Ella Baker School

Phone: (212) 717-8809
Website: Click here
Admissions: Citywide
Neighborhood: Upper East Side
District: 2
Grade range: PK thru 08
Parent coordinator: VALERIE KIRK KAMALI

What's special:

A joyful, informal school open to children from across the city.

The downside:

Test scores could be higher.

The Inside Stats



Our review

A small, progressive school founded on the model of Central Park East in East Harlem, Ella Baker is a happy, informal place where children call grown ups by their first names and there's plenty of time to build with blocks, to dance, or to explore the neighborhood on class trips. Two grades of kids are taught together (K-1), (2-3), so students have the same teacher for two years. Children are encouraged to explore their own interests and work at their own pace.

As other public schools have increasingly focused on preparing children for standardized tests, Ella Baker has maintained its commitment to learning through play and discovery. The school has no textbooks, only fun-to-read picture books and novels, science discovery books and historical fiction. There are weekly trips to museums, parks, and ice-skating.

Both the student body and the faculty are racially diverse, and there are an unusual number of men. The staff, let by Principal Laura Garcia, is stable and experienced. We heard no raised voices on our tour, and kids seemed reassured by clear classroom routines.

The school is part of the Julia Richman Educational Complex, a large building that houses several alternative high schools. Ella Baker shares the complex's two gyms, pool, auditoriums, ballet studio, library, computer room and Mount Sinai health facility.

The homework load is light and the tiny middle school does not offer Regents-level math or science—a plus or minus depending on your point of view. Some teachers say the academic expectations are not as high are they should be, according to the Learning Environment Survey. Garcia acknowledges that the school's test scores, while above the citywide average, have room to grow and she's committed to finding ways to improve them without sacrificing the joyful atmosphere that is Ella Baker's hallmark.

Garcia says graduates have been admitted to a wide range of high schools, including Stuyvesant, the Harbor School, performing arts schools and New England boarding schools.

Special education: About 40 children receive special education services. A speech therapist comes twice a week. Students with special needs are fully integrated into all classes.

Admissions: There are regular tours beginning in October. Families must tour the school and visit classrooms before applying to see if it is a good fit. Applications are due in March. Children from all five boroughs may attend. Priority is given to children of parents who travel to the East Side area for school or work and to those who have siblings in the LYFE program in the Julia Richmond building. (Clara Hemphill, January 2012)

Please post comments

  • Give specific examples. Tell us why this school rocks (or doesn't)
  • No profanity. No racial or ethnic slurs. No personal attacks
  • Criticism is fine but don't be nasty.
  • Flag inappropriate comments. (Hover your cursor over comments to see flag)

Find another elementary school

Elementary forum posts

Forum offline