Newly-minted Blue Ribbon school P.S. 173 follows through on its mantra of growing future leaders.
The Fresh Meadows elementary school was honored for being a high performing school on September 15, earning itself the federal government’s prestigious Blue Ribbon award and a brand new banner across the school.
According to David Thomas, spokesperson for the United States Department of Education, the school received the award for consistently performing at high levels on New York State assessments in both reading and mathematics. The school’s most recent assessment test scores place it amongst the highest in the nation.
“We don’t know what the exact formula is for success,” said PTA president Stephen Chow. “It’s a combination of the staff and the parental support. Everything that has been done here so far has really worked out to get us the award.”
According to Principal Molly Wang, the formula for success lies in the investment of several long-term school programs, including extracurricular ballroom dancing and drama programs that take place during and after school. But the school takes greater pride in its professional development and dual-language program.
Through the professional development program — now in its fifth year — teachers collaborate with the Columbia University Teachers College, where an on-site literacy staff works with them throughout the year. The program enables teachers to evaluate and revise classroom practices as they may become outdated.
“In the last four years, the kids have done exceptionally well in assessment testing. I believe the teachers are strong in their knowledge and in the delivery of instruction,” Wang said.
Wang also said the teachers are very committed, working passed the afternoon dismissal and often coming in before the sun rises.
“That’s the kind of dedication that they have,” she said. “I think that says it all.”
Additionally, over 11 percent of the school’s population comprises of students who are learning English as a second language, and a majority of them mainly speak Chinese. The school’s English-Mandarin language program gives these students a better chance at understanding the material, while exposing other students to a new language.
“Research has shown that students are able to grasp the concepts more if it’s taught to them in their native language and then followed up in English,” said Jeannette Miranda, fourth-grade dual-language English teacher. “They just have a better understanding of the things that we’re teaching them in both English and in Chinese.”
The goal of the program was to expose the kids to another culture, which Wang hopes will help her little ones out when they grow up and choose a career.
Now in its fourth year, the program has extended to grades one through four.
“Learning a lot of languages is really fun because if you travel the world, you don’t have to open up a giant, heavy book to look up words,” said Jonah, an eight-year old who is currently learning Chinese, English and Hebrew. “I can communicate with people who are new here. I can become a guide for people who come from other countries.”