P.S. 102 The Bayview
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A strong foundation in reading
Dance and more take place in classrooms due to limited space
On the far fringe of gentrification, in an area not yet hip enough for recent college graduates, PS 102 is one of Brooklyn's large melting-pot schools. Children pour into this massive building in the morning and receive a solid foundation in literacy that bolsters both struggling and advanced students. The school has several advanced academic tracks, team-teaching classes that mix in children with special needs and small classes for children with severe disabilities. It also houses one of few programs in the city for children with visual limitations.
Principal Cornelia Sichenze started her career at the school in 1984 and taught 3rd grade before becoming a reading specialist. She believes every child benefits from consistent phonics, grammar, word study and comprehension work. Almost all of her kindergarten teachers, and many of the 1st-grade teachers have special training in a structured, multi-sensory approach to reading called Reading Reform. In 2015, 48 percent of all tested PS 102 students and 15 percent of students with disabilities scored at or above "proficient" on the state ELA test, higher than the district or citywide averages.
Children do hands-on project work all the way up through 5th grade, a practice the school calls STEAM, that weaves together science, technology, engineering, art and math. In one such project, 5th-graders crafted utopian societies with economic and education systems, food and culture, and geographical features. Younger kids may study the history of bridges, look at different styles of bridges and construct bridges. To help them get excited about their work, teachers offer children choices in their projects, such as writing a diary entry, creating a diorama or composing a song. There are two math periods; one for speed, facts and drills, another for multistep problems.
Teachers take a close look at the work of students with disabilities to locate gaps in learning. If, for example, a student has difficulty organizing an essay, teachers will try providing paper divided into subject boxes, or a memory aid to help children recall writing steps. When something works, the idea is shared with all teachers. PS 102 operates on the belief that "What's good for children with special needs, is good for all kids," said Sichenze. This practice has led to a stronger foundation as well as improved performance on the ELA exam, she said.
In addition to the district-wide gifted and talented "Delta" program, teachers test children for placement in one of two advanced classes in every grade. "It's nice to have AP on top of Delta," said a parent. "It gives kids who didn't pass some standardized test a chancesay if they didn't pass by a point or two." Another parent said, "They move a little faster than the other classes. You have to keep up. They take you out if you don't keep up with grades, unlike G&T." The rest of the classes have an equal distribution of kids learning English, kids who struggle with behavior, and low-, middle- and high-achievers.
To maintain a feeling of connectedness in such a large school, staffers greet parents at the door during drop-off time and mingle informally at events and performances. Every Friday, parents receive a robo-call with the following week's events. Notes and newsletters go home the old-fashioned way, in backpacks, and are posted on the school website.
Parent coordinator Margaret Sheri invites parents to be involved in a variety of ways. "I like to throw out a lot of thingsacademics, art, gardening," she said. "When we put in the tree guards, parents I'd never seen before came." Perhaps as a result, fathers come out in good numbers, she said.
The principal said she'd love more space "for the million things we do," including a dance studio and room for the small group instruction that now takes place in the library.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school has a good variety of services for kids with special needs including team-teaching classes, self-contained classes and SETSS. Kids receiving special ed services at PS 102 also receive a strong academic foundation, performing well above the city average on standardized tests.
ADMISSIONS: Zoned neighborhood school.(Lydie Raschka, May 2016)Read more