P.S. 261 Philip Livingston

An Insideschools pick
314 PACIFIC STREET
BROOKLYN NY 11201 Map
Phone: (718) 330-9275
Website: Click here
Admissions: neighborhood school
Principal: Zipporiah Mills
Neighborhood: Boerum Hill
District: 15
Grade range: PK-5
Parent Coordinator: Heather Weston
Number of full-day PK seats: 36
Extended PK hours offered: No
Zoned
Full Day
School-based pre-k

What's special:

Lives out its social action ideals every day

The downside:

Some concerns about discipline

InsideSchools Review

Our review:

PS 261 encourages students to think critically about social issues and makes a priority of the arts. It has an active parent body that includes lawyers, hairdressers, writers and maintenance workers. This frank-talking community embraces the friction ethnic and economic diversity can sometimes bring, believing that kids coming together from different backgrounds creates a better world.  

Principal Zipporiah Mills grew up in East New York where she taught until she was tapped for leadership in District 15. She joined the PS 261 community in 2000, and became principal in 2005. Warm and direct, she greets children by name—using "darling" or "honey" if she forgets—and helps solve conflicts or tie shoelaces as the needs arise. She strives to set a welcoming tone for her wide-ranging community. "I see our children grow together," she said. "They come back and they're still friends in college— very diverse groups. It has an impact on privileged and not so economically privileged groups."

With its history of social action, PS 261 students made pinwheels to help Syrian children affected by the refugee crisis, in a dollar-matching program, and they reenact Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s march on Washington every year. The school was on the forefront of the "opt out of testing" movement in 2015, when more than 60 percent of students did not sit for state exams. Even so, teachers follow data closely to spot gaps and trends in learning. After a slump in test results during the Common Core Standards rollout in 2013,scores for those children who did take the state exams, are now above the citywide average and rising. Mills said she hoped it was a reflection of improved instruction due to increased coaching with experts in reading, writing and math. Mills said the school's current approach to math, Engage New York, is "the toughest math we've ever done," and several girls and boys we spoke to on our visit said math was their favorite subject. 

The arts have long been a hallmark of PS 261 and there's something for everyone. The lower grades concentrate on music, visual art and dance; the upper grades on gym, science and Arabic. Kindergartners act out stories such as The Gingerbread Boy, 3rd graders take on folk tales, and 4th graders study Greek myths in a theater arts class. Third graders study the recorder, culminating in a trip to Carnegie Hall.  Unique to the school is a partnership with the Qatar Foundation, providing an explicit welcome to Brooklyn's Arab community, with its hub near the school. Qatar pays for a second science teacher who weaves Arabic words into science lessons and children study the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection of Islamic art. 

Some concern about discipline and order shows up on school surveys. We saw at least one overly long lesson, during which kids got restless, but most instruction seemed very focused. "We definitely have kids coming from really troubled situations," said a parent. "Some are not easy to deal with in the classroom." A guidance counselor, school psychologist and social worker meet with struggling kids and the school is adopting Responsive Classroom methods to improve school climate.

Parents pay for a full-time librarian and substitute teachers. They run a fee-based afterschool program and offer scholarships. We saw parents prepare cardboard Google glasses for a science lesson and parents in the garden teaching a group of kids. "It's a culture that celebrates that kind of collective work and volunteerism," said parent Rachel Porter.

Special education: PS 261 attracts a large number of children with special needs and has several offerings, including self-contained classes, which take students from outside the zone, and team teaching classes.

Admissions: PS 261 has a small zone and often has space for students from outside the zone, amounting to roughly one-eighth of the total student body. Pre-k typically fills with zoned students and siblings. There is rarely room for new students in the upper grades. (Lydie Raschka, November 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 803

Average Daily Attendance 94%

Students at this school

Asian

  
6%

Black

  
28%

Hispanic

  
23%

White

  
39%

Free Lunch

  
40%

Special ed

  
19%

English Language Learners

  
6%

Safety & vibe

ARE KIDS
NICE?

How many teachers say bullying is a problem at school?

16% 17% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

59% 86% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

ARE CLASSES BIG?

Number of students in an average kindergarten class

23 23 CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Number of students in an average fifth grade class

28 26 CITYWIDE AVERAGE

DO TEACHERS LIKE THE SCHOOL?

How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?

63% 84% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many teachers would recommend this school to other parents?

89% 87% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Attendance

How many students are chronically absent?

15% 22% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Academics

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

95% 84% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

74% 85% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

98% 91% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

60% 39% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

60% 30% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

66% 82% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Parents

Are parents involved?

How many parents responded to the school survey?

51% 63% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

64% 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 last school year?

88% 75% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Do parents like the school?

How many parents would recommend this school to other parents?

95% 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 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

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

40% 19% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

40% 9% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

NA 17% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

20% 9% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

97% 98% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

88% 94% 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?

95% 89% 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:

NA 6% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

NA 28% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

91% 90% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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