PS 3 vs. PS 41: Choosing a School for Your Id

3/26/07 - By Anna Fader

Starting in 2014, these schools will be in separate districts. For the most up-to-date information on school districts, call the school you're interested in directly. Families in Greenwich Village are faced with a true embarrassment of riches when it comes to schools. Forced to choose between two of the best public elementary schools in NYC, parents are often left divided and confused. Hang out at any of the downtown preschools around this time of year and you are apt to hear heated debates among parents who have already chosen one school over the other for their kids and will fiercely defend their choice. Choosing a school is one of the toughest problems parents face in NYC and very emotional. The PS3 vs 41 debate is a perfect platform for exploring the approach that parents take to this issue all over NYC, whether looking for public or private schools.


The conventional wisdom is that PS 41 is more traditional and structured and that PS 3 is more eclectic, but what does that really mean? Can parents really choose "the right school for their child" based on these abstract concepts and for a child so young it's hard to know what their learning style will really be. Parents are often left grappling for a concrete reason to choose one school over the other so that they can feel confident in their choice. After observing several schools and parents struggling with these decisions, I have detected a pretty clear pattern of how families choose one school over another and the results may surprise you as much as they did me. In the end, it seems to come down much more to what kind of school parents feel comfortable with and less about curriculum and learning style. Parents, basically, fall into two groups. The first group of parents needs to feel like they have chosen the "best" school for their child. They are more comfortable with a school that has a proven track record of excellence, great facilities and doesn't need too much parent involvement. In fact, they are fine with a school that keeps parents at arms length because they believe the school has it under control. These parents go for a brand school, like PS 6, 41, or 234. (For privates these are the parents who have to go Top Tier). On the other hand, some parents really want a school where they feel like they can be very involved in the school. They want a warm and fuzzy school where parents are welcome in the classroom and can bring their special talents to enrich the school. Community is king for these parents. They may be willing to sacrifice feeling like the school is "the best," with the most rigorous academics and the best facilities, in exchange for knowing that they will be very involved in their child's education and the community of the school. These parents would choose PS 3 over 41, or PS 150 over 234. This is not to say that 41 doesn't have a wonderful community. It does. Just as PS 3 has great academics. As I said, we are talking about an embarrassment of riches where parents are really forced to split hairs. But, it can be really frustrating for parents to try to make this most important decision of choosing a school for their children with so little concrete information to go on. Parents are left floundering, looking for the criteria that will make it clear to them which is the better choice. The truth is that so many public and private schools in NYC are excellent. Of course, there is uneven teaching at every school. You may get the "bad" teacher one year whatever school you pick. But, if you pick the school that fulfills your emotional need (need to feel confident in a brand school or need to feel involved in a dynamic community) you will be happier with your school choice through the ups and downs that will inevitably come up.