P.S. 380 John Wayne Elementary
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Excellent work teaching English Language Learners
Structured approach may not appeal to everyone
PS 380 is a highly-structured, award-winning school that has room for students outside its attendance zone. It serves many Spanish-speaking children and as of 2016 will offer a Spanish-English dual language program. It also has an unusual bilingual special education program for Yiddish-speakers.
Many children who live in this Hasidic Jewish neighborhood in Williamsburg attend private religious schools. Still, enrollment at PS 380 has been steadily increasing, at least in part because of a magnet grant designed to attract children from other neighborhoods.
This safe, nurturing school has strong leaders and teachers who keep up with what’s current in education. The staff sprinkles the air with warm praise such as “Good job!” and “Love it!” while making sure that no child falls through the cracks.
Little is left to chance, from how to hold a pencil correctly to how to speak clearly during a power point presentation. Students also participate in old-fashioned math fact contests. The walls of a staff meeting room are covered with test score results so teachers can see at-a-glance who needs what kind of help. If a teacher is weak, as evidenced by test scores and observation, Principal Diane Vitolo assigns a teacher-mentor to help out. [Elsa Nuñez became principal in 2014.]
Substantial reading sessions are broken up into lessons on phonics and other skills, read-aloud, silent reading, and talking and writing about books. Grades K-2 sit in rows for 30-to 40-minute phonics lessons. The step-by-step approach (in which everyone reads the same book or works on the same skill at the same pace, and children sometimes answer questions in unison) may not suit every child. But children also work on projects of their own choosing and have time to read books independently. The school delivers high test scores and parents who responded to the Learning Environment Survey are overwhelmingly satisfied.
Classrooms in all grades tend to be quiet because children from Spanish-speaking homes who are just learning English “need quiet to hear and listen to themselves speak,” according to former principal Josephine Viars, who has been instrumental in shaping the school and coordinates the magnet grant.
Faster learners are challenged too. Teachers provide learning “tasks” designed for different levels of difficulty. Children who really excel may join older grades for certain lessons (about seven children do this according to Vitolo). PS 380 has won a Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Department of Education for its dramatic student achievement results.
Technology has been thoughtfully incorporated, thanks in part to money for the Literary Arts and Technology Grant, meant to increase diversity. Yet, the grant has been only marginally successful in attracting white and Asian parents to the primarily Hispanic population.
After school clubs are offered twice a week and include drama, screen-printing, art, computer/photography, dance, fitness and games. Grades 1 and 2 participate in a musical theater program. In the spring, the older children switch to test prep. Early morning academic help and morning clubs take place Monday through Thursday. Sportsmanship and character are emphasized throughout the school, with leaders groomed through the “future teachers” program, in which older kids tutor younger ones.
Parents may attend workshops organized by the belovedbilingual parent coordinator. Two big dance programs are highlights of the year, as are $1 Movie Nights when the gym is set up like a theater complete with ropes, ushers, hotdogs and popcorn.
Special education: There are six “self-contained” classes in grades K-5,in which two adults teach up to twelve children. Three are “Bi-Y” - Bilingual Yiddish and English. The school has a growing Integrated Co-Teaching program in which general education students are mixed with children who have special needs and two teachers. Children with special needs are often mainstreamed, according to the principal.
PS 141, a District 75 program for children with serious disabilities occupies the first floor. They share the auditorium, cafeteria, playground and the services of a school psychologist and other therapists.
In 2011, PS 380 won the Pete & Carrie Rozelle Award from the National Center for Learning Disabilities for its work addressing children's learning and social/emotional needs. The group praised PS 380 for its inclusion efforts and said, "Students identified with learning disabilities have their progress closely monitored and receive the additional time and support that they need to be successful."
Admissions: Zoned neighborhood school. Out of zone families may fill out a magnet application, usually available at the school at the end of January.There are openings in grades K-2, especially kindergarten. It’s harder to enter in the upper grades. Pre-K classes usually have a waiting list except for children with special needs. (Lydie Raschka, December 2012; updated principal information August 2015; updated dual language December 2015)Read more