I can't speak about the other schools, but our experience at Q300 has been AMAZING. My kindergartener is being pushed and challenged in ways I never imagined. The school has a very particular reading curriculum, for example, where grades K and 1 are grouped together by reading level for targeted small group instruction 4 times a week. My son started kindergarten with some basic reading skills and now he is reading at level M (2nd grade). This is the norm for the class (with a couple of kids reading at levels R and above). And all this was accomplished with no effort on my part. His writing too is way above grade level. There's lots of focus on spelling and proper sentence structure, logical development of ideas, and inclusion of details. In math, there's a lot of focus on solving multi-step word problems in addition to all the arithmetic. Plus, there's music and art and Spanish. It's been a truly amazing year, totally worth the extra commute.
HI! I don't personally know of folks traveling from Upper West Side for Q300, but can look into it. We have parents who coordinate private buses, with some families coming from the Bronx. The private bus route changes every year depending on the population commuting by bus.
We are in D26, and ps188 and 203 will be on our list, among others.
We went to the Q300 open house yesterday, and we were quite disappointed.
This was going to be our first choice, because it's the closest citywide for us, but after the open house, we are not sure any more.
I know that the principal is new, so maybe he's still learning how to articulate what the school is about, but he didn't give a clear picture as to what they actually do.
What I kept hearing was, community, community, inclusivity, individualized support, emotional support, great community...
They are all wonderful and necessary things, but I don't think that's the primary reason why parents choose a citywide g&t.
When asked about specifics of the academic program and curricula, the principal didn't give us a straight answer. He kept saying things like: it's about inquisitive learning, and collaboration, doing what the school philosophy is about... again, they are wonderful things, but so abstract.
Someone asked: what math curriculum do you use? He said: It's not about learning more things, but going deeper. you can go very deep in math just using 0 to 9.
Another asked: Is this an accelerated program? He said: It's about going deep, not fast. The children set the pace...
Don't get me wrong, we are not very traditional parents when it comes to academics. We want our child to learn through exploration and creativity. We don't want too much homework. We don't want homework over the weekend or vacation. We are all for progressive education. But even for us, the school seemed too "hippy-ish", and experimental.
There should be specific goals and specific curricula, even if it's accomplished through progressive learning style.
did I get the wrong impression?
They didn't even give us a tour of the classrooms, so we have no idea what kind of work the kids actually do.
We just have the abstract philosophy of the school, but not concrete examples of what they do, and what they aim to do.
I want to give the benefit of the doubt that the teachers and the admin have it together and they know what they are doing, but the principal just didn't give a good presentation.
They should have had some teachers and maybe even the assistant principal speak for parts of the presentation and answer questions.
Could you give me some more examples of what goes on in the school, how it's special compared to the other citywide schools, and especially for those of you who have been there for a couple of years, how is the school really? Do you see changes coming with the new principal?
On the positive note, there are only about 7 siblings that qualified for K, leaving about 43 seats open
What you have to understand is that your expectations of the tour are wholly unrealistic. The principal cannot have teachers speak during the presentation because during the morning hours the teachers teach in the class and the evening tour is after their working hours. There are DOE rules about what the teachers can be obliged to do and these rules apply to citywides as well (you will see this at ALL the school tours).
As for the principal, Bill is new but he has a solid vision of the school and gifted education. He is a quiet person who might not necessarily appear at his best in large crowds, but he has a clear vision that he is developing in the school (with strong feedback from parents and teachers).
As for the curriculum... it is absolutely student led. The school does not use a book math curriculum like "Go Math." Instead, there are units or, if you prefer, goals (like geometry, addition and subtraction, etc.). Within those units, there is a lot of differentiation based on student ability. All students are expected to reach grade benchmarks, but many do so on the pre-tests, so they are grouped into the accelerated subgroup where they are asked to explore deeper in terms of number relationships and are provided with first grade extension work. For example, the addition unit didn't just focus on 8+4. Students had to solve multistep word problems using different number strategies. Then they were asked to develop their own problems. Many were then given higher number problems (1st grade). The focus, really, was about developing number logic and critical math thinking. I don't think I can explain it any clearer because this is the essence of progressive education. It is not as simple as as just accelerating the class a grade ahead. It is really about getting the students to THINK.
