P.S. 147 Isaac Remsen
BROOKLYN NY 11206 Map
P.S. 147 Isaac Remsen
A quiet calm pervades PS 147, even when children are on the move in the hallways. With low enrollment and only 17 classroom teachers, Principal Julia DiSalvo-Drake keeps a close eye on her charges' progress. DiSalvo-Drake, who became principal in 2008, has made improving student behavior a priority; the courtesy of the students is impressive - indeed, one is reminded of the formal manners on display at a Catholic school.
Building and location: PS 147 occupies a stretch of Bushwick Avenue just north of Flushing Avenue in East Williamsburg. The school shares the large H-shaped building with Brooklyn Latin, a highly selective specialized high school. Even with the high school upstairs, the building is under-utilized so there is room for dedicated music, art, and science facilities as well as a resource room, a dean's office, and space for occupational and physical therapy. Though only about 10 students need such therapy, the principal successfully campaigned to bring the services in-house. The auditorium holds the entire student body and staff during daily morning meetings. Also notable is a gleaming, modernist library made possible by the Robin Hood Foundation. On the downside: the cafeteria doubles as a gym and there is no outdoor playground. Enrollment is only 300 and school leaders want to see that grow to about 400 studentse. DiSalvo-Drake suspects that charter schools are siphoning off students from the neighborhood, especially in the upper grades, so she is developing a program that offers a strong education in the basics along with some enrichment.
School environment and culture: Staff concerns about disrespectful and distracting student behavior has made improving the school culture a priority. The principal and her staff have invested energy in an approach known as the Positive Behavior Intervention and Support initiative (PBIS), a program that sets high expectations and rewards good behavior. The effort appears to be paying off. Students greet adults politely and move from class to class in orderly double lines. In classrooms, we saw only the occasional student who was not focused on the task at hand. A dean's office provides a place for children to go when their behavior distracts others.
A loosely-enforced uniform dress code is in place "as a way to make children feel that when they put on the uniform, they are preparing for a school and are ready to learn," said DiSalvo-Drake.
Teaching and curriculum: PS 147 is clearly focused on getting students up to speed with the basics. The city-wide curriculum featuring the balanced literacy approach to reading is in full force at the school. Balanced literacy is a teaching approach that incorporates both aspects of phonics and whole language techniques. DiSalvo-Drake emphasizes data analysis, high expectations, and goal setting for each student and there are weekly staff meetings so teachers can analyze data and plan accordingly.
In the classrooms, we saw small group instruction tailored to individual needs. The prominently-displayed student work shows that children are achieving at different levels, but that success is noted with pride. Every student has a tailored list of goals that pertains to the current unit of study, whether it is a kindergartner learning shapes, or a third-grader learning proper punctuation. In some classes, charts display each student's progress. Students sit at tables, or gather around the teacher on a rug. A kindergarten teacher played background music while her students wrote about a favorite part in a book. The art teacher was painting ceramics with one pre-kindergarten class, while the other pre-K enjoyed hot chocolate they had just prepared. A 3rd grade class was working independently to color in fraction wheels. A 2nd grade class was learning to count coins and make change using play money.
A school-wide enrichment program meets two periods each week. The offerings -French, Spanish, a marimba ensemble, a school newspaper, embroidery and arts and crafts - were selected based on student and staff interests.
Family participation: PS 147, located near three public housing complexes, serves a working class community. Outreach programs, run primarily by the parent coordinator and a family worker, are aimed at increasing parental presence and involvement in the school. In addition to a weekly morning book club, there are parenting workshops. Parents are trained as volunteers. The Parents Association raises funds to buy books and supplies for the enrichment program, but PA officers say there is potential for more parent involvement. Families are invited to attend class with their children to see how teachers translate goals and standards into learning activities.
Partnerships and programs: Brooklyn Latin students volunteer as tutors and reading partners.
After school: Affter school activities include a Science Club; Family Homework Club for parents and students; Story Pirates, a creative writing and drama program, and GREAT, an NYPD program focusing on gang prevention.
Special education: There were two self-contained special education classrooms and one collaborative team teaching class on the third-grade level in 2008-2009. Physical and occupational therapy are offered at the school.
English Language Learners: An instructor comes into the classroom to serve the 40 students classified as ELLs. (Sara Doar, March 2009)