P.S. 375 Jackie Robinson School
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Dual language for children, GED and ESL classes for parents
High rates of chronic absenteeism
When Schwanna Ellman became principal of PS 375 in October 2014, she vowed to change the schools reputation as a place where parents were kept out. Now, parents are allowed in the building to drop off and pick up their children—not asked to wait outside whatever the weather. Tours are offered to anyone who asks, and parents are invited to volunteer. The school offers GED and ESL classes for adults—a boon for the many Mexican immigrants in the neighborhood.
Once a month, parents may have Tea with the Principal, a chance to meet informally from 8:30 to 9:30 am.
Other changes were evident on our tour of PS 375: Children no longer line up to go to the bathroom as a class, but may go whenever they need to. Pre-kindergartners and kindergartners may take part in a dual language class in which they study in Spanish one day and English the next. The scripted ReadyGen reading curriculum has been replaced with Core Knowledge in the lower grades and Expeditionary Learning in the upper grades, a reading series that offers teachers more flexibility.
The school faces many challenges. Enrollment has declined in recent years, the result of gentrification and competition from charter schools, while the proportion of children with special needs and new immigrants learning English has grown. Many of the children who live in nearby housing projects are very needy, and chronic absenteeism is high. Academic achievement levels are low.
Nonetheless, Ellman has high hopes for the school. She began her teaching career at PS 175 in Harlem and was an intern-principal at PS 69 in the Bronx—a high-performing school in a tough neighborhood with a population that's similar to PS 375's. Ellman continues to rely on PS 69 principal Sheila Durant as a mentor, and hopes to adopt some of that schools teaching techniques, such as the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education that encourages exploration and discovery.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school has self-contained and ICT classes.
ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. (Clara Hemphill, October 2015)Read more