History of the School
In February of 1981 Deborah Meier and the Central Park East staff founded Central Park East II (CPEII) as a sister school to Central Park East I (CPE I) (founded in 1974). Deborah Meier believed that schools need to be small, democratic, nurturing places in order to be able to encourage children to develop a love of learning and the ability to think for themselves. She particularly wanted to provide the underserved children in New York City with the fruits of the most recent research into what a high-quality education comprises. Her educational vision helped to make the CPE schools a vital force in the movement for progressive education in the city and throughout the country. In September of 2004, CPE II became a fully recognized school: PS 964
CPE II is located on the fourth floor of P.S. 171, in a building that is more than 100 years old. Our large, sunny classrooms have numerous activity centers including cooking areas, extensive libraries, science and discovery areas with live insects and animals, building blocks and other construction sets, and areas for dramatic play, math, writing, painting, wood-working and more. Each room also has a meeting area. Many rooms now have lofts that extend classroom space. CPE II shares the auditorium, cafeteria, gym, and playground space with the PS 171, a pre-K-8th grade school.
Central Park East II is a small option school in Community School District Four, East Harlem. We have 10 classes, many of which are inclusion classes, serving pre-kindergarten through fifth graders. In additional to our classroom teachers, our staff includes a licensed librarian and specialists in music, the visual arts, reading, and science. We also have specialists who provide mandated services in SETSS (Special Education Teacher Support Services), counseling, speech, and occupational therapy. CPE II attracts students from several districts and boroughs. Most of our 240 students come from all parts of Harlem, the many other communities of Upper Manhattan and The Bronx. As an option school, CPE II is committed to maintaining a racially, economically and ethnically diverse school population.
Mission Statement Our mission is to provide progressive education to children in East Harlem, as well as to children in New York City. By challenging children through active exploration of content and by allowing them to develop at their own pace, we teach them to be critical and creative thinkers, readers, writers, mathematicians, scientists and artists. Furthermore, by emphasizing their place in the school community, as well as our school’s place in the civic community, we aim to inculcate in them the importance of taking part in society as a whole. We want our children to know that they can make a difference in the world.
Educational Philosophy, Curriculum and Methods Central Park East II (CPEII) is one of only a few public elementary schools committed to providing a progressive education to its students. Our emphasis is on critical, creative and independent thinking. We build the curriculum based on the staff’s understanding of pertinent research on children’s intellectual development, as well as on city and state curriculum requirements. Because our methods derive from a child-centered perspective, our classrooms look and feel different from traditional public school classrooms.
The following are some tenets of our philosophy:
Our school is small, to foster a sense of community. Teachers know each student and students know all teachers.
Our educational philosophy is child-centered. Child-centered means that the organization of the school and the methods we use to teach children emerge from our knowledge of how children learn best, and from our belief that, given appropriate opportunities, children actively and enthusiastically participate in developing their own abilities and identities.
Our curriculum is developmentally appropriate, meaning that children are introduced to new ideas and skills at a pace appropriate to their readiness to learn. Since children of the same age will typically reflect different levels of readiness, they may be working at different levels of complexity in our classes. Children who learn when they are ready are naturally enthusiastic and love learning.
Our curriculum is hands-on; children are encouraged to experience concepts. There is an emphasis on building from children’s interests and learning in a meaningful way, with opportunities to apply skills and knowledge to meaningful problems. Our classrooms include activities that foster learning by doing.
We believe learning happens within a social context. Therefore, we teach cooperative learning. Children work independently, but they also collaborate on projects in groups and with partners. We emphasize that each child discuss what he or she has learned with the group. In addition, we teach children to interact with their peers and their teachers with respect, kindness and responsibility. In line with the philosophy of the Responsive Classroom, each class has a morning meeting where every child is greeted and welcomed for the day. Other activities serve to build self-respect and respect for others. All members of the community get to know each other in many ways.
One of the fundamental principals of our philosophy is that engaging in the arts is crucial to intellectual development. Consequently, our arts program includes visual arts, music and dance.