P.S. 158 Bayard Taylor
MANHATTAN NY 10075 Map
P.S. 158 Bayard Taylor
PS 158 has high test scores, an active Parents Association, and a staff that is willing to give extra help to children who need it. The administration is committed to an approach to education that encourages children to choose their own books, to find their own solutions to math problems, and to correct one another's spelling mistakes. Teachers attempt to accommodate children's quirks: a child who has poor handwriting may be encouraged to use a computer, while a child who is squirmy will be invited so sit in one of the school's low-slung folding cloth-backed chairs that allow for movement.
Housed in a large building constructed in 1898, PS 158 has long winding corridors, high ceilings, large windows, and original details such as oak coat closets. It has two gyms and a small but adequate auditorium. Each class has a rich classroom library and a large television screen which is similar to an overhead projector. Kids who need extra help are invited to come to school on Saturdays to prepare for the standardized city and state exams. The administration says several hundred attend each week.
Kids aren't forced to fit the mold. On our visit, we saw one child doodling at a table apart from her classmates. An administrator said this child was having emotional problems because of issues at home, so the teacher had given her a book in which to write down her feelings when she was feeling stressed.
However, the school is weak in areas such as teaching children standard spelling. "We celebrate children's effort and the content of the work," said Assistant Principal Dina Ercolano when we pointed out numerous spelling mistakes of simple words such as "increase" and "want" in 4th graders' work posted on bulletin boards.
The school follows the progressive TERC curriculum for math, which emphasizes broad understanding of mathematical concepts rather than quick recall of arithmetic facts. "Each child will solve the problem in a different way," Ericolano said. "There are multiple entry points to attack a problem."
The school received a "D" on the Department of Education's 2009-10 learning environment survey, indicating significant dissatisfaction on the part of staff. Fewer than half the teachers responding to the survey said they trusted the principal, and fewer than half said the administration encouraged communication or gave teachers useful feedback. Principal Darryl Alhadeff attributes the teachers' discontent to her reputation for easing out staff members who don't meet her standards. "That does cause a little unrest," she said. On the other hand, 92 percent of parents responding to the survey said they were satisfied with the education their child received.
Special education: The school has an extensive special education program including occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech services, vision and hearing services and adaptive physical education for the disabled. The school has several successful "collaborative team teaching" classes that integrate children receiving special education services with those in general education. These CTT classes have two teachers, one of whom is certified to teach special education, and an aide. The school also has self-contained special education classes ( classes exclusively for children with special needs).
The school has an active Parents' Association that helps pay for many of the art and music programs, such as Ballet Hispanico. The playground is large. However, on the day we visited, it was covered with snow and children watched cartoons in the cafeteria during recess. (Clara Hemphill, January 2011)