P.S./M.S. 149 Sojourner Truth

41 WEST 117 STREET
MANHATTAN NY 10026 Map
Phone: (646) 672-9020
Website: Click here
Admissions: Neighborhood school
Principal: Claudia Aguirre
Neighborhood: Harlem
District: 3
Grade range: PK-8
Parent Coordinator: CLAUDIA AGUIRRE
Number of full-day PK seats: 36
Extended PK hours offered: Contact program about extended hours.
Zoned
Full Day
School-based pre-k

What's special:

Dynamic new principal; kids grow vegetables in hydroponics lab

The downside:

Many challenges remain

InsideSchools Review

Our review:

New furniture, fresh paint, brightly lit halls and a can-do principal are signs that long-beleaguered PS/IS 149 is on the upswing. Kids grow vegetables in a hydroponics lab, study ancient Egypt on trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and learn to dance with Alvin Ailey dancers.

PS/IS 149 shares a building with Harlem Success Academy 1, the flagship school of the Success Academy charter network. For years the stark contrast between the well-equipped charter school and the shabby district school has made children at PS 149 feel like second-class citizens. Now, that's beginning to change. "PS 149 has gone through a very big transformation," said Ilene Altschul. superintendent of District 3.

Claudia Aguirre, principal since 2015, has moved quickly to improve both the physical plant and the quality of teaching. She decided her school--with an enrollment of fewer than 300 children--needed just one, not two, assistant principals; with the $150,000 annual savings she bought new rugs, blond wood tables, matching chairs, and other equipment and supplies.

She sought out volunteers from New York Cares to help with painting; a new custodian cleaned the light fixtures and replaced long burned-out bulbs. The school librarian weeded out old books—one third of the collection--and circulation jumped from 280 books a month to more than 1,000. "When you get the old books off the shelves, children gravitate to the newer books," the librarian said on our visit. Aguirre built partnerships with arts and community organizations to offer fun activities like roller blading lessons and jazz concerts.

She replaced the scripted reading program with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, which encourages children to read books they choose themselves and to write multiple drafts of their essays. She recruited teacher trainers from TC work regularly with staff. She eased out staff who didn't share her vision and hired some energetic new teachers. "We're moving toward a progressive model of instruction," she said; teachers who were unhappy with the changes were encouraged to find jobs elsewhere.

Teachers specialize; beginning in 2nd grade, children learn reading and social studies from one teacher and math and science from another. Children grow kale, chard, basil, and bell peppers in an indoor hydroponic garden.

This tiny school has long had just one class on each grade (except for pre-k, which has two), but Aguirre, former principal of the Dual Language Middle School on the Upper West Side, hope to expand the middle school to two classes on each grade. An imaginative social studies curriculum includes trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art study ancient civilization in 6th grade, to Boston to study the American Revolution in 7th grade, and to Washington to study U.S. government in 8th grade. On our visit, children seemed happy and engaged and the tone of the school was calm.

The Harlem Children's Zone, a community organization, offers free after school until 6 pm, including lacrosse lessons. Other services include a mental health clinic, a dental clinic, tutoring and a washer-dryer for children who might not have one at home to wash their clothes. The school is one of 94 Renewal Schools, low-performing schools that get extra funds designed to boost achievement.

Many challenges remain. There is friction between the principal and staff and between staffers. More than half the teachers mistrust each other, according to school surveys, and nearly half say they don't trust the principal and they don't feel the principal respects them. Aguirre acknowledges that there has been push-back against the changes she has instituted, but points to an increase in teachers' attendance as a sign of progress.

Attendance rates for the children, while significantly improved, are below the citywide average. It will take time for the changes in instruction to be reflected in test scores, which are well below average. It will also take time for the community to embrace the school: The majority of children who live in the school attendance zone have long opted for charters, gifted programs or other specialized programs. Aguirre hopes to lure them back and make the school a true neighborhood school.

SPECIAL EDUCATION: PS 149 shares a building with a District 75 program for children with severe disabilities, some of whom take classes with PS 149. Aguirre believes special needs children should be included in regular classes whenever possible, and has worked to reduce the number of children in self-contained classes.

ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. (Clara Hemphill, March 2017)

InsideStats

Click tabs above to see school stats

At a glance

Shared campus? No

This school is in its own building.

Number of Students 285

Average Daily Attendance 91%

Students at this school

Asian

  
3%

Black

  
64%

Hispanic

  
27%

White

  
2%

Free Lunch

  
91%

Special ed

  
29%

English Language Learners

  
9%

Safety & vibe

ARE KIDS
NICE?

How many teachers say bullying is a problem at school?

NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

44% 75% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

ARE CLASSES BIG?

Number of students in an average kindergarten class

NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Number of students in an average fifth grade class

NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Number of students in an average middle school english class

NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE

DO TEACHERS LIKE THE SCHOOL?

How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?

62% 79% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many teachers would recommend this school to other parents?

NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Attendance

How many students are chronically absent?

35% 22% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Academics

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

NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

6% 40% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

12% 41% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many 8th grades pass high school regents exams?

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

0% 14% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

0% 17% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Parents

Are parents involved?

How many parents responded to the school survey?

33% 59% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

NA NA 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?

NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Do parents like the school?

How many parents would recommend this school to other parents?

NA NA 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:

0% 6% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

0% 2% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

0% 14% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

0% 8% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

0% 15% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

0% 9% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

80% 91% 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% 84% 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:

0% 3% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

NA 19% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Comments

Please post comments

  • Give specific examples. Tell us why this school rocks (or doesn't)
  • No profanity. No racial or ethnic slurs. No personal attacks
  • Criticism is fine but don't be nasty.
  • Flag inappropriate comments. (Hover your cursor over comments to see flag)