P.S. 150 Charles James Fox
BRONX NY 10459 Map
P.S. 150 Charles James Fox
Students at CS 150 in Hunts Point benefit from funding that keeps class size small. There are just 23 students in each 6th grade class, compared to 30 or more in many other city schools. Even so, the school has struggled to help students meet state standards in reading, math, and science. Just 27 percent of tested students scored at or above grade level on the English Language Arts exam in 2003 - 2004, and nearly 25 percent of students have scored at level "1" (minimal understanding of written and oral text) each year since 2001 - 2002. Even higher numbers of students scored "1" on state and city math tests during the same years.
To combat this poor performance, the school initiated "co-teaching" in 4th grade classes for both English and math. Students receive blocks of instruction from multiple teachers in each subject, and those children who require additional support receive it individually and in small groups. As Edwin Irizarry, who became principal in 2002, says, "We gather everyone to help kids in need and it is working." Irizarry is right; the results have been astonishing. In the 2001 - 2002 school year, only 28 percent of 4th graders scored at or above grade level in math. By 2003 - 2004, that figure had risen to almost 69 percent. Further, the number of 4th grade students scoring at level "1" in math decreased by two-thirds. In English, the number of 4th graders scoring at or above grade level rose from 23 percent to 39 percent and the number scoring at level "1" dropped to just eight percent. Presumably, incorporating the co-teaching strategy in the lower grades would be beneficial, but Irizarry cites a lack of available resources.
Approximately 10 percent of the students at CS 150 live in neighborhoods zoned for other schools in the community but have been admitted to CS 150 at the request of parents, drawn by what Irizarry calls a "calm" school environment. On the day of our visit, we observed beautifully painted hallways, a busy but friendly office, and a welcoming early childhood area where pre-k and kindergarten students are greeted by a life-sized, construction-paper rain forest, complete with friendly creatures. We saw kindergarten children working happily at computers and doing activities, such as making words on magnetic boards, to build literacy skills Older children were engaged in independent reading, quiet group work, and preparation for the next day's standardized math test.
Although most teachers seemed to manage their classrooms fairly well, we did observe one young boy sitting by himself on the hallway floor outside the closed door of his classroom. It appeared as though the student could have wandered anywhere and done so without adult supervision or knowledge. Although Irizarry returned him to the classroom and told the teacher where he had found the student, the same child appeared a few minutes later in the same spot and was moved by Irizarry to another classroom.
Irizarry acknowledges that many teachers need training to improve their teaching and behavior management skills, and he has increased professional development to that end. One-fourth of the teachers have been working for two years or less, and many of the more seasoned teachers are not accustomed to the professional accountability that comes with ongoing training and frequent classroom visits. Irizarry sees increased professional development as critical, saying, "If other schools nearby can have great scores, why can't we?"
English as a Second Language: One fourth of students receive English language instruction either in bilingual classrooms or in small groups within their regular classrooms. A dual-language program, which provides instruction in Spanish to English speakers as well as instruction in English to Spanish speakers in grades K-3, may be discontinued in 2005.
Special education: The school has "self-contained" classrooms, that is, classes only for students with special needs. It also provides services as needed to general education students.
After school: The school and several community groups provide academic help. (Melanie Acevedo, April 2005)