Archer Elementary School, PS 531
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Swimming and Shakespeare
Attendance has a ways to go
Parents and teachers agree that since it opened in 2011, Archer Elementary School has provided a welcoming space with high expectations for children, according to the NYC School Surveys. The school offers field trips and hands-on activities and has unique opportunities: older kids study Shakespeare; younger ones learn to swim at the YMCA.
The school's Twitter account shows children taking trips to the Liberty Science Center, New York Botanical Gardens and the Bronx Zoo. First graders plant seeds in science, and older kids pair up with little ones to help them learn to read. Parents attend publishing parties of children’s written work and gather for cooking classes after school. Children produce music videos that teach math concepts and study perimeter by measuring school hallways.
The Archer Shakespeareans (4th and 5th graders), produce an annual full-scale rock production of a Shakespeare classic, such as Macbeth, accompanied by students on bass, guitar, keyboard and drums. This program is run by an outside arts organization called LEAP, according to the Arts in Schools Report.
The person who established the school’s culture was founding principal Zak Haviland, a graduate of Williams College, whose leadership was valued by all and who stepped down at the end of the 2017-2018 school year. In order to provide continuity, he spent the following year mentoring the new principal, Erin Finerty, the website shows.
Finerty is a graduate of Bank Street College, and was a special education coordinator at the NYC Department of Education, according to her LinkedIn page.
A few downsides: Attendance could be better; some children miss at least a month of school. Test scores remain a challenge. To improve reading and math performance, the school switched to a “departmentalized” system in grades 3-5, which means children study math and science with one teacher, and reading with another, like in middle school. This allows teachers to become experts in their fields.
Additionally, the school has added a social worker, instructional coaches, and a teacher assigned to work with struggling students. This has allowed staff to provide “academic and emotional support services in a timely manner,” according to the Comprehensive Educational Plan.
Archer Elementary, also known as PS 531, shares the Joseph O. Loretan Campus with PS 536 and Bronx Little School. It was formerly the PS 102 building. The Department of Education decided to close PS 102 for poor performance.
Special Education: The school has team-teaching classes that mix children with special needs in classes with their general education peers. Each year, in addition to its other classes, Archer takes a small incoming kindergarten class of no more than twelve students; this “self contained” class is for those with complex disabilities, often including limited mobility, according to the CEP. The building is barrier-free.
Admissions: Zoned neighborhood school. (Lydie Raschka, school website and DOE data, August 2019)Read more