P.S. 29 John M. Harrigan
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Super active parents, wonderful outdoor space open to the community
Popularity leading to overcrowding
Parents from across the world email the principal of PS 29 as they seek to move to its historic, tree-lined Cobble Hill neighborhood. This cohesive school rivals any area private school, rave current parents. Every effort is made to connect studies with children's lives and to include them in decisions. Parents help run an after-school program, a journalism club and a lunchtime running club. They raise money to pay for assistants in kindergarten.
Like the best progressive schools, everything is fodder for learning here, from the basement plumbing that pre-kindergartners examine to see how water gets inside the building, to the school garden. Children take up causes, like banning household products containing microbeads, a water pollutant. There are two science teachers who fuel children's curiosities. "We take it a step further to make the connection with real life," said one, "then kids take the lead."
Writing is at the heart of the school and many parents are writers themselves. A parent volunteer (and writer at The Nation)handed us the latest edition of the PS29 Post. It is written by 4th- and 5th-graders and funded by parent advertisements. Writing often takes practical form: Students are required to submit an essay to be considered a "green team" monitor, for example. Monitors take photos, gather data and do audits that include an examination of the waste bin in the principal's office.
Classrooms are alive with movement and talk. Kindergartners take part in dress-up, block building and other "choice time" activities. We saw a high level of achievement throughout the building, but efforts are made to reach kids who may lack skills too. Teaching assistants have training to help struggling readers, and children receive phonics and other foundation skills lessons. Math performance is above-average and improving as teachers deepen their practice with a math coach. Second-grade teacher Kim Van Duzer co-founded NYC Math Lab, a collective of teachers working together to enhance their math practice.
The school has grown by about 250 children since Principal Rebecca Fagin arrived in 2011. She taught at the flagship Mott Hall in Harlem and was an assistant principal at Mott Hall II for four years. She wants kids to "take the reins" at PS 29 so they "internalize the learning." Therefore, it is the children who create posters for the annual "Eat Pie & Shop," and take up collections for City Harvest, a coat drive and Toys for Tots.
Because PS 29 lacks a full gymnasium, a resourceful teacher makes the most of a double-wide classroom outfitted with gymnastics equipment. Children visit the spacious playground even in cold weather.
A downside is the school's popularity. The three pre-k classes fill with siblings, and the staff anticipates wait lists for kindergarten for the future.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Team-taught ICT (integrated co-teaching) classes are "100 percent integrated," said Fagin, meaning low, middle and high achievers are mixed in every class. "We find that's what makes it work so well," she said.
ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. There is an open house for prospective families in December. About 15 students from out of district were admitted in the upper grades in 2015 through the Public School Choice program, which provides families of children attending failing schools with other options. (Lydie Raschka, December 2015; updated August 2016)Read more