P.S. 215 Lucretia Mott
QUEENS NY 11691 Map
P.S. 215 Lucretia Mott
UPDATE: PS 215 is closing because of poor performance. it will be replaced by another school in the same building, Wave Prep.
DECEMBER 2004 REVIEW: PS 215 strives to be a safe haven for students. Small class sizes in lower grades, along with before- and after-school activities, provide additional attention to children who may not be getting enough at home. Fourth graders are steadily improving in math, and a new reading program could bolster school-wide literacy scores, which have been sagging.
Each morning, children come for breakfast and participate afterward in read-aloud and sing-along activities, or do homework. In December 2002, the school began presenting holiday programs to bring cheer to families in dire home situations. Many parents are "struggling," said parent coordinator Evelyn Malave. "They work in factories and clean homes." Some students seem to act out more at Christmastime, said another teacher.
The raised voices of instructors and students produced a general din in hallways during our tour. Children wandered among tables in one classroom, their teacher trying to restore order.
In fall 2004, PS 215 received a federal Reading First grant to institute a new reading program. To qualify, an institution must be in a high-poverty neighborhood and have a large English Language Learner population (at the time of our visit, 125 of the school's 678 children were in the ESL program). Funding provides four weeks of summer school for lower-grade children, three hours monthly of paid online staff development, and an extra literacy coach to work with K- 3rd grade students and teachers. Teachers get handheld computers for recording daily student progress and software that combines this information with test data to generate pupil profiles.
Responses to the new program vary. "I thought we were on the right track last year with [the city's] balanced literacy [curriculum]," said a lower-grade teacher, referring to the curriculum that the city began requiring in most schools in 2003. "This year it's more scripted, which is better for teachers who are not sure what to do. But I don't like following a (reading) textbook on every lesson. Last year we had more freedom to choose stories."
Kathleen McGurk, Reading First literacy coach said: "I feel that for the first time, we are using assessment to inform our practice. It has become a very thoughtful practice." Upper grades remain on the city-mandated curriculum, and all grades are still on the city math program.
One teacher complained that the administration expects "perfection and things from teachers that are not possible with the time and resources we have."
Principal Susan Rippe acknowledged that teachers might be frustrated, particularly because of the new demands made by the Reading First grant.
"It's been a great deal of work for everyone" she said. "It's much easier to say, 'This child can't,' but we have higher standards for our children, and it requires a great deal of hard work from our teachers."
We watched a 1st grader read about frogs, making notes in her journal about their mating and egg laying habits. In science class, 4th grade special education students used a light bulb and battery to find materials that conduct electricity. Third grade music students learned a movement routine for a song about snowflakes. Like the auditorium, the school's gym and library are large and clean. In fall 2004, the librarian became the reading and math intervention teacher. Faculty members now oversee the library.
English as a Second Language: Most ESL students receive support in and out of their regular classes, though a Spanish and English bilingual 3rd class was created in fall 2004. One ESL teacher is also the technology instructor and has students visit a Spanish-language Web site to engage in English conversations.
Special education: The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades each have one "self-contained" class -- only for students with special needs. The 5th grade has an "inclusion" class, in which special education and general education children are taught together.
After school: The "21st Century" program meets each afternoon until 5:30 p.m., providing homework help and arts activities. Extra help and tutoring is available to students on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Math and reading help is offered to 3rd graders on Saturdays, 9:00 a.m. to noon. (John E. Thomas, December 2004)