P.S. 163 Alfred E. Smith
MANHATTAN NY 10025 Map
P.S. 163 Alfred E. Smith
Extended PK hours offered: Please contact site for more information
PS 163 is a neighborhood school with four distinct programs designed to serve a range of children: gifted and talented, Spanish-English dual language, general education, and team-taught classes that include children with special needs.
It has two lively pre-kindergarten classes, an impressive dance program and teachers who are committed to reaching children with varying levels of skill. The Parents Association works hard to bring children in the four programs together with weekly clubs such as macramé, cooking, running or filmmaking.
The school had a rough spell when longtime principal Virginia Pepe retired in 2013. She was replaced by Donny Lopez, a Bank Street graduate who taught at nearby PS 84. At first teachers found him too young and inexperienced and wanted more input, according to school surveys and interviews. At the same time, the school introduced new reading and math programs—ReadyGen and GoMath—recommended by the city Department of Education but unpopular with teachers.
In response to feedback, Lopez has put in place weekly meetings with staff to "hear more teacher voices." The school has modified the reading and math programs. Test scores have improved and this has apparently eased tensions too. "We're all sort of adapting to one another," said longtime gym teacher Mike Vega.
The school attendance zone includes housing projects and luxury housing and, unfortunately, the four programs, which begin at kindergarten, are somewhat divided by race and class. The G&T classes are mostly white and Asian, especially in the younger grades; the dual language classes have a mix of mostly white and Latino; and the ICT (integrated co-teaching) and general ed are mostly black and Latino.
On the positive side, parent-leaders and the administration have worked hard to bring children from different programs together. The yearly plan (PDF) cites continued efforts to integrate the Parents Association, and draw parents from every program to workshops and events. Families connect with one another at holiday feasts and children mingle in dance classes. Children in grades 2–5 participate in lessons on how to get along and teachers received training in PBIS (positive behavior intervention strategies) to "keep voice and language the same throughout the building," according to Lopez.
Throughout the school, teachers find ways to challenge top students while giving struggling kids the support they need. In a 3rd-grade class, two faster readers were invited to skip a group lesson to work at their own pace. In a class that mixed kids with special needs and kids in general ed, a special education teacher worked with a small group of children to help them get ready to write about a novel by projecting a paragraph on the wall so they could read it together.
PS 163 also has two science teachers and a working garden.
The school faces a budget quandary—it's not quite poor enough for federal anti-poverty grants called Title I, but not rich enough to have the PA raise a huge amount of money.
Nonetheless, the parents are a source of strength even if they don't have as much money as other schools. They train to be learning leaders to assist in classes. And a team of parents and staff meets bi-monthly to set goals for the dual language program as they integrate units from Senderos, a program they find better suited to dual language instruction than ReadyGen.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Team-taught classes mix children with special needs and children in general education in one classroom.
ADMISSIONS: PS 163 is a neighborhood school. Admissions to gifted and talented classes are according to Department of Education guidelines. Dual language fills with zoned children. After a family shows interest, the school does an evaluation to establish language dominance. "We continue to go down the waitlist until the end of October," said the parent coordinator. (Lydie Raschka, December 2015)
At a glance
Number of Students 587
Average Daily Attendance 95%
Safety & vibe
How many teachers say bullying is a problem at school?9% 17% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained in the school?89% 86% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
ARE CLASSES BIG?
Number of students in an average kindergarten class21 23 CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Number of students in an average fifth grade class20 26 CITYWIDE AVERAGE
DO TEACHERS LIKE THE SCHOOL?
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?38% 84% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
How many teachers would recommend this school to other parents?87% 87% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
How many students are chronically absent?13% 22% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Percent of 3rd, 4th & 5th graders who scored 3 or 4 on the state math exam
Percent of 3rd, 4th & 5th graders who scored 3 or 4 on the state ela exam
Percent of 4th graders who scored 3 or 4 on the state science exam
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?88% 75% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Do parents like the school?
How many parents would recommend this school to other parents?90% 94% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Special ed & ELL
How well does this school serve students with disabilities?
This school does not offer self-contained classes.
Percent of self-contained students who scored 3 or 4 on the state math exam:NA 8% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Percent of self-contained students who scored 3 or 4 on the state ELA exam:NA 2% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
This school offers team teaching (ict).
Percent of ICT students who scored 3 or 4 on the state math exam:19% 19% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Percent of ICT students who scored 3 or 4 on the state ELA exam:3% 9% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Percent of SETSS students who scored 3 or 4 on the state math exam:22% 17% 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?
How many teachers say students with special needs are educated in the least restrictive environment appropriate?
How many parents of students with ieps say this school offers a wide enough variety of services and activities for their children’s needs?