P.S. 9 Sarah Smith Garnet
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A warm, open atmosphere and some excellent teachers
Not all students are consistently engaged
PS 9 has popular music and dance performances, a promising partnership with Park Slope's fabled PS 321, and steadily increasing enrollmenta sign of the community's growing confidence in the school.
The school has a mix of children of different racial and ethnic groups, which parents say is a great strength. "In the lunchroom, on the playground, in the halls, PS 9 has a Sesame Street level of mixture," one parent said. "In addition to black and white, PS 9 has a bunch of mixed-race kids and a number of South Asian kids. It's a warm, tolerant and diverse place." Both the office staff and Principal Sandra D'Avilar are welcoming to parents.
The school has a Spanish-English dual language program and gifted and talented classes that attract children from across the district. The dance and art teachers collaborate on musical productions that include 200 children and have custom-made scenery and sets.
Teachers have adopted a challenging math program called "Math in Focus," based on the techniques perfected in Singapore, one of the world's top countries for math instruction.
The Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University's Teachers College trains the staff to develop children's writing skills, teaching them to write with a voice and to revise multiple drafts.
Some teachers are excellent, engaging their pupils in imaginative projects that involve significant research. For example, children in a 5th-grade gifted class wrote polished essays on topics such as Buffalo Soldiers (African American soldiers in the Amerian West), The Trail of Tears (Native Americans' forced migration to Oklahoma), and the Transcontinental Railroad. Unfortunately, the quality of teaching is inconsistent: The school's 2015 Quality Review said there should be less teacher talking, more class discussions and a higher level of student engagement.
On the positive side, PS 9 has joined what's called the "Learning Partners Program" in which teachers and administrators visit one another's schools to share best practices. PS 9 is paired with PS 321, widely considered one of the best schools in the city, and teachers visit one another's classes at least four times a year. Principal D'Avilar says her teachers have focused on improving reading instruction in small groups; three have been named "model teachers" and are beginning to share what they've learned with their colleagues. (Two of the model teachers are in the gifted program and one teaches special education.) PS 321 principal Liz Phillips says she has seen the "real impact" as a result of the program.
The Spanish-English dual language program, which started in 2011, has grown steadily and now serves 10 classes of children. These classes, which mix children who speak Spanish at home with those who speak English, are designed to make children fluent speakers, readers and writers in both languages.
PS 9 shares a building with Brooklyn East Collegiate Charter School.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school offers team-teaching as well as self-contained special education classes. One of the school's "model teachers" is in the self-contained class. Teachers trained in a special program called Reading Recovery assist children with reading difficulties.
ADMISSIONS: Zoned neighborhood school. Children from outside the zone are admitted to the G&T class based on an exam given by the Department of Education. There is also sometimes space for students outside the zone who apply to the dual language class. (Clara Hemphill, March 2016)Read more