PS/MS 8 Robert Fulton
BROOKLYN NY 11201 Map
PS/MS 8 Robert Fulton
Tucked away in a quiet corner of Brooklyn Heights, PS/IS 8 has active parents, an imaginative curriculum and a special focus on social studies. It hums along like a well-serviced vehicle. Long gone are the days when the school was under-enrolled and struggled to attract students.
Now its problem is just the opposite: how to accommodate all the students who live in the neighborhood, especially with the explosion of new high-rise buildings along the waterfront near the Brooklyn Bridge.
After several years with long waitlists for zoned kindergartners, there was a contentious rezoning battle in the 2015–2016 school year, and a chunk of the PS 8 zone in DUMBO and Vinegar Hill is now zoned for PS 307. That change meant that PS 8 might be able to take back some classroom space for music and drama rooms, although longtime principal Seth Phillips thinks the reprieve from overcrowding may be brief, with so much new construction continuing in the area. "They keep putting up big buildings," he said.
Thematic social studies units are at the heart of the curriculum. Second-graders create a "Box City" of restaurants, banks, a hotel and even an Irish pub from cardboard boxes—and learn about community, business and architecture in the process. Each "citizen" is given $100 per day to "live" in the city and must figure out how to pay taxes.
Fifth-graders learn to argue for a cause they believe in as part of Project Citizen, a program designed to encourage participation in government. One group was avidly seeking more physical education time—PS 8 students only get one gym period per week—citing research that shows too many children are obese.
Disappointed by the city math curriculum, the PTA purchased Bridges in Mathematics curriculum, the first—and maybe the only—public school in the city to adopt it. Adopting it "is one of the best things we've done," the principal said. "Kids can speak about math. There is a heavy emphasis on manipulatives, using tools to really understand the material," said Phillips. "Test scores are steadily increasing and [progress shows in] the way the kids talk math, the language they use. The kids are remembering what they learn from year to year."
The PTA raises close to $1 million each year. (The day we visited was the eve of a golf tournament fundraiser). In addition to the math curriculum, the money pays for teaching assistants and enrichment programs such as a long-standing collaboration with the Guggenheim Museum to bring teaching artists into the school and to take 3rd- and 4th-graders to the museum where they learn to become docents.
Classrooms are clean and clearly laid out with well-defined centers. This lends a calm atmosphere even in the art room where soft music was playing. Missing is the clutter of hanging paper charts—the use of SMART Boards in each classroom means that teachers can display charts on them, teachers said.
Parents may bring their children right to their classrooms. There is no homework in kindergarten or 1st grade—a bone of contention for some parents. "It's a no win—there are some parents who really want it and some who don't. We try to find a happy middle ground," said Phillips.
The middle school, begun in 2012, is still developing, said the principal who spends more time there after a turnover in administrators. "It's a huge learning curve. More work has to be done to find the right match of the population and the teachers."
Middle school students give high marks to the two-year Spanish immersion program. Even though this is the first time they have been exposed to the language, most of them test out of high school Spanish, Phillips said. Three times a year, students do explorations, dropping all of their other studies for two weeks, to look into questions such as "What is courage?" They invite speakers and develop projects about courageous people such as Martin Luther King, Jr.
Not all PS 8 students stay for the middle school, put off by its shared location with a high school and the fact that kids must go through a metal detector to enter the building, located a few blocks away at 105 Tech Place. (The phone number is 718-875-1021.)
MS 8 graduates get into some very competitive high schools: In 2016, two students were accepted into Stuyvesant, 10–12 into Millennium Brooklyn. Midwood and Murrow are other popular choices.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: There is at least one ICT team-teaching class on every grade. "We're still strong believers in the ICT model," Phillips said. PS 8 enrolls some severely disabled children, including some who are non-verbal and have one-on-one assistants.
ADMISSIONS: Zoned, neighborhood school. Overcrowding means there is a kindergarten waitlist some years. PS 8 students are guaranteed admission to the middle school but there is room for upwards of 15 students from outside the school. The admissions is "limited unscreened," meaning that priority is given to students who attend an open house. (Pamela Wheaton, May 2016)
At a glance
Number of Students 924
Average Daily Attendance 95%
Safety & vibe
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?97% 75% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
ARE CLASSES BIG?
Number of students in an average kindergarten classNA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Number of students in an average fifth grade classNA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Number of students in an average middle school english classNA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE
DO TEACHERS LIKE THE SCHOOL?
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?97% 79% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
How many teachers would recommend this school to other parents?NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE
How many students are chronically absent?10% 22% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Percent of students in grades 3-8 who scored 3 or 4 on the state math exam
Percent of students in grades 3-8 who scored 3 or 4 on the state ela exam
Percent of 4th graders who scored 3 or 4 on the state science exam
Percent of 8th 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?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?
This school does not offer self-contained classes.
Percent of self-contained students who scored 3 or 4 on the state math exam:NA 6% 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:24% 14% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Percent of ICT students who scored 3 or 4 on the state ELA exam:20% 8% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Percent of SETSS students who scored 3 or 4 on the state math exam:40% 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?
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?