P.S. 222 Katherine R. Snyder
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High-achieving neighborhood school with inclusive environment for special needs students
Technology is being introduced slowly
A large school in quiet Marine Park, PS 222 serves its diverse population well. In a wheelchair accessible building, the school welcomes children with special needs and does a good job of tailoring programs for each child. Bright and orderly classrooms, a spacious playground and two separate gymsone outfitted with adaptive equipmentcreate a cheerful and inclusive environment where all students can thrive. The school also offers an enrichment class in each grade for high-achieving students.
Faculty and administrators are a tightknit and friendly group. On our December visit virtually every classroom was decorated with Christmas trees and menorahs and children were making holiday ornaments and gifts to take home. Some children were in native dress and some wore Santa hatsthere is no uniform or dress code at PS 222.
Each child is considered individually, say administrators. "We get everyone to perform at their greatest potential," said Theresa Olivieri, who was an assistant principal at the school before becoming principal in 2012. Group work and early intervention help struggling students stay on track. "As we note that a child needs a special modification, we add it."
There are as many as five or six adults in some classrooms. Para-professionals and school aides frequently function much like teachers and participate in professional development. "We all have different strengths," a special ed teacher said.
In most classrooms students are separated into small learning groups, each led by an adult who customizes lessons to their abilities. In a special education fifth-grade classroom, a few students were doing simple subtraction problems, another group was doing division and a third was learning how to use multiplication facts to help solve a division problem.
Basic skills are taught using textbooks and worksheets. There are regular quizzes and spelling homework. Multiplication tables are posted in building stairwells.
We saw a lot of innovative instruction and teacher collaboration. In an ASD Nest class, which included three autistic boys, two teachers practiced "reciprocal teaching," demonstrating to students how to work together and learn from one another. Standing in front of the class, they took turns asking and answering one another's questions about the exploration of North America.
Speaking to her co-teacher, one said, "Okay, so he was looking for a route to Asia and instead he ended up in Canada. Why did he do that? They didn't have the technology we havethere was no GPS."
The teachers began reciprocal teaching because they found it distracting to hold two separate groups in a classroom, they said. "It shows [students] our thinking and it gets them to think also," said Toni Ann Theodos who co-teaches with Lisa Jordan. "They start to emulate what we're doing. We want children to question themselves and each other." In addition, they assign different homework, depending on a students level.
Children who scored above the 90th percentile on the city's gifted and talented tests are placed in an "enrichment class." Those classes delve more deeply into subjects and proceed at an accelerated pace, administrators said. In a fourth-grade class, one student was reading "Moby Dick." In a third-grade enrichment class, students chose a country and wrote a book about it based on the question: Would you visit this country and why?
An art teacher comes to the school three times a week, and there is a full-time musicteacher and a part-time theater teacher. Students visit a computer lab and carts of laptop computers rotate through classrooms, but technology is still lacking. They are adding it slowly, the principal said.
Parents of PS 222 studentsmost of whom go on to the local middle school 278 Marine Park, or selective schools such as Scholars Academy and Mark Twain couldnt be happier. I worked my tushy off to get my son in this school, said one parent. Hes learning to read already and hes in kindergarten.
English Language Learners: Russian, Spanish, Urdu Arabic and Cantonese are among the languages spoken by students who get ESL instruction in groups of about 12.
Special education: There are four self-contained classes. Most have five or six teachers, including para-professionals, in the classroom. There are numerous inclusion classes with two teachers and ASD Nest classes in three grades. In those classes a small number of autistic children are taught in a general education setting. For part of the day they get social development classes and go to adaptive physical education classes.
Admission: PS 222 is a zoned school. (Pamela Wheaton, December 2012)