P.S. 175 City Island
Strong leadership, cheery close-knit environment
Tough commute for off-islanders
PS 175 is a small k-8 school with steady leadership, small classes and a cheery, close-knit environment. Its located on City Island, a tiny Bronx community surrounded by the Long Island Sound thats connected to the mainland by a bridge. Most students who attend are local residents who stay through the 8th grade, but the schools solid reputation also draws some off-island Bronx residents who are willing to undertake the daily trek by car or bus.
Longtime principal Amy Lipson gets high marks from teachers based on their responses to the NYC School Survey Report. During her tenure shes put in place supports for teachers and students such as forgoing an assistant principal in order to hire full-time literacy and math coaches who work directly with teachers to develop and revise lessons. Lipson also brings in retired teachers to work with students who need extra help; she invites students who are having a hard time socially to play games with her during lunchtime.
Scheduling is designed to ease students into the middle school experience. In grades k to 3, students stay with the same teacher all daya typical elementary school format. In grades 4 to 6, students have two teachers, one for English and social studies, and the other for math and science. Seventh- and 8th-graders change classes for each subject.
The school developed its own reading and writing curriculum. What you dont see in classes are lots of worksheets or textbooks. In the early grades, children learn to read by selecting appropriate books from the well-stocked classroom libraries. In the upper grades students learn from many sources such as news articles, diaries, historical documents and fiction. They also write a lot on a range of topics. In a kindergarten class we observed, the writing topic of the day was my favorite thing to do in school. In 5th grade, students were comparing and contrasting Cinderella stories from different cultures.
We saw teachers tailoring assignments to students skill levels. For instance, as part of their study of the Salem witch trials, 7th-graders were assigned one of two books: Advanced students tackled The Crucible, while others read A Break with Charity, a more manageable, but still grade-appropriate historical novel. Students then worked together to stage a mock witch trial. In several science classes, students seemed to enjoy working together, whether it was experimenting with yeast to identify the presence of other chemicals (5th grade) or role-playing representatives from different countriesUnited States, Russia, China and Indiain a class-wide debate on climate change (8th grade).
For math, lessons combine hands-on work to help students understand concepts, and a lot of practice and drilling to build computational fluency.
Qualifying 8th-graders can take high school level coursework in Earth science and algebra.
Teaching artists from Bronx Arts Ensembles work with students in all grades; music and theater instruction for grades k to 3 are provided by the Lincoln Center Institute. Middle school students participate in overnight trips to places such as Greenkill Environmental Center, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington D.C.
All students have to leave the island for high school. Some graduates attend Catholic high schools, but many choose public high schools in Manhattan and the Bronx such as High School of American Studies, Bronx Science, Beacon, Frank McCourt, Fashion Industries, TAPCO and Pelham Lab.
There is a free sports and arts after-school program for students in grades 6 to 8. A very small program run by Mosholu Montefiore Community Center provides after-school childcare for elementary students who cannot be picked up or walk home on their own at the end of the school day.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: There are ICT (integrated co-teaching) classes in the middle school and SETSS for all grades. The special education teacher also works with elementary students in their classes.
ADMISSIONS: Elementary school (grades k-5): Zoned neighborhood school. Theres typically no space in kindergarten for out-of-zone students, but some are admitted in the upper grades. Middle school: Priority to continuing 5th-graders and then to students living in the zone. Occasionally there are seats available for students living outside the zone, said Lipson. (Laura Zingmond, December 2015)