P.S. 321 William Penn
An Insideschools pick
BROOKLYN NY 11215 Map
P.S. 321 William Penn
Regarded as one of the finest elementary schools in the city, PS 321 has long been known for its strong writing program, but teachers have worked to boost math instruction too. This popular school is well beyond its capacity, however, and suffers persistently from lack of space. A mini-building in the yard houses several classrooms as well as the science and art rooms, while the gym doubles as a cafeteria.
The school has had great success using Columbia University's Writing Process method, which emphasizes revision and rewrite. From 1st grade on, all students have daily periods of silent reading.
Classrooms are bright and stimulating. PS 321 teachers continually hone math instruction, drawing on elements from at least three approaches including TERC Investigations, Math in the City, and units from a math program called Metamorphosis. The goal is to help all kids progress at their "just right" math level. Two or three "math leaders" spearhead math teacher training in each grade, and 4th- and 5th-graders who fall behind may join a math club to increase speed on facts using games and other strategies led by teachers and parent volunteers. All students have at least one full period of math daily, above the amount prescribed by the city, and math work is displayed as prominently as writing and art projects.
Students in kindergarten through 2nd grade use Foss Science and those in grades 3–5 go to a science lab twice a week led by experienced science teachers. Some of the most exciting science happens during in-depth studies over time, such as the tree unit in kindergarten, the insect unit in 1st grade and the bird unit in 2nd grade, during which kids learn to identify birds and recognize their calls. A team comprised of teachers and parents is looking into ways to integrate more technology into lessons.
There is always an emphasis on getting kids to think deeply. In one 5th-grade class, the students examined advertisements, looking at what a picture shows and how it goes with the text. In a Works Progress Administration ad from 1935, students examined the content, answering questions like, “Was this a big change?” and “What needed to happen to see this change?” Students have three periods a week of art and one of music. “We are trying to balance high expectations and fun,” explained Principal Liz Phillips, “the art, the music, the dance—we don’t want to give those things up.”
The school has a School Food Partnership with the DOE that enables them to have whole wheat pasta, roasted chicken instead of processed chicken tenders, and very little red meat with a vegetarian option always available. Chocolate milk is only on the menu twice a week. There is also a Green and Healthy Committee of parent volunteers that focuses on healthy eating, exercise and sustainability, and a school garden in partnership with GrowNYC that more than 30 classes utilize.
Parents are very involved, bringing their children right to the classrooms and some helping out in the parent center. The PTA funds teaching artists and chess classes for 2nd and 3rd grade, and Together in Dance, a 2nd–5th grade dance program (k–1st grade has a DOE dance teacher). In one 4th-grade dance class, students critiqued each others’ dances, set to poems, saying things like, “Go wild, but don’t go on autopilot. Make it bigger!”
After school, the PTA runs Kids Clubs that include dance, chess, junior Lego league, yoga, band and chorus. There is a 5th-grade service corps where students volunteer two lunch periods per month for peer mediation, library squad, kindergarten lunch and play pals, or a number of other activities. Fifth-graders go on to a variety of schools, including New Voices School for Academic & Creative Arts, Brooklyn Prospect Charter, and Math and Science Exploratory School.
Special education: PS 321 offers a variety of special education programs, including integrated co-teaching classes in each grade, self-contained classes and a full menu of SETSS services.
Admissions: Zoned neighborhood school. (Aryn Bloodworth, May 2011; updated by Lydie Raschka June 2014)
At a glance
Number of Students 1480
Average Daily Attendance 96%
Safety & vibe
How many teachers say bullying is a problem at school?4% 15% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained in the school?97% 83% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
ARE CLASSES BIG?
Number of students in an average kindergarten class24 23 CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Number of students in an average fifth grade class28 26 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?99% 84% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
How many students are chronically absent?5% 22% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Percent of 3rd, 4th & 5th graders who scored 3 or 4 on the 2013 math exam
Percent of 3rd, 4th & 5th graders who scored 3 or 4 on the 2013 ela exam
Percent of 4th graders who scored 3 or 4 on the 2013 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 2012-2013 school year?97% 74% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Do parents like the school?
How many parents would recommend this school to other parents?100% 94% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Special ed & ELL
How well does this school serve students with disabilities?
As of 2012-2013, this school offers self-contained classes.
Percent of self-contained students who scored 3 or 4 on the 2013 math exam:0% 5% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Percent of self-contained students who scored 3 or 4 on the 2013 ELA exam:0% 2% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
As of 2012-2013, this school offers team teaching (ict).
Percent of ICT students who scored 3 or 4 on the 2013 math exam:34% 13% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Percent of ICT students who scored 3 or 4 on the 2013 ELA exam:24% 7% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
As of 2012-2013, this school offers SETSS.
Percent of SETSS students who scored 3 or 4 on the 2013 math exam:28% 11% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Percent of SETSS students who scored 3 or 4 on the 2013 ELA exam:24% 7% 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?