P.S. 287 Bailey K. Ashford
BROOKLYN NY 11201 Map
PS 287, located in an out-of-the-way location near the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and the Manhattan Bridge, has a beautifully renovated library, brand-new outdoor playground and a well-equipped science lab. The school offers instruction in music and dance, and there are laptops and SMART boards in every classroom.
"We are very tech savvy in this school," said Principal Michele Rawlins-Brown, a PS 287 parent herself. Even longtime teachers say they use technology every day.
The principal "dragged us kicking and screaming into the future...from black boards to SMART boards," said science teacher Michael West. "It's a testament to this administration's forward-thinking."
However, the enrollment is very low, with only about 200 students in a building made for more than 600 students. With two classes on every grade, the largest has 22 students and most have far fewer. The school does not have enough money to hire art or physical education teachers, because the budget is based on enrollment. Test scores are low and attendance is poor. Most students come from nearby housing projects. Eighty percent of teachers responding to the Learning Environment Survey said there are problems with order and discipline.
To improve behavior, West developed a character education program called "Guiding Principles of Peace and Unity." Children are randomly assigned to "family groups" which meet twice a month on Friday afternoons for special events such as movie nights, pastry parties or trips Students gain points – and stickers -- for good behavior. Student leaders become "elders" who help monitor the cafeteria. More students now arrive on time to school and there has been a decrease in suspensions, West said.
The school has actively integrated the Common Core Learning Standards. On our visit, we noticed that teachers pay attention to writing, including correct capitalization and punctuation, from the early grades. Even the pre-kindergartners were organizing their stories and labeling them with a beginning, middle and end. Fifth graders write five page essays. To promote conversation between children and to help build their vocabularies some teachers hand out "speaking cards." Students sit in a circle and rather than raise their hands when they want to contribute to the conversation, they put their speaking card in the center. Kindergartners were speaking about the children's book author Eric Carle.
PS 287 shares the building with Community Roots Charter School middle school students.
After school: Academic help is available from 3:30 to 5:30 pm Monday through Thursday. Family Fitness Fridays, a program offering aerobics for parents and children, is sponsored by Shape Up NYC.
Special education: The school no longer has self-contained classes but there is a co-teaching class on every grade.
Admission: Neighborhood school, but there is ample room for children from outside the zone. Call the principal or the parent coordinator to arrange a tour. (Pamela Wheaton, January 2013)