P.S. 191 Museum Magnet School
MANHATTAN NY 10023 Map
P.S. 191 Museum Magnet School
PS 191, a neighborhood school with room for students from outside the zone, offers lots of hands-on projects and field trips to museums and to explore the surrounding community. Also known as the Museum Magnet School, the school has been awarded a federal magnet grant designed to increase enrollment and to make the school more racially diverse.
The school has a newly refurbished playground, plenty of new computers and a budget to build a new library and media center. On our visit, we saw experienced teachers who had lots of energy, imaginative projects and good control of their classes. However, test scores are below average and there are some concerns about discipline, particularly in the upper grades.
PS 191 has long served mostly poor black and Hispanic children, many of whom live in housing projects across the street. In the past, middle class parents who lived in the PS 191 attendance zone would often send their children to private school or get special permission, called a variance, to enroll them in the mostly-white PS 199 a few blocks away. That dynamic is changing, however. PS 199 is very overcrowded has hasn’t taken out-of-zone children for a number of years, and the Department of Education recently reduced the size of the PS 199 zone and assigned more children to PS 191. Moreover, new construction of luxury high-rise housing has brought more prosperous families to the school’s zone.
Long-time principal Maria Verdersoto is optimistic that the $1.3 million magnet grant, coupled with an influx of middle class parents (who may have more time to volunteer), will help boost academic achievement. “This year, we have a group of committed parents who are working with me,” she told us. “They keep pushing, but what they are pushing for is good,” she said. For example, she responded to parents’ requests for better information by adding “class pages” to the school website.
Parent engagement and recruitment are priorities under the magnet grant. The school’s full-time magnet coordinator, Hope Salas, invites parents for breakfast every Friday. Salas, a museum educator, also takes parents on monthly museum tours—without children—to give them an idea of what to look for on future family trips. An organization called Cool Culture provides family passes for free admission to many museums, botanical gardens and zoos.
Hands-on projects and group work are staples of instruction in all grades. During our visit, pre-K students were carrying pedometers to count their steps. Their predictions for how many steps they’ll take in one day included “39,” “50,000,” and “infinity.”
As part of the magnet grant, the school reorganized into a PK to 8 program by joining with the Hudson Honors Middle School, which had been housed in the same building. In the upper grades we saw engaging instruction and teachers taking advantage of the school’s new cache of lap top computers. As part of their study of heroes in literature, 6th graders were reading both comics and prose on laptops. They wrapped up a unit on ancient Egypt by mummifying store-bought chickens with salt and aromatic spices. Seventh graders were examining ingredients listed on grocery boxes to identify chemical elements. Middle school students also take enrichment classes designed around teachers’ hobbies and interests such as journalism, photography and computer science.
School partnerships include Chess in Schools, Lincoln Center Institute (performing arts instruction), New York Historical Society, Parsons School of Design (visual arts), Studio-in-a-School (visual arts). Counseling in Schools provides mental health and social work support for students and families.
Attendance, while improving, is still below the citywide average. The day of our visit, we saw a steady stream of older children arriving late to school.
We didn’t observe any bad behavior, but about half of teachers responding to the school’s 2010-11 Learning Environment Survey said order and discipline are not maintained well. They also said they don’t get enough support to address student misconduct. Verdesoto said there are occasional incidents of misconduct, primarily in the upper grades, but they’re addressed immediately. The school had more than 30 suspensions in 2010-11, according to DOE data.
Special education: There are self-contained and ICT (Integrated Collaborative Team) classes.
After school: There are a variety of free after school options for elementary and middle schools students including chess, dance, musical theater and basketball.
Admissions: Neighborhood school. District 3 students who are not zoned for the school may apply by completing the District 3 magnet application. There are separate applications for admission to the lower and upper grades. Residents in other districts will be considered for admission if space is available after all zoned and D3 residents are placed. The school conducts parent tours and open houses through the beginning of May. (Laura Zingmond, February, 2012)