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. In 2014 CPE II was approved to extend to the middle school grades.
Central Park East II is a small option school in Community School District Four, East Harlem. We have 18 classes, many of which are inclusion classes, serving pre-kindergarten through eighth graders. In additional to our classroom teachers, our staff includes a licensed librarian and specialists in music, the visual arts, and reading. 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 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.
Our mission is to provide a progressive education by challenging children through active exploration 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 instill in them the importance of taking part in society as a whole. We want our children to learn that they can make a difference in the world.
Central Park East II (CPEII) is one of only a few public 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.
Tenets of our Philosophy
Our school is designed to foster a sense of community. Teachers know students and students know teachers across grades.
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.