Bronx Little School
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Swimming and dance
State test scores have a ways to go
Bronx Little School offers a warm tone and a winning mix of freedom and structure—not too strict, not too relaxed. Children are encouraged to speak up in class and they work together in groups. They study reading, math and more, but also work on making friends and resolving conflicts. Children are encouraged to try out leadership roles. School surveys show the school is safe, welcoming and well run.
Founded in 1999, Bronx Little began as an alternative school patterned after the progressive Central Park East elementary school in East Harlem, but after the founding principal left the school took a more traditional and strict path.
Beverly Urquiza became principal in 2016 and sought to bring back more of the progressive practices, in particular the warm tone, while also boosting academics. She did away with traditional desks in rows in favor of group work and student discussion. She gets high marks from parents and teachers on school surveys. They say she has a clear vision for the school and is a good manager. While test scores have a ways to go, they are improving under her leadership.
The school accommodates various learning styles. Classrooms are equipped with self-soothing tools, swivel chairs for wiggly kids and beanbag chairs. On a mood chart, children use clothespins to identify how they feel, whether it’s happy, angry or sad. This gives the student and the teacher a read on where kids are but with the understanding that it can be changed or moved as the day progresses.
The administrative team meshes well together, and we observed genuine care in interactions between adults and students, both in classrooms and in conversations we observed in the hall as we passed.
In classes from the youngest to oldest grades, we saw kids make use of conversation starters to help them think aloud as they sought the right answer – “I disagree or agree because…” or “The strategy I used was…” While this isn’t uncommon, we were taken with the ease and consistency with which students used these skills without much prompting or redirection from the teacher.
Bronx Little has a full-time licensed music teacher, and a theater program for students in grades 2-5 that culminates in an annual musical production such as The Jungle Book. Second graders take swimming classes every week. Fourth and 5th graders study ballroom dance, and all students study art with Studio in a School.
The school serves a growing number of children learning English whose home languages are Bengali, Arabic and Spanish. Parents are welcome to become involved in their child’s education with a warm and understanding staff to support them. The school provides trainings, resources and workshops for the families.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school does well with this population, meeting or exceeding the citywide average. The administration believes the key to their success has been finding strong teachers and applying strategies consistently on every grade.
ADMISSIONS: Unzoned. (Jacquie Wayans & Christine Rivera October, 2019)