P.S. 208 Alain L. Locke

Phone: (212) 534-9580
Website: Click here
Admissions: Neighborhood; magnet
Principal: Susan M. Green
Neighborhood: Harlem
District: 3
Grade range: 03 thru 05
Parent coordinator: YISELL ALCANTARA

What's special:

Laptops for every student; learning garden; nature awareness program.

The downside:

Below average test scores.

The InsideStats



Our review

At PS 208, the Alain L. Locke Magnet School for Environmental Stewardship, students learn to grow vegetables without soil, build shelters in Central Park and study environmental challenges in their community and around the world. The school, which serves students in 3rd to 5th grade, has room for children living outside its zone. In 2010 it received a federal magnet grant designed to increase enrollment and make the school more racially and economically diverse.

Students benefit from lots of technology, a renovated outdoor playground and a budget to fund trips and a Saturday academy. On our visit we saw many creative projects and teachers putting a lot of effort into lessons in orderly classrooms. Test scores, however, are low and student attendance could use improvement.

As a school that starts in 3rd grade, the first year that students sit for state exams, PS 208 is in the precarious position of being held accountable for achievement without having any control over what students learn in the grades leading up to the state tests. Since most graduates of PS 185, an early childhood school housed in the same facilities, attend PS 208, teachers from the two schools collaborate to make sure that instruction in PS 185’s 2nd grade classes covers the skills students will need at the start of 3rd grade.

PS 208 participates in iZone360, the Department of Education’s technology initiative aimed at helping schools redesign instruction. Every student gets their own laptop to use in class, and 5th graders also have access to iPads.

The school-wide environmental theme is woven into all areas of learning. Through a partnership with the Children of the Earth Foundation, classes take regular trips to Central Park to learn about local vegetation, animal tracking and wilderness survival skills. “Central Park has become one of our classrooms,” said Principal Susan Green, who has led the school since 2006.

Students are also challenged to be good stewards of their education and their environment. Children earn tickets for kind acts and good behavior, which can be redeemed for occasional treats and privileges. Teachers also keep track of the frequency and kinds of good behavior exhibited by their students so that they can identify skills that need to be worked on.

The school is housed in a two-building complex that it shares with several small elementary schools including PS 185, which also received a magnet grant. Other schools on the premises include Harlem Link Charter School and PS 226, a small program run by District 75, the citywide district for students with severe disabilities Harlem Success Academy 2 is slated to open several classes of 5th graders in the building for the 2012-13 school year.

Parent involvement is improving. “We’ve always had fundraising and parent volunteers, but now with the magnet money, we have more events,” said a parent who described the changes generated by the magnet grant a “burst of energy” at the school. To bring more parents into the fold, the school sponsors monthly events like coffee with Principal Green, healthy cooking classes, and open school Fridays where parents visit their children’s classrooms.  

Special education: There are self-contained and ICT (Integrated Collaborative Teaching) classes.

After school: Play Rugby USA sponsors a program onsite. Homework help and test prep are offered after school. The school runs a Saturday program from 9 a.m. to noon that offers academic help as well as trips and sports activities.

Admissions: Neighborhood school. District 3 students who are not zoned for the school can 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 District 3 residents are placed. (Laura Zingmond, March 2012)

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