Young Scholars' Academy for Discovery and Exploration PS 636
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After-school program, improving reading instruction
No music during the school day, math scores are low
PS 636 Young Scholar's Academy is a tiny school that offers students many big school perks including an after-school program and weekly clubs. In 2014-2015 the school added a second pre-kindergarten class and at the time of our visit there was still space in both classrooms.
Young Scholar's promotes leadership among students in a variety of ways. Children may apply to work as an assistant in the main office, to be on the safety patrol or to assist in the library. Each grade in this one-class-per-grade school has a class president or representative. Teachers are also leaders; they run weekly clubs and workshops for parents, sharing their expertise on topics such as "essay writing," "Common Core 101" and "literacy."
Takeema Allen-Stokes, formerly a 4th-grade teacher at PS 116, became principal of PS 636 in fall 2013. She is an effective manager according to school surveys. [Allen-Stokes is expected to be on maternity leave starting in March 2015. Her interim replacement will be Assistant Principal Doreen Duff, who arrived in November 2014 in time to "shadow" Principal Allen-Stokes for several months.]
Young Scholars adopted "ReadyGen" in 2013; it's the reading program promoted by the city. "It's more rigorous than what we've ever used before," said Allen-Stokes. Children have showed marked improvement on their ELA scores since the implementation of ReadyGen, as well as a continuation of some ideas from Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University, their former approach. Children read books at their "just right" level daily, which means books they can read without a teacher's help. On our visit we saw energetic teaching of reading, and it appears to be a favorite subject among students. A 5th-grader named Meshaliah said, "I like reading and writing. If I have trouble with words I sound them out."
The school is trying to figure out the best formula for teaching math. Teachers combine elements of the city-recommended "Go Math" with methods from the "Everyday Math" curriculum, which has math games teachers like.
PS 636 serves many children from the nearby Marcy Houses public housing and some children from several homeless shelters in the area. Children "come and go often," said the principal, and this is reflected in the attendance rate. When children move away, they may remain on the roster; when they first move into the area, they sometimes miss up to four days of school to attend dental and doctor appointments. "Our attendance is always a struggle," said Allen-Stokes. A staff person has been appointed to work exclusively on attendance once a week and there is a full-time guidance counselor to provide assistance.
PS 636 is one of two schools (along with Brighter Choice, one of the highest performers in the district) now in space once occupied by PS 304, which closed in June 2008 due to poor performance. In addition to common spaces like the cafeteria and the gymnasium, the schools share the services of a special education teacher, psychologist, social worker, speech teacher and English as a Second Language teacher.
PS 636 serves a small group of native Spanish speakers, and a few Chinese students, primarily the children of restaurant workers in the area, according to the administration. There is a small District 75 program in the building for children with severe special needs.
Children visit the Bronx Zoo, Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, a farm and an organic garden to augment lessons learned in a science room filled with plants, animals and art. No music is offered during school hours but a teaching assistant leads a music club. All children participate in weekly teacher-led clubs and may participate in after-school clubs until 5:45 pm Monday through Thursday and 4:45 pm on Friday. University Settlement provides a range of after-school activities.
Special education: There are two "self-contained" classrooms that vary by grade depending on the year and students' needs.
Admissions: Neighborhood school. Students in the former PS 304 zone may choose to attend either Brighter Choice or Young Scholars. There is often room for students outside the zone or district especially in pre-k. (Lydie Raschka, November 2014)Read more