P.S. 164 Caesar Rodney
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Well-rounded school with solid academics and a rich music program
A room with pillars serves as the gymnasium
PS 164 delivers quality special education, offers gifted and talented classes and boasts a robust music program. Until recently, students in this orderly neighborhood school, which has served immigrant children for more than 100 years, recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sang "The Star Spangled Banner" every morning. The staff is moving away from a traditional teaching approach to a more modern approach, with good results: Test scores are in the "high average" citywide range, and improving.
The building is located in a largely Orthodox Jewish neighborhood where many children enroll in religious schools. Enrollment is rising at PS 164, however, as the school admits children from across the district into their gifted and talented program. It is also serving more children of Chinese and Eastern European ancestry than in the past, and accepts students from PS 69 and PS 160, which are overcrowded.
Principal Erica Steinberg, a former special education teacher and former assistant principal at PS 32 in Brooklyn, replaced principal Margaret Choy-Shan in 2014. Choy-Shan left the school in very good shape; the Department of Education called the school "well-developed," the highest ranking, on the 2013-2014 Quality Review.
Recognizing that children learn at different rates, Principal Steinberg and Assistant Principal Melissa Jamieson have emphasized a shift from a more traditional, lecture-style of teaching to increased small group instruction. "I meet more often with those who need it," said a veteran teacher, who seemed to welcome the change.
In order to help children who are still learning English, teachers enlist the help of bilingual children or staff in the building. For example, a 4th-grade Hungarian student was thrilled to be able to help out (and befriend) a 5th-grade Hungarian classmate during reading time, and a Mandarin-speaking teaching assistant was helping out in a kindergarten with many Mandarin-speaking children.
A full-time math specialist meets with children once a week, and works with teachers too. One result: A color-coded, step-by-step chart to make it easier for children to work through long word problems.
PS 164 is known for its strong music program. Fifth-graders sat straight and tall in their seats as teacher Peter Mancini (a former baker) conducted them in singing the national anthem, giving keen attention to phrasing and enunciation, with surprisingly moving results. More than 40 children participate in the afterschool band; students meet with Mancini during lunch to learn their instruments. The school has a partnership with the Metropolitan Opera Guild; children learn about the historical context and other aspects of an opera before attending a performance.
Most classrooms are filled to capacity but the rooms are so airy and spacious, the children so calm, and the ceilings so high, that they don't feel uncomfortable. A few classrooms are led by two adults, one trained in special education; the gifted classrooms have only 15 students.
The school has separate rooms and trained teachers for music, art, science, library, math, English as a second language (ESL) and special education. Depending on the size of the school budget, however, teachers have sometimes had to lead physical education themselves in a makeshift gymnasium.
Special education: Team-taught classes in several grades mix children with special needs with their general education peers in one room. Several "self-contained" classes hold up to 12 children with special needs only. More than a dozen teaching assistants work one-on-one with children who need further assistance. Parents are pleased that their children are included in all activities, according to school satisfaction surveys. A District 75 program occupies part of the fourth floor and serves children on the autism spectrum.
Admissions: Neighborhood school. Admissions to gifted and talented classes are according to Department of Education guidelines. (Lydie Raschka, October 2014)Read more