P.S. 62 Chester Park
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Creative use of technology, strong arts program
No after-school program
PS 62 is a large, welcoming neighborhood school with a strong arts program and lots of technology. It's also a nurturing and supportive place for its many immigrant students, who come from some 20 different countries with the most common native languages being Spanish and Punjabi.
The vibe throughout the school is cheery and calm. There's a lot of student art, writing and math on display. Children move around for various activities, rather than sit at desks for long stretches of time. Pre-k classrooms, located in the new wing of the building, are a bit cramped, but there is still room for children to learn through play.
Longtime principal Angela O'Dowd, who grew up in Ireland, identifies with the challenges of immigrant students and says that drives the school's culture. During our visit we were impressed by the thoughtful ways in which teachers acknowledge their students struggles. For instance, when a kindergarten student said the word "walk" started with a "v," the teacher smiled and responded, "I see why you thought that. Sometimes in Punjabi a "w" makes a "v" sound." In another class, the teacher immediately understood why a girl did not respond to a question. "Oh, did I not pronounce your name correctly?"
Across the grades we saw students working in small groups—sometimes on tasks geared to their skill level and sometimes on class-wide assignments. For instance, in a 1st-grade class the teacher read with a small group of students while their classmates spread out across the room—someat computers reading about elephants, others writing at their desks and still others playing word games on tablet computers. In a 5th-grade class students were chatty and enthusiastic as they worked in groups to complete table-size charts explaining their study of ecosystems in coral reefs, deserts and the Arctic.
In the younger grades there are lot of structured exercises in phonics and reading. Kindergarten teachers use a program called Jolly Phonics, which uses movement and song to help students learn their letters and sounds.
Despite the school's many plusses, Dowd would like to see better test scores, which hover around the citywide average. Toward that end, the school is offering more specialized instruction in two 5th-grade classes—withone teacher for English and social studies, and another for math and science. Dowd said it is a logistical challenge to departmentalize the entire 5th grade, but she'll consider doing so if the trial boosts achievement.
Starting in kindergarten, students learn computer coding. There are lots of unplugged coding activities in the younger grades, such as playing board games. In the upper grades students write code on computers and learn robotics and 3-D printing.
Students also have access to online content including e-books and educational sites such National Geographic Kids and Tynker. Science lessons are woven into class time; 3rd- and 4th-graders attend the science lab once a week for additional instruction.
Visual art, dance and music are offered in all grades. Several PS 62 students travel to Ballet Tech once a week for a full day of dance instruction. The entire 4th grade attends a performance of "The Nutcracker"ballet.
The longtime parent coordinator created a family room and leads workshops, book clubs, English classes and other events for parents.
PS 62 does not offer after-school activities.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: In addition to SETSS, there are ICT and self-contained classes. Through a grant from Studio in a School, art is woven into instruction for English language learners in grades k-2. One challenge is serving the increasing population of students from Guyana. These students don't qualify for extra support because English is their native language. Yet despite their fluency in English, many Guyanese students need extra help with communication and reading because their native dialect is very distinct from American English.
ADMISSIONS: Zoned, neighborhood school. (Laura Zingmond, November 2015)Read more