P.S. 172, the Beacon School of Excellence, in Sunset Park, lived up to its name this past year.
According to New York City Department of Education, 81.5 percent of fourth grade students at P.S. 172 passed the statewide English language arts exam (ELA), and 100 percent passed the math exam, an achievement which placed the school squarely among the top elementary schools across New York City, with a student population that includes 29 percent special needs students and 29 percent English Language Learners.
Jack Spatola, the school’s principal, told the paper that he is pleased with the recent numbers and commitment by everyone involved. “It feels great. It reflects that we are making a big difference and that there is an incredible opportunity to feel good about what we as teachers and parents are doing to prepare the kids for being successful in school and hopefully eventually in life,” he said.
According to Spatola, the school excels in catering to individual needs. “We track each individual’s performance in different subject matters, like language arts, math and science, then reflect on the structure in order to learn each individual student’s style, needs and strengths and make a decision with what needs to be done going forward,” he said. “As we teach, we look at students’ participation verbally, in writing and in problem solving.”
The principal attributes the high scores to catering to students of all skill sets. “When you know the student’s standards, you aim to go beyond what’s expected,” he said. “We want to challenge them to get to the next level as well as help students struggling to meet standards.”
With P.S. 172’s practices, every one of its classes is made up of a heterogeneous group of students, according to Spatola. “You have the highest achievers as well as those that need support,” he said. “The school holds mini lessons for small groups of students. They are selected to work with intervention teachers. It’s a team approach.”
Faculty also strives to stay away from creating labels. “We look at the individual student and provide the support he or she needs to get to next level. That’s what individualism is,” said Spatola.
In general, the students spend 30 minutes with each teacher at the beginning of the year and discuss what specific area they need to work on in order for them to be more effective. “All this is derived from data from students,” Spatola said. In addition, he said, “Every two months, every student goes through an Education Improvement Plan where we identify two areas of skills that the child needs to focus on and we as teachers devise an action plan. Within two months, not a year, we want to get them to the expected milestone.”
The school’s latest achievement is no surprise to Spatola. “We’ve been at the very top for more than 20 years,” he said. “Our profile is a neighborhood school in an urban setting. There’s nothing that distinct from another public school. I’m proud of the type of effort of work and education true professionals are embracing in order to get the best results.”
P.S. 172 is located at 825 Fourth Avenue.