P.S. 89 Bronx
BRONX NY 10469 Map
P.S. 89 Bronx
To manage the school's expanding student population, which includes many English Language Learners and students with special needs, Rivera said that he hired teacher assistants and part-time instructors that include retired principals, assistant principals and teachers. According to Rivera, the teachers welcomed the additional help, noting that only two percent of the teachers left in 2007, compared to 30 percent the year he arrived. "Teachers have been knocking on the door to get in. The morale has jumped dramatically," said Rivera.
A new arts program includes instruction in guitar, painting, clarinet and keyboard, drama and ballroom dancing. In 2007, P.S. 89 students won a city-wide competition in ballroom dancing, the principal told us. The drama club stages two plays with professional lighting and sound and a professional artist visits the school to work with students. Construction on a new library and science was scheduled to begin in July 2008.
Students with poor literacy skills get extra help from teaching specialists and 6th and 7th graders who are held back because of failing grades are placed in a special program that enables them to catch up by clearing through requirements for two grades in one year. A partnership with Truman High School allows the struggling 7th graders in the program, all of whom are over-age for their grade, to take high school classes for credit while working towards passing the 7th and 8th grades. The intense program requires students to attend class before and after school and on Saturdays. There is also one period of specialized instruction, with just seven students in the class. "We put confidence in a kid who had no idea they could do this," said Rivera.
Rivera said that student behavior has improved enough to be able to lessen the number of safety officers on site. Standardized tests scores also improved. In 2004, 30 percent of students passed the English Language Arts (ELA) exams, and 48 percent did so in math. In 2007 scores jumped to a 43 percent pass rate in ELA and 65 percent for math. "We've done some quantum leaps in terms of kids' performance," said Rivera.
Special Education: The school has SETSS (special education teacher support services), self-contained classes for student with special needs only and collaborative team taught (CTT) classes, where two teachers work with a group of special and general education students.
ESL: About 350 students speaking 20 different languages require English as a Second Language services. The school provides classes for English Language Learners as well as individual and small group support.
After school: There is tutoring on Tuesdays and Thursdays until 4:30 p.m. and sports for 7th and 8th graders on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays until 5:30 p.m. Additional tutoring and test prep are offered on Saturdays from 9am -- 3:30pm. (Vanessa Witenko, telephone interview, February 2008)
APRIL2004 REVIEW: PS 89 is benefiting from the leadership of Ronald Rivera, who, after assuming the job of principal in September 2003, quickly earned the trust of parents while helping to unify the staff. On the day of our visit we were pleased to see a well functioning school where PTA members were busily volunteering and security guards managed to combine a pleasant demeanor with attention to their jobs.
Parents we spoke to said the new principal has an open-door policy and is much more responsive to their concerns than the previous principal had been.
Administrative assistant Karen Shapiro, who proudly showed off the colorful art projects that newly line the walls, was responsible for introducing monthly student talent shows. "This has really taken off," she said. "The students love it and it helps to balance them." The school gives early assistance to neighborhood children learning English: there are both bilingual classes, taught in Spanish, and English-as-a-second-language classes, taught in English to children of various native languages. The elementary grades struck us as child-friendly and cohesive. Teachers who appeared fully in command of the reading, writing and math curriculum led them in various collaborative methods. Students worked well both independently and in groups, seeming to understand clearly what was expected of them during each exercise.
We saw a different picture in a number of upper grade classes. Fewer teachers engaged techniques of the new teaching strategies, and many students in these classes were less focused than their elementary school counterparts. The atmosphere in the hallways seemed tense on the top floor, which houses the 8th grade, a detention room, the dean's office and a class of students who did not meet graduation requirements. We heard one fight occur in this sector and saw a few girls arguing loudly, but a female security officer quickly intervened, and we were impressed that she took the additional step of reminding the girls how to mediate disputes and resolve them peacefully. In a separate section of the floor housing English-as-a-second-language instruction, halls were quiet, and engaged students participated fully in class discussions. Their teachers seemed highly capable and on task. (Jacquie Wayans, April 2004)