PS/IS 124 Osmond A Church

An Insideschools pick
129-15 150 AVENUE
QUEENS NY 11420 Map
Phone: (718) 529-2580
Admissions: neighborhood school/gifted program
Principal: Maritza Williams Jones
Neighborhood: So. Ozone Park
District: 27
Grade range: K-8
Parent Coordinator: Cynthia Lapsley
Zoned
Wheelchair Accessible

What's special:

Children learn about the world through the Core Knowledge curriculum

The downside:

A building meant to house 650 kids has more than 1,300 and is still growing

InsideSchools Review

Our review:

A Jamaican parent learns about United States presidents from her 1st-grader and feels better prepared for her citizenship test. Another is in awe as her 6-year-old ponders the tiny arms of the Tyrannosaurus rex. Within walking distance of JFK Airport, PS 124 is not only an oasis for children — most qualify for free lunch, many are new immigrants, some live in homeless shelters — it is also a place where kids are exposed to history, geography, civics, the arts and science from the start.

Principal Valarie Lewis won a three-year grant from the Core Knowledge Foundation in 1999 that established the K–8 school's curriculum. Based on the work of E.D. Hirsch (who wrote Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know), this curriculum is in all grades and the school has become a national model. [Lewis retired in 2014. Her successor is Martiza Williams-Jones, formerly assistant principal at PS 104 in Far Rockaway.]

Teachers are flexible and creative in their delivery of Core Knowledge lessons, adding studies of Sikh culture due to a growing population of Sikh students, and developing science units on current topics like renewable energy. One challenge PS 124 faces is the mobility of the children; over 200 move to and from the area in one year. Because teachers extend topics through multiple years, some children who enter later are at a disadvantage, as they may lack the foundational knowledge. School doors are open every weekday until 6 pm, and 40 staff members work on Saturday to offer extra help and enrichment.

Teachers do not make assumptions about their students' knowledge, an advantage with this diverse population from all over the world: kindergartners learn American symbols like the Statue of Liberty and the U.S. flag; in 1st grade, it's Aesop's Fables and Westward Expansion. Young students learn about prairie dogs and colorful figures like Daniel Boone to whet their appetite for more on U.S. history in the upper grades.

In the principal's view, the school's rich lessons open the world to low-income students too often tied to skills and drills. "I don't believe in test prep," she said. "If they have knowledge, they'll be able to apply it."

Alumni say they felt well prepared for college, especially in terms of writing. "We do a lot of reading and writing to help kids process the content area," said an administrator. Writing assignments begin with a "thinking map" to help students organize information and include a list of skills to be met for self-evaluation.

Teachers weave together science, art, math, geography, history and more in their lessons. Science classes include engineering and favor hands-on activities combined with writing. Children examine fish scales through microscopes, make comics outlining the scientific method, learn math symbols used in Maya civilization. Cultural differences are celebrated on graphs showing children's countries of origin posted next to family recipes. "Everything is connected, and you have to see those connections to make sense of things," said Khalid, a 7th-grader.

To serve such a wide range of abilities, the school offers accelerated classes in every grade; 8th-graders may take Regents algebra and living environments classes.

Lewis has managed this burgeoning, diverse population with aplomb for many years. The big question is who will replace her in August 2014 when she retires, and what that change will mean for the direction of the school.

Parents volunteer daily, and sometimes 500 show up for special theme nights like the Thanksgiving mini-feast. After-school programs include dance, art, homework, reading and sports. Six social workers plan daily parent workshops, host a bereavement group and make home visits among other activities.

Special Education: A growing number of Integrated Co-Teaching classes are team-taught and mix children with special needs with general education students. These teachers stay with students for two years. Special education teachers work in classrooms or pull children out as needed. "We mainstream and tailor instruction," said Lewis.

Admissions: Only neighborhood children may attend. There is a gifted class in each grade. There is also a "1 class" for top students in each grade. Children are tested in the spring of their pre-k year. Some children are placed in smaller classes of 17 and provided with extra help. (Lydie Raschka, March 2014; new principal update December 2014)

InsideStats

Click tabs above to see school stats

At a glance

Shared campus? No

This school is in its own building

Number of Students 1348

Average Daily Attendance 95%

Students at this school

Asian

  
47%

Black

  
27%

Hispanic

  
22%

White

  
3%

Free Lunch

  
100%

Special ed

  
11%

English Language Learners

  
4%

Safety & vibe

ARE KIDS
NICE?

How many teachers say bullying is a problem at school?

26% 22% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained in the school?

82% 77% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

ARE CLASSES BIG?

Number of students in an average kindergarten class

23 23 CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Number of students in an average fifth grade class

30 26 CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Number of students in an average middle school english class

29 26 CITYWIDE AVERAGE

DO TEACHERS LIKE THE SCHOOL?

How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?

97% 80% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many teachers would recommend this school to other parents?

89% 80% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Attendance

How many students are chronically absent?

18% 23% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Academics

How many teachers say this school offers enough programs, classes and activities to keep students engaged?

86% 78% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many teachers say this school does a good job teaching social-emotional skills?

91% 84% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many teachers say this school does a good job teaching organizational and study skills?

97% 87% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of students in grades 3-8 who scored 3 or 4 on the state math exam

42% 38% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of students in grades 3-8 who scored 3 or 4 on the state ela exam

31% 29% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of 4th graders who scored 3 or 4 on the state science exam

89% 84% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of 8th graders who scored 3 or 4 on the state science exam

71% 52% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many 8th grades pass high school regents exams?

Percent of 8th graders who take and pass the algebra regents:

44% 19% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of 8th graders who take and pass a science regents:

44% 15% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Parents

Are parents involved?

How many parents responded to the school survey?

53% 62% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many parents say they attended at least one pta meeting in the last school year?

73% 69% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Does the school encourage family involvement?

How many parents say they were invited to an event at the school at least 3 times in the last school year?

56% 71% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Do parents like the school?

How many parents would recommend this school to other parents?

95% 93% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Special ed & ELL

How well does this school serve students with disabilities?

Percent of self-contained students who scored 3 or 4 on the state math exam:

NA 3% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of self-contained students who scored 3 or 4 on the state ELA exam:

NA 1% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of ICT students who scored 3 or 4 on the state math exam:

NA 13% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of ICT students who scored 3 or 4 on the state ELA exam:

5% 7% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of SETSS students who scored 3 or 4 on the state math exam:

10% 14% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of SETSS students who scored 3 or 4 on the state ELA exam:

2% 7% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many parents say students with disabilities are included in all activities?

97% 97% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many teachers say students with special needs are educated in the least restrictive environment appropriate?

92% 87% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many parents of students with ieps say this school offers a wide enough variety of services and activities for their children’s needs?

94% 88% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How well does this school serve English language learners?

Percent of ell students who scored 3 or 4 on the state ELA exam:

5% 4% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of former ell students who scored 3 or 4 on the state ELA exam:

17% 19% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many teachers say this school ensures that ells receive the same curriculum as non-ells with appropriate suppports?

92% 88% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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