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/ Cobble Hill
District: 15
Grade range: PK-8
Parent Coordinator: Gerald Piper
Zoned

What's special:

Strong arts; emphasis on students becoming engaged citizens

The downside:

Non-traditional approaches not for every family

InsideSchools Review

Our review:

PS 261 encourages students to think critically about social issues, makes a priority of the arts and has an active and enthusiastic parent body. As its Boerum Heights neighborhood becomes increasingly upscale, the administration is striving to make sure its student body remains economically and ethnically diverse.

Children at PS 261 call teachers by their first names because "that's our community," said assistant principal Sara Cookingham. "We pride ourselves in the arts and having students be involved in being good citizens,” she added.

On the day of our visit, upper grades had spent part of the morning at Brooklyn Borough Hall, reenacting Dr. Martin Luther King's march on Washington. As part of the lesson, students had studied the civil rights movement and Occupy Wall Street. Fourth graders studying time lines had mapped out the civil right's leaders life. The march "honors the tradition of the school and always works in well" with other projects, such as the focus on timelines in 4th grade, a teacher said.

PS 261 has two art and two music teachers. Third and 4th graders attend dress rehearsals at the Metropolitan Opera. Third graders study symphonic music and learn to play the recorder, culminating in a trip to Carnegie Hall where they perform with an orchestra. Overall, said one of the music teachers, the kids "get a quality music education."

The school's math program has had problems, resulting in a drop in state exam scores in 2011. Principal Zipporiah Mills attributed some of the difficulty to a change in curriculum. She hopes that as everyone becomes more comfortable with the new program, scores will improve. They also plan to provide more help to English language learners -- a growing part of the school's population -- and special ed students.

The school has many fans. "I could not get over the teachers here," said one parent who became a teacher at the school after her daughter went there. "I think it's a fabulous school as a parent and teacher." Assistant principal Jackie Allen Joseph's two children attended the school, and now her granddaughter does as well.

After a visit, parent Rebecca Carroll wrote, "The kids were loud and attentive and easy with themselves and each other. … Students ranged in hue, and the halls smelled of construction paper. It felt alive and real, and -- however delusional -- like the New York City I had imagined for my own child to grow up in."

Parents looking for a more traditional approach to discipline and learning, however, may be less comfortable at the school.

Families who do not live in the zone find it increasingly hard to enroll their children in PS 261, students in the area fill most of the incoming classes. When there is a slot for a student living outside the zone, PS 261 selects with an eye toward maintaining its diversity. [In December 2014, a parent active in the PTA said that the school had space for families outside the zone in the 2014-2015 school year.]

Strong parental involvement and partnerships with other organizations enrich PS 261's offerings. When staff thought recess could get a little bit out of hand, the PTA provided money to hire a recess coach. NYCares volunteers enable 261 to offer an alternative for kids who may have difficulty with -- or not enjoy -- outside recess, as well as robotics and math games.

PS 261 attracts a large number of special education students and has several offerings, including self--contained classes, which take students from outside the zone, and collaborative team teaching classes. It also participates in a program when two students per grade from a nearby district 75 school, accompanied by a paraprofessional, attend regular classes at PS 261.

After leaving PS 261, most students stay in District 15, attending schools such as MS 447, 51 and 88.

Admissions: PS 261 has a small zone and often has space for students from outside the zone. (Gail Robinson, January 2012; updated admissions December 2014)

InsideStats

Click tabs above to see school stats

At a glance

Shared campus? No

This school is in its own building

Number of Students 817

Average Daily Attendance 94%

Students at this school

Asian

  
6%

Black

  
27%

Hispanic

  
26%

White

  
38%

Free Lunch

  
44%

Special ed

  
18%

English Language Learners

  
8%

Safety & vibe

ARE KIDS
NICE?

How many teachers say bullying is a problem at school?

16% 22% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

66% 77% 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

24 26 CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Number of students in an average middle school english class

NA 26 CITYWIDE AVERAGE

DO TEACHERS LIKE THE SCHOOL?

How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?

80% 80% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many teachers would recommend this school to other parents?

93% 80% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Attendance

How many students are chronically absent?

19% 23% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Academics

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

95% 78% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

93% 84% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

98% 87% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

45% 38% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

40% 29% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

85% 84% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of 8th graders who scored 3 or 4 on the state science exam

NA 52% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many 8th grades pass high school regents exams?

Percent of 8th graders who take and pass the algebra regents:

NA 19% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of 8th graders who take and pass a science regents:

NA 15% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Parents

Are parents involved?

How many parents responded to the school survey?

72% 62% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

64% 69% 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% 71% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Do parents like the school?

How many parents would recommend this school to other parents?

95% 93% 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 3% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

0% 1% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

21% 13% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

23% 7% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

10% 14% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

7% 7% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

97% 97% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

95% 87% 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?

90% 88% 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:

0% 4% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

NA 19% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

91% 88% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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