This approach is helped by the school's emphasis on explorations. Students have a dedicated room filled with blocks and other different building material. They are then tasked with solving a problem. For example, the teacher may ask a small group to build a bridge with large block that can sustain a number of cars going over it a couple of times. You'd be amazed how much such a seemingly simple task can teach the kids about geometry, measurement, proportions, and weight (not to mention group work). This is the sort of work kids do on a daily basis in addition to a traditional curriculum.
But let me stress that this creative approach is by no means play or "hippy-ish." My older child has been in both a general ed school and a top district program, and Q300 is by far the most academic. The teacher sets extremely high expectations and these children meet them in every subject (let me mention here that the writing curriculum also has units like opinion, narrative, etc., but again there is a lot of emphasis on proper spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure; my son currently writes in full paragraphs even though he started the school year not being able to write a word let alone a sentence; this has been accomplished without him feeling the least bit pressured). Homework is not mandatory until 3rd grade and we like it this way. If a child struggles in a particular area, the teacher will assign practice problems for home (which are optional) and reading is always mandatory. Do not expect homework packets. If you need this for your child, the school is not for you.
I hope this answers some of your questions. I cannot possibly compare this school to other citywides because I have no experience with the other citywides. Have you toured the other schools? I think you may be surprised by just how difficult it is to get a sense of any of these schools during a tour because, in the end, none of the citywides are really interested in "convincing" you to attend. And, remember, our community is filled with ambitious parents who monitor our children's progress like hawks. Do you honestly believe we chose this school and happily stay there just because of the community? The bottom line is all about the results. And I am very pleased with what I see.
There is nothing more I can say than what d25mommy already expressed. I think we as q300 parents already know our kids will be academically challenged and enriched, so there is an emphasis on how the school can make them better people, teammates, colleagues, neighbors beyond just focusing on grades. The program isn't rigid but the bar for achievement is high and there is significant effort for each student to maximize their potential by understanding the child and the way they learn to bring out their strengths. I am a traditionalist tiger dad, but could not be happier with our Q300 decision seeing how well he's advanced and has developed higher level cognitive thinking for a kindergartener. I'm equally impressed with the quality and character of kids he's sitting with as they've grown in the Q300 environment. Our second kid also scored a 99 this year, so yeah all the other citywides are available for him as well. Q300 will once again be our top choice though as we've enjoyed the first hand experience of seeing how good the education (academic and social) had been.
Those are exactly what we, and the other parents were asking for. I can tell that's what the other parents wanted to know as well, because we kept asking and fishing for those specific examples of what actually goes on at the school.
When I visited the other schools, NEST+M, TAG, PS188, I was able to grasp what the school was about, and have a general idea of what they do.
At NEST, they had multiple staff members present different aspects of the school, giving specific examples. NEST is a pretty progressive school, yet they had clear examples of their goals and achievements.
For example, they use Singapore math, they collaborate with the Teacher's College for their writing program, and the kids learn how to write stories, etc. They go to the zoo and observe the animals and write about them. They gave us a tour, so we got to see the work the students did, the art teacher told us what she does, the librarian told us what he does, etc etc.
At TAG, they only had a parent coordinator and three parents, and four students who gave us a presentation and answered questions(No principal, nor teachers present). Yet, we were able to gain a wealth of information about what they do and what they are about.
For example, the Kindergarteners set up a restaurant in the library with real food, to put what they are learning into real world practice, such as math, teamwork, organization, etc. In technology, they learn coding from 1st grade, then move onto html, java, robotics, and the upper classes enter robotics competition. They told us how many times a week they have music, art, gym, spanish, etc. That they use Singapore math, and have spelling test every Friday, etc, etc.
Q188 only had the parent coordinator and the assistant principal there, yet we got a good picture of what they do there. They told us that they are strong in writing, and they showed us some of the work the K class did in math, writing, and projects. They told us what they do for their class presentations, etc.
