Frequently Asked Questions
Why K-6th (versus a school whose program goes longer like a K-12)?
At PS1 Pluralistic School, we are experts in elementary education. We believe that you cannot know what kind of learner your child will be when they are five years old, so we give children many different experiences during the elementary years to help them figure out what will be the next kind of school for them. We don’t want to lock students into one philosophy or approach from kindergarten all the way through high school. We also know there is no way of knowing what kind of twelve year old learner you will have. So our program has a built-in mechanism for reevaluating, at the 6th grade equivalent, what the next best learning environment is for your child. Our students are eager to actively participate in the search and ultimately attend a wide variety of middle schools because they are all different learners. We encourage families to make their school choices one step, one level at a time. We have found our families greatly appreciate this opportunity.
How does PS1 group kids?
Students are grouped in a two grade-level-equivalent range within a classroom (K-1, 1-2, 2-3, 3-4, and so on). We group students both in a classroom and in a Cluster (2 or 3 classrooms with students of the same age range). The Clusters and their grade level equivalent ranges are as follows: Youngers (K-1); Bridge (1-2 and 2-3); Middles (3-4); and Olders (5-6). Interacting with groups large and small allows each student to know every teacher and every other student in the school. Our students feel a sense of belonging – to a classroom and to a Cluster. With this level of support, PS1 students become self-assured individuals and confident leaders.
How does a student move through the Clusters?
Children develop at different rates. Every year, we consider our core values—competence, confidence and connection—when deciding on class placement, and we take great care to make informed placements throughout the Clusters. When making a placement, we gather information from students, parents and teachers in order to consider the following: academic and social-emotional factors; leadership/citizenship as the younger or older in a classroom; and teacher/peer relationships. A child’s academic strengths are given equal weight with social-emotional strengths when considering placement. Changing a child’s peer group from year to year provides each child with opportunities to be both an older and a younger student within the class at different times through his or her school experience. This structure fosters connection, a lifelong skill, and helps students thrive in many different kinds of environments.
What is a typical day like in Youngers?
Students in Youngers start their day with a Morning Meeting to settle in and learn about what’s to come in the day ahead. Each day, students spend time working together as a whole group, in small groups, one on one with teachers, and working independently. See a sample schedule here to learn more about their day.
Why doesn’t PS1 give grades?
A non-graded system gives students the ability to develop a sense of intrinsic motivation—to know that they are doing their best work because it is important to them, and not because they are trying to earn a certain grade. We want students to own their learning! Research shows that letter grades diminish a student’s interest in the learning, and decrease the quality of a student’s thinking (Kohn, 2011). We do assess students’ learning on an ongoing basis, and this information is provided to parents through rubric and narrative report cards 3 times a year, and parent-teacher (and sometimes student) conferences twice a year. Faculty engage in a year-long dialogue with parents, actively maintaining the necessary parent partnership, in order to better understand the learners in their classroom.
Do you do any standardized testing?
Yes. PS1 students take the ERB test in the equivalent of their 4th and 5th grade years. Most students take the ISEE (Independent School Entrance Exam) in the fall of their 6th grade equivalent year as part of their middle school admissions process. PS1 offers skill-based test preparation, more prominently in Olders, in order to go on to middle school with a solid understanding of and experience with standardized tests.
What is the homework policy?
PS1 believes that homework should be meaningful and developmentally appropriate. Teachers at all grade levels assign homework. In Youngers, it may involve reading as well as an activity that connects home and school. About 20 minutes per night is appropriate at this level. Students in Olders typically have an hour of homework each night, involving activities to reinforce learning from the school day as well as ongoing projects that help students learn time-management skills in preparation for middle school.
What is the transition like to Middle School?
PS1 students attend a wide range of middle schools, from the most progressive to the most traditional. That is because PS1 students understand who they are as learners and they are able to find the best fit for their next stage of schooling. That is also why they make the transition so seamlessly. PS1 students are sought after in the middle school admissions process for their academic strengths matched by their joy of learning, their confidence in tackling new concepts, and their ease in social situations. Our alumni often attribute their success in middle school to the strong foundation provided to them at PS1. Curious to know where PS1 students matriculate? Click Here
Does PS1 have sports teams?
No. PS1 is a non-competitive school and therefore we do not have formal sports teams. P.E. classes focus on skill development, teamwork, and sportsmanship. That being said, you can always find PS1 students engaged in soccer and basketball games during recess times, and many students compete on sports teams after school.
Do you teach a foreign language?
No. We believe students in elementary school best learn a second language in an immersion environment. While we have no plans to be an immersion program, we place strong emphasis on grammar instruction in order to prepare students for foreign language study in middle school. Our alumni go on to successfully study Latin, Spanish, French, Mandarin, and many more languages after PS1, and they tell us how important grammar instruction was in building a foundation for learning a new language. We also provide opportunities for students to start language and cultural clubs after school.