P.S. 212 Lady Deborah Moody
BROOKLYN NY 11214 Map
P.S. 212 Lady Deborah Moody
SEPTEMBER 2010 UPDATE: PS 212 is phasing out its gifted program,, eith the last class to gradueate in 2 013
APRIL, 2005 REVIEW: A student performance at PS 212 is a notch above typical public school fare. Parents at a PS 212 chorus or drama production can expect smoke machines, disco lights, medieval costumes, and eye-popping scenery. "Better than Broadway," enthused an assistant principal, and indeed the small room used for drama rehearsals resembled the wings of a working theater, littered with beautiful props, sets, and costumes. Students audition for the chorus or drama troupe, but the real purpose of the clubs is to allow as many students as possible an opportunity to discover their inner performer.
"We like to have 200 kids on stage," said the music teacher, a professional musician who designs and operates lights and audio-visuals. The drama teacher agreed that enthusiasm trumps talent, but also spends a great deal of time coaching particularly promising youngsters for auditions into middle school programs. Typically, the school sends two or three graduates yearly to the Mark Twain School, a highly respected middle school for the arts. A 5th grader in the art club recently had his work displayed in the Snug Harbor Cultural Center in Staten Island.
Academically, however, PS 212 still struggles. While students in the gifted programs are apparently doing well, school test scores are pressed downward by lower-performing students in the general education and, particularly, special education tracks. On our visit we saw 4th graders enthusiastically computing the area of parallelograms, but we also saw classrooms bogged down in disciplinary action and lacking clear authority.
Ethnically, the student body of PS 212 is a perfect heterogeneous mix, made up of equal numbers of white, African-American, Hispanic, and Asian students. But the socioeconomic picture is less balanced. So many students come from low-income or poverty-level families that the school is known as "The Marlboro School," after the nearby housing project that so many of the children call home. "We have needy, very needy children," said Principal Josephine Marsella, noting that up to 20 percent of her students are in foster care, and many more live in shelters.
On the other hand, the school's SIGMA gifted program draws students from as far away as Canarsie, and they bring with them a formidable group of fundraising parents. PTA funds have supplied the school with a new sound system in the auditorium, an expansive resource center stocked with reading materials, and a much-needed renovation for the library, scheduled to be completed in September 2005.
The rest of the school could use an upgrade as well: the radiators are rackety, the cafeteria is drafty, the stairwells are dark, and classrooms and hallways are in need of painting. Several classes are held in portables in the schoolyard. But teachers compensate with vibrant classroom dÃ©cor, and the principal recently invested $91,000 in new furniture. We were unable to get the full effect of this effort on our tour, because teachers are required to cover all classroom displays while students are taking standardized tests.
Except for a few groups of children with behavioral problems, students in the classrooms we observed were quiet and orderly. In the 2004-2005 school year, classes in all grades except 2nd and 5th were capped at 20 children. Still, the school registers are large enough that the principal is unwilling to send children in the lower grades outside after lunch because there is not adequate adult supervision. "Safety is a big issue here," she said, adding that the high number of asthmatic children (close to 100 school-wide) also argued for keeping some kids inside for lunch.
English as a Second Language: English language learners are given extra help in and out of the classroom. The school revised its ESL curriculum in 2004.
Special education: Children with special needs are currently grouped in "self-contained" (special needs children only) classes, which Marsella hopes to replace with "collaborative team teaching" (CTT) classes. These mix special education and general education students in a class led by two teachers. There will be one such class in 2005-2006. A dozen special education students were "mainstreamed" into the general education classes in 2004-2005.
After school: The school provides a twice-weekly homework-help program. An outside agency provides after-school academic and recreational activities every day. Both programs are free. (Elizabeth Kiem, April 2005)