P.S. 169 Sunset Park
BROOKLYN NY 11232 Map
P.S. 169 Sunset Park
With an administrative team that has worked together for almost a decade, PS 169 has the basics down and can now focus on tinkering with different programs to reach all students and give kids a chance to explore their interests.
The school struggles to fit everything into a building that's bursting at the seams; it must hold some classes in hallways and have three lunch periods each in two different eating areas. Still, the building feels comfortable, thanks to the artwork and student work that lines the halls, and classes themselves are kept quite small.
Principal Josephine Santiago said all grades focus on all subjects all year instead of shifting focus in accordance with the standardized testing schedule -- a common practice at many schools. Children have four periods of science a week, with the older grades spending half that time in a science lab. Teachers use a standard curriculum that is revised each year, but they have freedom to augment and personalize it, Santiago said.
In several classes we visited, teachers were reading poems to celebrate the end of a school-wide poetry unit. We also saw 5th graders conscientiously making posters for an asthma awareness contest and others playing math games with intensity and enthusiasm. We saw a few classes in which kids seemed lost, such as a 2nd grade lesson that used vocabulary that was way over the students' heads.
With a Hispanic majority and a growing population of Asian students, about 40 percent of students are considered English language learners, which Santiago said she sees "as a positive." The school has Spanish and Chinese bilingual classes as well as a self-contained English as a Second Language (ESL) class, and it employs two Chinese-speaking family workers in addition to a host of teachers and staff members who are fluent in Spanish. Through a partnership with a local organization, the school offers parents ESL classes year-round.
But for all students, math instruction is done in English, part of what Santiago called a "conscientious effort" to build math proficiency that brought more than 70 percent of kids to grade level in 2006. This effort included making special work available to stragglers and advanced students, giving constant support to teachers who need help with math confidence, and allowing teachers to focus on math, not reading, first thing in the morning when kids are most alert.
The school has long had a daily "special time" in the mid-morning for all kids to get enrichment or intervention and to rejuvenate them for the afternoon. Kids who need help get it during this time, and others work on the school newspaper or join the computer club, book club, or guitar ensemble, among other options. While it's unclear whether the school will be able to continue the morning "special time" under the terms of the new teachers' contract, which limits the size of groups receiving special intervention to 10, Santiago said providing enrichment to all students will remain a priority for the school.
For middle school, kids are zoned for IS 20, but many also are accepted to selective programs in District 15 or for programs such as Prep for Prep that groom students for entrance into private schools.
After school: An extended day program allows for additional academic help two days a week. On Wednesday, kids may attend enrichment clubs in dance, chorus, fine arts, or drama. Many kids also go across the street to a community recreation center, which runs after school activities.
Special education: The school has three self-contained classes and SETSS (Special Education Teacher Support Services) for other kids who need extra help. Santiago said she plans to "explore CTT," referring to collaborative team teaching, in which two teachers, one with special education certification, share a class of students with mixed abilities. (Philissa Cramer, April 2007)