P.S. 203 Floyd Bennett
BROOKLYN NY 11234 Map
P.S. 203 Floyd Bennett
SEPTEMBER 2010 UPDATE: The Eagle gifted program is phasing out. Thre is only one clss, scheduled to graduate in 2013.
DECEMBER 2004 REVIEW:.It's hard in a school of more than 1,000 pupils to know all of the children, but Principal Lisa Esposito at PS 203 seems to know most. In every classroom we visited, she greeted children by name, and got down to their level to engage them in their lessons. As a testimony to her warm leadership style, there are two aspiring principals in a principal-training program learning from her at the school.
Esposito grew up in the area around PS 203, a rapidly changing neighborhood that was once an Italian and Jewish enclave, but that today is attracting a growing Caribbean population. Bordering on Mill Basin, the area has many two family homes that are frequently occupied by more than two families. Many of the children's parents work two jobs, and a few years ago the school became eligible for federal Title I funding, which goes to schools with large numbers of low income students.
There is a big push for literacy at PS 203, where many "kids come in with no continuity in education before kindergarten and start below grade level," the principal said. There is even a "dance through literacy" program where kids both learn to dance and to write about it, held in one of the school's two gyms, used as a dance studio. In keeping with the holiday season when we visited, kids there were spinning dreidels and thinking up words to describe how they move. "Spin" and "wiggle" were some of the suggestions. Then they contorted themselves into various dreidel shapes and came up with sentences describing the movements.
We also saw many classes writing in response to books they had read. First graders, finishing the popular Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst, described what happened on their own bad days. Older students were writing haikus on snowflake-shaped paper and composing memoirs after reading Owl Moon, a Caldecott Medal book about a night walk in the woods.
PS 203 has historically had above average reading and math scores, although the 3rd grade reading scores took a plunge in 2004. There is now a phonics-based computer program, where for 15 minutes a day, kids listen to a story on headsets and follow along with the cursor. Teachers can monitor their progress online. There are two gifted or "Eagle" classes on each grade; the rest of the classes, formerly grouped by ability, are now a mix of kids.
Esposito has worked to tackle some behavior problems at the school. One priority was to extend the hours for school aides to supervise the noisy lunchroom where, according to one parent, the din used to be "enough to give you a migraine." The cafeteria previously had only one adult to 80 or 100 children, according to Esposito. "You can't have that," she said, so now there are at least eight adults on duty each lunch period. The principal also hired a fulltime guidance counselor, brought to the school a program called Resolving Conflicts Creatively, and began staff development programs on character education.
The tone of the building has improved, parents agreed, but pockets of problems remain. We saw several students acting out or simply not participating in the lessons. (Esposito was quick to speak to them quietly or bring in one of the school's guidance staff.) In a few classrooms there were lists of kids who weren't allowed to go on trips, and a few longtime teachers said there was not enough follow-through with children who misbehave.
Esposito has introduced more fun activities at the school. There are now school spirit days where kids dress up in crazy hats or pajamas; parent days when parents work on crafts projects with the kids; and an outdoor pumpkin patch in the fall, where kids listen to folk music while sitting on hay.
A lot of the learning looked like fun too. A visiting children's book author, Robert Kimmel Smith, got some giggles from students as he sat on the library's rocking chair and read aloud from his book Jelly Belly, based on his childhood experiences as a tubby boy. The school was decked out in holiday regalia, with the happy sounds of children singing "Santa Claus is coming to town," practicing for the school's holiday concert.
Special education: There are three small classes for kids with special education needs only. On every grade level, there is also a team-taught class in which kids in special education learn alongside those in general education. Not all of these classes, however, have a fulltime second teacher.
After school: There are a few clubs such as basketball, chorus, and cheerleading, and an academic support class called "Project Read" for at-risk students. However, there is no fulltime after-school program which would benefit working families. (Pamela Wheaton, December 2004)