P.S. 186 Dr. Irving A Gladstone
Interactive, discovery-based learning
Space is tight, only one pre-K
American flags, Chinese restaurants and Virgin Mary statues are common sights along the avenues of Bensonhurst, a traditionally Italian enclave also known as Brooklyn's second Chinatown. Once an old-fashioned school with desks in rows, PS 186 now serves many children of new immigrants with cutting-edge technology, in classrooms that hum with movement and chatter as kids work on learning-tasks, projects and games.
Academics start early but there is lots of variety, choice and activity to hold a child's interest at every age. Teachers move energetically among tables to assist children like supportive coaches on a ball field.
Particularly successful here are the many different ways children cover a topic. During a science lesson on states of matter, some children watched a video, others read a picture book and a few did an experiment with the teacher. Then the groups rotated. In one class, kids played geometry games with colorful shapes and iPads, using QR codes to check their answers.
One-quarter of the students are new to speaking English and there are many opportunities for them to practice their English here. When children learn this way it makes it easier for the teacher to check their understanding, said Principal Bayan Cadotte, a former elementary and middle school teacher. Indeed, we saw teachers jot notes and listen in as they worked their rooms.
Children are noticeably kind and helpful. Attendance is better than average, a good sign for such a large school, meaning the teacher does not have to slow down to help kids who missed lessons catch up.
Independence is prized so children try to find their own answers, rather than only relying on the teacher, whether it's finding the word "purple" posted on the wall, or checking a pocket guide on copyediting marks as they edit a classmate's work.
Parents flock to the school for the solid instruction as well as the free after-school program from 2:20-5:20 pm. (However, roughly 150 families choose not to put their children in extended day, opting for private tutoring instead, Cadotte said.) The yearly plan states discipline is a bit bumpier in the after-school program, but the school makes every effort to provide a seamless change from the school time to after-school time, Cadotte said. The parent coordinator stays late to oversee the transition. Overall, parents are very happy with their children's experiences at PS 186, according to school surveys.
Teachers have identified a need for more translation services and support for the influx of new English speakers. There are a few paraprofessionals on staff who help parents with translation, and the school adopted two online programs to give kids extra practice with reading skills.
Enrollment is on the rise, which may require space-juggling in the future, such as giving up the science or music rooms for new classrooms.
The single pre-kindergarten is lovely but typically fills up with siblings of older PS 186 students. We saw children there play "family" in the dramatic play areawhere boys and girls were equally comfortable cuddling a toy baby and changing its diaper.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Services include small, mixed-age "self-contained" classes, and team-teaching classes that incorporate children with disabilities into general education classes. Students with disabilities do better than average on state exams.
ADMISSIONS: Zoned, neighborhood school.(Lydie Raschka, May 2016)
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Brooklyn NY 11214