As we visited the schools, we were trying to see what makes each school different. What the strengths are for each school. Yet, it was very difficult to know what Q300 was really about.
The reason why I said "hippy-ish" is because they mentioned that they had a mindfulness class for kindergarteners, and they emphasized emotional support, and community. Yet, when asked about the specifics of their academics, we kept getting abstract, vague, roundabout answers. It felt like everything is up in the air, and they are very flexible, go with the flow.
Sorry, if that was out of line or offensive.
But when asked what makes your school different from the other four? He said he didn't want to answer that question because he didn't want to compare or say anything negative about the other schools.
When asked to give examples of what he means by going deeper? He gave vague answers.
When asked what they do in technology, unclear answers.
The assistant principal was there, why didn't he have her answer some questions? Or some of the pta members who were there?
I understand that it was the evening and we couldn't get a tour, but all the more, we wanted to hear about the specifics of what actually goes on during school, and the type of work they do. Maybe some pictures on the screen could have helped.
It's the disparity that left us disappointed and confused, because we had heard such good things about the school, but when we were there, it was very difficult to see that.
But again, thank you for your replies, because it helps a whole lot. Like I assumed, maybe the principal is new and is still getting used to articulating what they are about, and it's not a reflection of the school as a whole.
We actually want our daughter to be in a creative, expressive environment, because that's where she would thrive in, more so than a rigid, traditional environment. So what you have described about your children sound exciting.
Didn't mean to come across as thinking you were out of line, Twodaughters. I guess it's sometimes hard to remember that we were in your shoes just last year, and we've all been so thrilled with the school that it's easy to overlook the imperfections that may seem glaring to someone without our experiences as reference points.
Yes, there's a lot of transition since we've had a switch in principals. Bill is getting his footing, but he is extremely responsive to parents. I chat with him on an almost daily basis. I find him extremely receptive to parental feedback.
In terms of the curriculum, the school follows Teacher's College for its writing units. The kids do not have spelling tests, but they do have individualized spelling books they are expected to use and proper spelling factors into their writing evaluations. I discussed in detail above how Q300 teaches reading, but would just like to add that there's a lot of phonics instruction on the lower reading level end while the higher reading level instruction really focuses on developing complex reading comprehension and analysis, and reading stamina. I believe the math curriculum loosely follows TERC, but this is where Bill (the principal) is probably going to have the biggest impact. He comes from a strong math background (taught G&T math to middle schoolers before he was AP and then principal) and has some strong views on how math and science should be taught to gifted students. He's also forming relationships with John Hopkins CTY. Kindergarteners have Spanish twice a week, coding twice a week, gym twice a week, art (run by Astoria Art House), and music (run by the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music). Chess is also starting to be a large part of the school (but that's the case at all the citywides, I think). We've had field trips to places places like the Queens Zoo to celebrate the completion of writing units. The "how-to" writing unit ended with all the kids making their own pizzas and then writing about it. All parents are invited to publishing parties where the kids share their "edited" work (there's a lot of emphasis in the school on the editing process).
In addition, I would just like to highlight that the kindergarten teachers are beyond excellent. Every Friday, we receive an email that summarizes what the kids accomplished during the week in Reading, Writing, Math, Art, Social Studies, Science, and the Social Emotional Curriculum. In the same email, the teacher also spells out the goals in those areas for the upcoming week. We receive all relevant attachments so that parents can track (and work on, if they choose) the upcoming skills. I know exactly what my son is doing in the classroom, and how well he's doing it.
There has been a lot of focus on mindfulness in the kindergarten classrooms (the school received a grant for an expert to come in to run the program), mostly out of necessity. These kids are truly brilliant, but they are used to being "stars" and sometimes have trouble adjusting to being in a roomful of other stars, especially when some can outshine them in certain areas. You can have kids doing fifth grade math work who can come off extremely immature when it comes to such things as sharing or letting a classmate shine for a moment. The school is addressing this by actively teaching respect for others, inclusion, cooperation, and all the other relevant social/emotional skills.