P.S. 183 Robert L. Stevenson
MANHATTAN NY 10065 Map
P.S. 183 Robert L. Stevenson
PS 183 is a vibrant place with hyper-involved parents, a committed staff and arts-infused academics. Its young leader, Tara Napoleoni, is intent on maintaining the school’s many strengths while prioritizing areas for growth, and its student body speaks more than 40 languages. One-third of the parents are medical professionals or research scientists affiliated with nearby New York Presbyterian Hospital, Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital and Rockefeller University.
Napoleoni became principal in 2010 after two years as assistant principal. She was a literacy staff developer at two schools in District 1 and taught for five years at PS 40 and three years at an international school in Japan.
Teachers attend weekly meetings and some meet voluntarily after school. They examine data and student work to create subgroups for instruction. “Beautiful teaching is only beautiful if it’s impacting student learning,” said Napoleoni. Teachers may opt to videotape themselves and then watch it together with the principal as part of their own assessment. Initiatives include efforts to reach high-end math students, to boost the reading skills of English language learners and to promote a community of care to improve manners and reduce exclusion. As part of this effort, the student council will launch monthly themes via skits.
Math and science have been a concern for some parents, although test scores are excellent. “Math does look simplistic,” Parent Coordinator LuAnn Propper said. “It’s games-based and hands-on—sometimes to the point where you think there has to be a quicker way.” But she feels that in learning multiple ways to solve problems, her child was well prepared for middle and high school. Math has moved “more to the center” with added drills and attention to speed. On our visit we saw 3rd graders jot multiples of three and five on long rolls of paper. Strong students who perform “near perfect on state math tests” can attend morning math sessions designed to “push them to the point of struggle,” according to Napoleoni. In a K–2 science class, kids determined how many newtons it took to drag a brick using a spring scale.
Kids moved smoothly from one activity to the next with little wasted time. Second graders worked out the meanings of words like “lurch,” “vivid” and “inexplicable” by reading all the nearby words on a page and looking at the pictures. As for technology, the school is proceeding cautiously. “There’s not a lot of research showing that SMARTboards improve instruction,” said Napoleoni. They own two of these interactive screens connected to a computer and two document cameras, which are overhead projectors that don’t require transparencies. Teachers have access to laptops for their students.
Interested and energetic parents are integral to both academic improvement and enrichment. Starting a parent science group to strengthen the home-school connection is being discussed. Parents raise money for dance, chess, assistant teachers, a playwriting program, two coaches to lead structured games at recess, and band instruments.
Special Education: In every grade there is a class in which special needs and general education children are placed in the same room with two teachers, one of whom is trained in special education. A consultant works with these teachers.
Admissions: Neighborhood school. In recent years, the school has not had room for all the students in the zone. Some kindergartners were assigned to East Side Elementary School, PS 267, because of overcrowding. (Lydie Raschka, February 2011)