Flanked on either side by two large beautifully manicured lawns filled with impatiens and small trees, the entrance of PS 181 seems to invite you in. Unfortunately, after scheduling an appointment with Insideschools, Principal Delores Theobald decided not to let us visit after all. "I don't want strangers walking around my building," she told us when we arrived at the school. Theobald also cited "reorganization issues."
PS 181 was "among a handful [of schools] facing big changes in curriculum in spite of rising test scores," according to an article published May 2003 in the Daily News. "The new curriculum would call for an hour-and-a-half more of English and math instruction each day." Although parents and teachers say PS/IS 181 students already get extra instruction in those subjects.
In 2003, according to an article in New York's Daily News, the percentage of PS 181 8th graders meeting or exceeding standards on standardized tests in reading soared to 50 percent from 23 percent in 2002. Reading scores for 4th graders jumped as well, from 39 percent at or above grade level in 2002 to 56 percent in 2003. Scores in 2004, however, fell back. Only 46 percent of 4th graders met or exceeded state English standards in 2004 (a 10-point decline from 2003), while the percentage of 8th graders scoring adequately or better dropped to 30 percent.
PTA President Sharon Burke told us the school benefits from some fine teaching: "There is learning going on and we have excellent teachers some who go above and beyond their call," she said. However, Burke added, she believes the 6th, 7th and 8th grades need work. "We need to improve the middle school program," she said. "There are no positive incentives to push students to strive for excellence."
Admissions: Although PS 181 houses 6th, 7th and 8th grades, only about half the students who enter the school's 5th grade remain in the middle school program. This was an effort to alleviate overcrowding, said Burke. A lottery is used to determine which students in the 5th grade class will remain in the middle school.
This review was compiled from newspaper articles, Department of Education reports and an interview with the PTA president. The school refused our request for a visit. (Nicole K. Hilliman, May 2004)