P.S./I.S. 157 The Benjamin Franklin Health & Science Academy

850 KENT AVENUE
BROOKLYN NY 11205 Map
Phone: (718) 622-9285
Website: Click here
Admissions: Neighborhood school; priority to continuing students for 6th grade
Principal: Juliana Notaro
Neighborhood: Bedford-Stuyvesant
District: 14
Grade range: PK-8
Parent Coordinator: CHRISTIA RODRIGUEZ
Number of full-day PK seats: 36
Extended PK hours offered: Contact program about extended hours.
Zoned
Dual Language
Full Day
School-based pre-k

What's special:

Close-knit pre-k-8 community where all adults know all students

The downside:

Persistently low student achievement, losing space to charter school

InsideSchools Review

Our review:

PS/IS 157 is a safe, orderly school that serves a sizable Latino community with almost daily new arrivals from the Dominican Republic and Mexico. Located in a largely Orthodox Jewish neighborhood on the Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant border, the school has not yet begun to attract gentrifying newcomers but maintains its traditionally loyal Hispanic base.

Even families who move away, forced out by rising rents, continue to send their children to PS/IS 157, traveling from as far away as the Bronx, administrators said. In a school where one-fifth of the students are still learning to speak English, many staff members are bilingual and even PTA meetings are conducted in Spanish, a parent said. All letters sent home get translated and there are interpreters for school workshops and meetings. As of 2016 the school offers a Spanish-English dual language program.

The principal, Juliana Notaro, said she stresses the importance of attendance and coming to school on time to newcomers, impressing upon them "the rules and regulations that we keep in place that create a safe environment."

The staff is loyal. When former principal Maribel Hulla was promoted to become a District 14 assistant superintendent in February 2015, the school didn't skip a beat in the transition to Notaro, assistant principal since 2003. Parent coordinator Christia Rodriguez has been at the school since 2000.

The old-fashioned building is kept clean and gleaming, although the space used as a gym is adjacent to the cafeteria, making for noisy areas at the school's entrances. Instead of a large playground, there are smaller courtyards at two entrances.

Children, many of whom come from area homeless shelters and the nearby Lafayette Gardens public housing development, are well-behaved, sitting with hands folded awaiting the start of the lesson in one 2nd-grade class. The school has adopted the city's test-aligned curricula, Ready Gen and GoMath. We saw lots of teacher-led instruction and students filling out worksheets. Students are grouped by ability for math and literacy and frequently break into small groups for different tasks. Pre-kindergarten rooms are bustling with block and dress-up corners, children dancing, singing and pretending to be the animals in a song. In one pre-k classroom there was even a show-and-tell activity. 

Academics are not neglected. "[My son] came out of the whole experience with a great foundation for kindergarten—reading and writing three- and four-letter words, independence with basic life skills like opening a milk carton, and ease with new people," a mother told Insideschools. Kindergartners and 1st-graders had excellent penmanship and writing skills. There's an emphasis on good grammar, spelling and punctuation, with weekly spelling tests in many classes. 

Administrators point to the challenges of teaching a large immigrant student population; many parents don't speak English or are illiterate and unable to help with homework. Weekly test prep has been instituted for grades 3–8, in response to low state test scores. The principal also noted that "a lot [of students have] passed the NSESLAT," an assessment which tests children's proficiency in English. Nevertheless, persistently low student academic achievement remains worrisome.

Most 5th-graders stay for middle school and have younger siblings at the school. They wear different uniforms, have lockers in some classrooms and travel between classes. But grades 6–8 don't seem to have the energy of a stand-alone middle school. Class size is small—about 20 students per class—but there are few electives or extras other than art, music and Spanish.

PS/IS 157 is part of the Middle School Quality Initiative, a public and private program that aims to boost literacy in low-performing schools with such features as a debate team and an extended school day. Children learn new academic vocabulary in all subjects along with debate, reasoning and argumentative skills. Administrators from other schools visit to see how it has been implemented, the principal said.

Middle school instruction was mostly teacher-led with students filling out workbooks. Literature circles were just beginning in ELA classrooms, as students in an 8th-grade class discussed a book in which a girl tries to save bonobos.

The school's first 8th-grade class graduated in 2014. Most grads stayed close to home for high school, attending nearby schools such as Brooklyn Prep or Williamsburg Art & Architecture.

The Beginning with Children Charter School was scheduled to move into the building in 2015. PS/IS 157 protested the co-location which will cost them space, and make sharing the small cafeteria and facilities more complicated, administrators said.

SPECIAL EDUCATION: PS/IS 157 has a large special needs population, making up about one-quarter of the school. There are six self-contained classrooms, most bridging several grades. All have the same large, bright classrooms as the other rooms. Some children on the autism spectrum are included in regular classrooms. There are ICT classrooms on most grades.

ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school but many students come from outside the zone and district. For middle school, preference goes to continuing 5th-graders. There is no screening for other applicants. (Pamela Wheaton, March 2015)

InsideStats

Click tabs above to see school stats

At a glance

Shared campus? No

This school is in its own building.

Number of Students 495

Average Daily Attendance 93%

Students at this school

Asian

  
0%

Black

  
17%

Hispanic

  
81%

White

  
2%

Free Lunch

  
100%

Special ed

  
27%

English Language Learners

  
19%

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?

78% 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?

76% 79% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many teachers would recommend this school to other parents?

NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Attendance

How many students are chronically absent?

25% 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

14% 40% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

18% 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?

79% 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:

5% 14% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

5% 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?

90% 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?

88% 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:

3% 3% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

4% 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

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