3451

Our Insights

What’s Special

Small, vibrant school with emphasis on long-term projects and social consciousness

The Downside

No auditorium and a small yard, older children play at Van Courtlandt Park for more space

On a quiet residential street in Kingsbridge, Bronx, AmPark Neighborhood School is a lively, nurturing place known for its commitment to the environment, social consciousness and the arts. The school wears its “progressive” label proudly and believes children learn best by “doing” and engaging in issues that matter to them—like hatching and raising trout to release into the Hudson River Watershed or even advocating for a classroom democracy.

The school was started in 2006 as a joint effort between local parents and the Amalgamated Park Reservoir Cooperative Housing Project. AmPark is unzoned and kids hail from all over the Bronx. The student body is racially integrated and includes children from middle class families as well as those who qualify for free lunch.

Principal Christine McCourt Milton took over in 2012 from founding principal Elizabeth Lopez Towey (also founder of the Ella Baker School). Before coming to AmPark, Milton worked for 20 years in District 10 as a teacher, administrator and academic coach. Like her predecessor, Milton believes firmly in a “whole child” approach to education, nurturing a student’s mind, body and spirit. Children practice mindfulness every morning at breakfast and yoga every Monday, and teachers and students are on a first name basis. “We wanted to create a feeling of family, but it never impacts respect,” Milton said.

The lessons we saw were creative, and teachers seemed eager to think outside the box. In science, 4th-graders worked on comic strips about solids, liquids and gasses and had just finished an animal science unit. After studying ecosystems, students chose to focus on either desert or Arctic habitats and then created their own animals with particular features to help them thrive in that environment.

A 5th-grade class studying fantasy fiction watched a short animated film called “The Girl and the Fox.” Students listened spellbound as their teacher paused the film to discuss different symbols that are common in fantasy stories. One girl noted that the gray color of the villain reminded her of a cloudy day and gave the character “a gloomy feeling.”

The level of writing and conversation we saw was high. A 3rd-grade essay assignment focusing on social issues sparked a flurry of conversation and activity during our visit. One girl proudly shared her essay about advocating for free college. Meanwhile two boys collaborated on a topic close to home: putting an end to littering in residential sections of the Bronx.

In the younger grades, play is key and teachers take great pains to protect children’s ability to explore sand tables, build with blocks and act out stories—even in the testing age. “There are ways to meet [Common Core] expectations without making everyone sit and do the same thing all day long,” Milton said.

While most families are satisfied with the school, in learning surveys, a handful of teachers and parents called for more academic rigor. In response, Milton says the school has adopted Teachers College Reading and Writing Project for English language arts and has shifted its math curriculum from the more conceptually based Investigations program to skills-based Engage NY, which teachers supplement with math games and small group center work. The school has also hired a math coach. Fourth and 5th grades have departmentalized, meaning that teachers specialize in literacy/social studies or math/science, while students travel between classrooms for subjects.

The building, opened in 2011, is attached to neighborhood school PS/MS 95. It has brightly colored walls, large classrooms, a science lab, an art room, a music room and a library. There are full-time music and arts teachers and designated rooms for each. A small side yard has a rock climbing wall, a brand-new jungle gym and cushioned flooring. Older kids do need more space to play, however, so teachers and kids walk one block to the spacious Van Cortlandt Park playground every day, weather permitting. A multipurpose room serves as the gymnasium.

SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school offers ICT (integrated co-teaching) classes as needed and mixed-grade self-contained classes. The self-contained classes we saw were lively and warm, made up of a range of children with different needs, including many who were preparing to transition to ICT classes. There are two full-time SETSS teachers as well as speech, OT, PT and counseling.

ADMISSIONS: Families apply through the normal Department of Education kindergarten application process, but priority for AmPark is as follows: children living in Van Cortlandt Village/Kingsbridge Community Heights area, others in District 10, then to others outside the district. About 250 families applied for 50 general education kindergarten spots. (Aimee Sabo, May 2016)

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School Stats

Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

Is this school safe and well-run?

From 2018-19 NYC School Survey

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained at this school?
81%
79% Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
92%
81% Citywide Average
How many teachers say they would recommend this school to other families?
100%
83% Citywide Average

From 2017-18 NY State Report Card

How many students were suspended?
0%
1% Citywide Average

From this school's most recent Quality Review Report

Are teachers effective?

From 2018-19 School Quality Guide

How many teachers have 3 or more years of experience teaching?
65%
80% Citywide Average
Years of principal experience at this school
1.9

How do students perform academically?

From 2018 State ELA+Math Results Summary

How many elementary school students scored 3-4 on the state math exam?
53%
51% Citywide Average
How many elementary school students scored 3-4 on the state reading exam?
53%
49% Citywide Average

What is the Pre-K like?

From the NYC Program Assessment (CLASS and ECERS-R) Database through 2018-2019

Instruction: Teachers ask kids to explain their reasoning when they solve problems
Activities: Children explore art, music, sand/water, dramatic play and more
Language: Teachers talk and listen to kids in a supportive way
Interaction: Teachers ask kids good questions and invite back-and-forth conversation

Who does this school serve?

From 2018-19 Demographic Snapshot

Enrollment
378
Asian
4%
Black
13%
Hispanic
63%
White
17%
Other
4%
Free or reduced priced lunch
52%
Students with disabilities
22%
English language learners
4%
Pre-K seats
35

From 2018-19 School Quality Guide

Average daily attendance
94%
93% Citywide Average
How many students miss 18 or more days of school?
14%
25% Citywide Average

From 2018 School Directories

How does this school serve special populations?

From 2018 State ELA+Math Results Summary

How many students with disabilities scored 3-4 on the state math exam?
19%
28% Citywide Average
How many students with disabilities scored 3-4 on the state reading exam?
23%
23% Citywide Average


For more information about our data sources, see About Our Data · More DOE statistics for this school

Contact & Location

Location

Kingsbridge (District 10)
Trains: 4 Line to Mosholu Parkway; 1 Line to 238th St
Buses: Bx1, Bx10, Bx2, Bx22, Bx28, Bx3, Bx9, BxM3

Contact

Principal
Kelly Lennon
Parent Coordinator
Angie Lebron

Other Details

Shared campus?
Yes
This school shares the building with PS 95
Metal detectors?
No

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