P.S. 270 Johann Dekalb
BROOKLYN NY 11205 Map
P.S. 270 Johann Dekalb
PS 270, a small neighborhood school in Clinton Hill, saw its population drop following a turnover in administration and the school's 1998 placement on the state's failing schools list -- the roster of those designated a "school under registration review," or SURR. After posting a huge jump in state math test scores for 4th graders from 1999 when only 16% scored at grade level to 2003 when 73% of the kids did, and being noted as one of the city's "most improved" schools, PS 270 made it off the dreaded SURR list in 2004. Now the challenge is to maintain the academic gains and to entice parents to return to the school, Principal Mitra Lutchman said.
He attributed the jump in the 2003 4th grade scores to two topnotch teachers who "looped" the class -- kept them for three years. They got to know the children well and even gave them work to do over the summer. One indicator of whether the school has truly turned a corner will arrive with future test scores. The hope is that even though the 2003 sample size was small -- after all, only two classes were tested -- the improvement it measured was more than a temporary blip.
One advantage of a school with only two classes per grade is its family atmosphere. " I know all the kids by name and by reading level," Lutchman said. But "small school" also means "small budget," and, therefore, the school lacks permanent art and music teachers, as well as special programs to keep kids engaged and to attract more neighborhood parents.
The school has moved away from a textbook-driven curriculum and introduced "balanced literacy," with the help of Australian trainers known as Aussies. In this teaching method, children learn through reading fiction of their choice, frequently work together in groups and write in many different genres. We saw one class learning how to grab a reader's interest by writing "edge of your seat" stories. The classes hold writing celebrations once they "publish" their stories. The introduction of the curriculum is still in its infancy, however, and we saw some classes where kids supposed to be working independently instead were goofing off and seemed uncertain of what was expected of them. Some of the work that was displayed looked sub-par -- 5th-grade essays with too many spelling and grammatical errors, for example. Kids wrote about getting "excepted" to middle school or the "gole" of "graguwating" from PS 270.
The well-kept school building -- sandwiched between the Pratt Institute arts college and a police precinct station -- houses a nice gym and cafeteria. Walls painted bright lime green and bubblegum pink are lively. Because the school is considered "under-utilized," another school, the Community Partnership Charter School, moved into the third floor of PS 270 in September 2004.
A small cadre of dedicated parent-volunteers has become an active presence in the school most days. Photos of school activities are plastered on the walls outside the PTA office, including some of a "brotherhood" dinner that involved the whole school and featured student performances. Parents sponsor an annual luncheon for teachers to show their appreciation. Still, many kids in the school come from struggling families and, according to the principal, "are basically raising themselves." Some bring their problems into the school -- we saw a few who preferred lingering in the hallways or in the parent coordinator's office to being in class.
Special education: There are several classes serving only children with special education needs.
After school: A cultural and recreational program for 3rd-5th graders is run by the Jackie Robinson Center for Physical Culture, a community organization that targets at-risk youth. Kids may receive academic help or take basketball, handball, drama or martial arts. There are extended day tutorials for all kids (included early morning test prep) and a "Super Saturday" academic program. (Pamela Wheaton, April 2004)