P.S. 173 Fresh Meadows
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Dual language Mandarin program, lots of small group instruction
PS 173 is a bustling, high-performing school with a sprawling building that feels like a suburban campus. The school has classes in technology, the arts and instrumental music, as well as a dual language program designed to make children fluent in English and Mandarin.
"This school challenges every single child, says longtime principal Molly Wang. She says students are happy to come to school, even on Saturday (when there are classes for children learning English, those in the dual language program, and those who need extra help). While that might raise eyebrows, the children of PS 173 seem exceptionally enthusiastic and are eager to discuss their school with a visitor.
Expectations are clear, and there are frequent assessments to make sure children are making progress. "They know what they're supposed to do and they know what they're supposed to do if they get stuck," a teacher explained.
Classes have as many as 32 children, but small group instruction ensures they get the attention they need. While the teacher works with one group, other children may work on their own, with one another, or with another adult. Children help their classmates, which a 2nd-grade teacher said "makes them feel important.
Beginning in 1st grade, there is one dual language class of 25 pupils on each grade. Parents apply at the end of kindergarten, and children are chosen by lottery; half are English-speakers and half are Mandarin-speakers. Children have instruction from two teachers, one who speaks English and one who speaks Mandarin. By the end of 1st grade, children are comfortable in both languages. "I'm amazed at how much they absorb and remember," Wang says. To help with the challenge, the dual language students go toSaturday Academy at PS 173 and every student receives a computer program to use at home.
In addition, some Chinese-speakers are assigned to regular English-only classes in which they receive extra help from a teacher certified in English as a second language.
PS 173 stresses writing, and has long used the reading and writing program developed at Columbia University Teachers College.
Two science teachersone for kindergarten and 1st grade and one for the older childrenuse a well-equipped science room for hands-on activities. Science seems particularly popular with the students who say the classes are fun but, one hastened to add, "not just fun. We also learn stuff." A technology teacher works with students in all grades, teaching computer coding to 3rd-, 4th- and 5th-graders.
The school has a full-time music teacher and an orchestra and glee club. Children also take visual art, culminating in a May exhibition of art by children in all grades.
A very active PTA helps the school raise money for some of these activities and technological improvements.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: PS 173 has self-contained classes for students with disabilities as well as team teaching classes with special education and general education in every grade. It is taking a close look at special education, partly because, while the school as a whole scores above the city average on state standardized tests, its special education students score below the city average.
ADMISSIONS: Zoned school. Application to the dual language program is limited to children who attended kindergarten at the school. (Gail Robinson, March 2016)Read more