P.S. 81 Robert J. Christen

An Insideschools pick
5550 RIVERDALE AVENUE
BRONX NY 10471 Map
Phone: (718) 796-8965
Website: Click here
Admissions: neighborhood school
Principal: Anna Kirrane
Neighborhood: Marble Hill/ Riverdale
District:10
Grade range: K-6
Parent Coordinator: NINA VELAZQUEZ
Zoned

What's special:

Accelerated classes for high-achievers; beautiful playground & campus

The downside:

School has no Pre-K and lacks separate music, art or science rooms.

InsideSchools Review

Our review:

Riverdale's PS 81 is often called "a suburban school in an urban area," a complimentary nod to the institution's lovely campus, dedicated teachers, nurturing atmosphere and involved parents. Here, a diverse population of kids from the leafy northwest corner of the Bronx coexists within a neighborhood elementary where educators seek to challenge all students, from the academically gifted to those needing remedial help.

"It's a school that is driven by the needs of the child," said Principal Anne Kirrane, a veteran educator. Kirrane was assistant principal at PS 81 for nine years before taking over in October 2012 after longtime principal Melodie Mashel was promoted to district superintendent.

Kirrane has kept in place most of the same programs as her predecessor and she works to make parents feel welcome. "We feel they are our first teachers," she said. "If we don't have that home-school connection, there's a piece missing." Kirrane arrives at 6:30 a.m. each day to be available to anyone with concerns, and "Coffee With the Principal" workshops held twice a month help parents learn how to incorporate classroom lessons into daily family life.

PS 81, the Robert J. Christen School (although few call it that), is housed in a stately 1925 Georgian structure made from fieldstone and red brick. Brightly decorated classrooms have high ceilings and tall windows that let in ample natural light, and the gym, auditorium, library, lunchroom and outdoor play areas are all large and enviable. The original structure has been enlarged, yet the school is so full of students that the building lacks separate music, art or science rooms (although it preserved a small planetarium in the basement where students can study the cosmos).

The school's population includes students from a wide variety of ethnic and economic backgrounds. PS 81's zone include the posh Fieldston neighborhood, which as some of the most expensive homes in the Bronx, although families living there often send their children to private schools. Some PS 81 students are new immigrants, although the number of students who need help learning English is relatively small. Test scores indicate about two-thirds of students meet or exceed state academic standards -- a respectable showing, especially compared to other Bronx schools. Still, DOE evaluations of the school cite merely average student progress.

Kindergartners are taught in large classrooms, each with a sink and nearby bathroom. After a year of assessment, teachers select 25 to 30 of the brightest kindergartners for the school's accelerated program, which begins in 1st grade. Assignments in the accelerated program often require students to do more in-depth work, and lessons move at a faster pace. If any student at the school needs extra help, the school offers tutoring both before and after class.

The study of art is woven throughout all grades' curriculums, often in innovated ways. Geometry lessons have included studies of the angles and lines in Pablo Picasso's cubism, or the mosaic patterns of M.C. Escher's complex mosaics. "Research has shown that if children are kept engaged and have art, they will move in leaps and bounds in all areas," Kirrane said. Several arts organizations regularly visit the school to provide instruction in dance and theater.

Spanish is taught in all grades. All kids get a daily snack break, and all grades visit the gym and library at least once a week. Writing assignments often emphasize diligent research, rough drafts, self-assessment and constant revisions. When we visited in spring 2013, the math curriculum was being revamped to better fit the Common Core standards.

Faculty often have at least ten years of teaching experience, and staff turnover is low. Most classes have at least one student teacher, many from nearby College of Mount St. Vincent.

Special education: Each grade features at least one Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) classroom, where students with special needs are taught alongside general-education students in rooms featuring at least two teachers, one of whom is certified to teach special education. The school also has three self-contained classrooms for students with more severe special needs. Students in these classes might spend all day in a self-contained setting, or may rotate in for help with specific areas in which they are struggling academically.

Admissions: PS 81 is open only to students living in its zone. (Skip Card, May 2013)

InsideStats

Click tabs above to see school stats

At a glance

Shared campus? No

This school is in its own building.

Number of Students 647

Average Daily Attendance 94%

Students at this school

Asian

  
11%

Black

  
9%

Hispanic

  
46%

White

  
31%

Free Lunch

  
51%

Special ed

  
16%

English Language Learners

  
10%

Safety & vibe

ARE KIDS
NICE?

How many teachers say bullying is a problem at school?

15% 17% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

85% 83% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

ARE CLASSES BIG?

Number of students in an average kindergarten class

22 23 CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Number of students in an average fifth grade class

32 26 CITYWIDE AVERAGE

DO TEACHERS LIKE THE SCHOOL?

How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?

91% 80% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many teachers would recommend this school to other parents?

93% 83% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Attendance

How many students are chronically absent?

19% 22% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Academics

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

89% 84% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

96% 88% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

96% 91% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of 3rd, 4th & 5th graders who scored 3 or 4 on the 2014 math exam

50% 38% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of 3rd, 4th & 5th graders who scored 3 or 4 on the 2014 ela exam

34% 29% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of 4th graders who scored 3 or 4 on the 2014 science exam

98% 86% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Parents

Are parents involved?

How many parents responded to the 2014 school survey?

97% 68% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many parents say they attended at least one pta meeting in the 2013-2014 school year?

66% 72% 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 2013-2014 school year?

80% 75% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Do parents like the school?

How many parents would recommend this school to other parents?

98% 94% 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 2014 math exam:

0% 5% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of self-contained students who scored 3 or 4 on the 2014 ELA exam:

4% 2% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of ICT students who scored 3 or 4 on the 2014 math exam:

NA 13% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of ICT students who scored 3 or 4 on the 2014 ELA exam:

NA 7% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of SETSS students who scored 3 or 4 on the 2014 math exam:

4% 11% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of SETSS students who scored 3 or 4 on the 2014 ELA exam:

4% 7% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

98% 98% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

98% 89% 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?

91% 89% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How well does this school serve English language learners?

Percent of ell students who scored 3 or 4 on the 2014 ELA exam:

0% 6% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of former ell students who scored 3 or 4 on the 2014 ELA exam:

29% 27% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

100% 90% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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