P.S. 226 Alfred De B.Mason
BROOKLYN NY 11204 Map
P.S. 226 Alfred De B.Mason
PS/IS 226, a combined elementary and middle school located in a pleasant neighborhood in Bensonhurst, strives to create a welcoming atmosphere for people of all cultures, important in a school which educates many children from immigrant families.
Building and location: Located in a suburban neighborhood in Bensonhurst, the school's boxy, brick building will get a new schoolyard in 2009 that doubles as a city park. Students and teachers helped design the park, which includes recreational areas for basketball and track, a playground for young students, chess tables, benches and greenery.
Murals painted by NY Cares volunteers decorate the hallways in the school's building. The elementary school classrooms are well decorated, particularly in the lower grades. A kindergarten special education classroom sported a large tree on one wall made of tissue paper. Other rooms had floor-to-ceiling displays of student work and colorful posters in areas where children gather for group activities.
School environment and culture: PS 226 leans on the traditional side. Students greet the principal with "good morning Mrs. Tannenbaum," although some do give her hugs. Adults reward students for desirable behavior, giving out certificates that enter them in raffles for donated prizes, and classes compete for the right to have parties although some adults still had stern words for restless children. Principal Sherry Tannenbaum, who was previously a teacher and assistant principal at the school, introduces a book each month for all classes to read as one way to build a sense of community. Neat handwriting characterizes the student work on display.
Classes are comprised of a diversemix of children from different cultures. Students come from families that have long resided in the area as well as those of recent immigrants. Many families speak Chinese, Spanish, Urdu, and Russian, among others. According to Tannenbaum, the number of immigrant students continues to increase, and approximately a third of all students get extra support for learning English.
Teaching and curriculum: On our visit, many students were engaged in small reading groups in their classes. Eighth graders sketched scenes from the book they were reading, The Journal of Scott Pendleton Collins: A World War II Soldier. One teacher whose 3rd graders were reading thin non-fiction books, such as Computers in Filmmaking and The Art of Makeup, explained that students take a weekly test. Data from these tests is used to analyze and record each student's progress, and to group students by their shared strengths or weaknesses for future reading assignments.
We saw some examples of interesting, interdisciplinary lessons. In a 4th grade classroom, students discussed how British taxes on the American colonies led to the American Revolution, and had fun debating which of the 10 or so items on a list including a TV, video games, and hairdryer they would be willing pay more taxes for or give up. The teacher then led the class in creating a bar graph that tallied everyone's responses.
PS 226 offers an accelerated curriculum for more advanced students in a program called Excel. These classes are not part of the district gifted program, but teachers can recommend students for Excel. There is one Excel class per grade.
Students in grades 5-8 travel between classrooms for class changes. Eighth graders take the Spanish proficiency exam at the end of the year, and those in the Excel class take the Regents exam in Math and Earth Science.
Partnerships and programs: Teaching artists from the Lincoln Center Institute come to the school to work with students once a month. In a partnership with Urban Advantage 8th graders build robots that can function under water, and test them in a small outdoor inflatable pool
After school: Brooklyn Arts Council offers extracurricular activities twice a week. There are sports teams for older students. ButTannenbaum is concerned that further cuts to the school's budget may affect the few after school programs.
Also of note: A social worker visits the school weekly to work with families of students in the 4 half-day pre-kindergarten classes.
Family participation: Approximately 75 parents attend PTA-sponsored breakfasts with the principal. An immigrant parent who volunteers in the school store says PS 226 is a very good school, and parents who don't speak English do come to school events, although it takes more effort to draw those families. A table located near the school entrance was covered with publications for parents, some translated into different languages. To the parent coordinator's dismay, translation services provided by the Department of Education have been cut because of citywide budget cuts, making the school more dependent upon their own staff to translate materials.
Special education: There is a Collaborative Team Teaching (CTT) class on each grade; in many classes, we saw paraprofessionals in addition to the two classroom teachers working with the children. PS 226 also has a few self-contained classes.
English Language Learners: There are four English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers. In one kindergarten class that has many ELLs, an ESL teacher walked around helping students in collaboration with the classroom teacher. Tutoring for ESL students is provided after school.
After graduation: Tannenbaum says popular choices include Brooklyn Tech, Midwood, and Murrow high schools; Franklin D. Roosevelt High School is the zoned school for most students at PS 226. (Catherine Man, April 2009)