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: Please contact site for more information
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 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.

The school welcomes children of different racial and ethnic groups, and multiracial families often seek it out because no one group dominates.

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. The foundation pays for a second science teacher, who weaves Arabic words into science lessons, an art/Arabic language teacher, and a partnership with the Metropolitan Museum of Art that focuses on the collection of Islamic art.

PS 261 encourages students to think critically about social issues. Students made pinwheels to help Syrian children affected by the refugee crisis in a dollar-matching program. Every year they re-enact Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s march on Washington.

The arts have long been a hallmark of PS 261, and there's something for everyone. Kindergartners act out stories such as The Gingerbread Boy, 3rd-graders take on folktales, and 4th-graders study Greek myths in a theater arts class. Third-graders study the guitar with Harlem School of the Arts.

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 the school climate.

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

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-taught classes.

The school was on the forefront of the "opt-out-of-testing" movement in 2015, when approximately 60% 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. The PS 261 administration said they hoped it was a reflection of improved instruction due to increased coaching with experts in reading, writing, and math. The school's current approach to math, which includes lessons from Engage NY, is "the toughest math we've ever done," said one, and several girls and boys we spoke to on our visit said math was their favorite subject.

Jackie Allen Joseph, formerly assistant principal, replaced long-time principal Zipporiah Mills in 2016. Joseph's two children graduated from PS 261, according to a biography on the school website. She has taught grades K-5, worked as a literacy coach and has an MS in Early Childhood from Bank Street College. 

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 ICT 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; updated August 2016)

InsideStats

Click tabs above to see school stats

At a glance

Shared campus? No

This school is in its own building.

Number of Students 797

Average Daily Attendance 94%

Students at this school

Asian

  
5%

Black

  
29%

Hispanic

  
22%

White

  
39%

Free Lunch

  
40%

Special ed

  
20%

English Language Learners

  
5%

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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