Riverdale Avenue Community School PS 446
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Strong, Bank Street-educated principal, children have same teacher for two years
Rough neighborhood, low attendance
Founded in 2012 in a location with a history of failing schools, Riverdale Community School PS 446 enjoys strong leadership and a tight-knit community. Although we visited at the end of the year, teachers and students seemed fully engaged in activities and there was a strong sense of camaraderie within the building. Time will tell whether these strengths can help administrators raise low attendance rates and offset neighborhood volatility.
PS 446s principal, Meghan Dunn began her career as a Teach for America teacher at PS 335, a successful elementary school in Crown Heights where she discovered children do better if they stay with the same teacher for two years. At her new school, she has adopted that practice, called "looping." The schools instructional coach, Jacqueline Coley, says the practice is integral at PS 446, helping to build trust and strong relationships between children, their teachers and their peers.
Coley holds weekly one-to-one meetings with new teachers and conducts workshops and small group meetings to discuss instruction and curriculum with all teachers. At the time of our visit, the school had children enrolled in pre-k to 3rd grade and plans to continue growing one grade per year until it becomes k-5.
The school has many partnerships to keep students engaged and having fun. Students in pre-k and kindergarten participate in Studio in a School, wherein an artist comes to the school to engage the children in art activities such as drawing portraits once or twice per week. Students from pre-k to 3rd grade have dance, gym and science two to three times per week. Monthly RACS (Respect Awareness Collaboration and Success) awards are given to students who have displayed the schools core values. Second- and 3rd-graders are able to join chess club, art club, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and all students have the opportunity to engage in the after school program.
In the morning the children also participate in Superstart and Playworks, which provide monitored fitness activities. Coley said the school values physical activity, and even on very cold school days the children are allowed to play in the outside parks. If it becomes unbearably cold, the children are allowed to come into one of the two indoor play spaces with a coach who organizes physical activity inside.
PS 446 has three pre-k classes that are currently fully enrolled, which is impressive for this district with very low pre-k enrollment. In a phone interview, Dunn attributed her success to word-of-mouth and talking directly to daycares in the area.
During her short time as principal, Dunn has faced her share of hurdles: In addition to low attendance, increased crime in the neighborhood has been a concern. With support from Partnership with Children, the school brings in extra social workers to create a climate where safety and responsibility are valued.
Dunn's efforts are supported by a strong, active group of parents who place flyers in the neighborhood about stopping violence, and have fought for increased police presence in the area.
Parents are very active, Dunn says. They also organized a grassroots movement to opt out of state testing due to growing concerns that test prep was taking the place of important extracurricular activities such as art and music. According to NY1, 48 out of 60 PS 446 students opted out of state testing in 2014. With no previous track record of test scores, however, parents aversion to testing may leave prospective families with few ways to measure the schools academics.
Special education: Integrated co-teaching (ICT) on every grade level, SETSS and counseling.
Admissions: District 23 choice but most children come from the Brownsville neighborhood. At the time of our visit, PS 446 had children enrolled in pre-k to 3rd grade. (Giselle Inoa, June 2014)Read more