P.S. 255 Barbara Reing School
BROOKLYN NY 11229 Map
P.S. 255 Barbara Reing School
SEPTEMBER 2010 UPDATE: The gifted and talented program is phasing out with the las class scheduled to graduate in 2013.
NOVEMBER 2004 REVIEW: PS 255 is a traditional, neighborhood school in Sheepshead Bay. Many students are third generation attendees, new immigrants are welcomed, and resources ranging from a dentist to computer labs work on behalf of children's success.
Large, colorful billboards hang at the school's entrance, declaring: "Every child is a star...come watch us shine." And they do! Each morning, one student speaks into a microphone, and leads the school in the Pledge of Allegiance. Names of students with perfect attendance gleam through a glass case, and recipients of student-of-the-month awards are honored with engraved pencils. Children are greeted in the morning and escorted to their classes, cafeteria, recess, and the pre-lunch potty break. When an adult isn't present, children walk with their "buddy," never alone.
PS 255 is one of 209 schools exempted from the curriculum that the city requires in most schools. It has, however, adopted the mandated math program for its younger children, through grade 3. Teachers use group work, as well as devices such as a projector and white screen, to engage the entire class. And in all grades we saw during our visit, students seemed supportive of one another. We were impressed to see kids applaud after a question was answered correctly, and offer help when it was not.
General education classes are organized according to academic levels, and students with high test scores and teacher recommendations are admitted into the Eagle program for gifted students. However, administrators say they will move a child from special or general education into Eagle if it guarantees their success. When Principal Linda Singer arrived at PS 255 in 2001, for example, she found two emotionally disturbed and seemingly uncontrollable children in special education. "They were laying all over the floor, and on their way to District 75," the district for children with severe disabilities, she said. Instead of transferring the children, however, Singer did the unexpected. "I placed them in the Eagle program," she said. Two years later, both children are excelling.
Parents are active, both as volunteers and as participants in family nights, when the school sponsors activities and educational enrichment classes for both parents and children. Parent Natalie Barwick, who volunteers weekly at PS 255, attributes her sons' interest in poetry to one such event the "poem in your pocket" family night. "I don't have to fight with them to read poetry," said Barwick. "They enjoy it, surprisingly."
Students don't leave, and new children continue to enroll, testing the administration's ability to find more space. Many education specialists' offices are closets, and a teachers' resource room is in the former locker room, with books stacked in unused stalls and showers. In addition, classes are large, with 32 students in 4th and 5th grade classes.
Grades with a large number of students learning English have "self-contained" English-as-a- Second-Language (ESL) classes. Students in other grades are pulled out of class to receive ESL instruction.
Special education:More than 100 students receive special education services. Some receive help in a regular classroom. Some are assigned to a "collaborative team teaching class" in which two teachers, one of whom is certified in special education, work as a team with a class that mixes children in general education and those with special needs. There are also "self-contained" classes that serve children with a variety of disabilities, including mental retardation. Five percent of the students enrolled come from outside District 22. This school also hosts an ASD Nest Program for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Students with ASD learn in a classroom alongside typically developing children, taught by two teachers who have been trained in the program’s specialized curriculum and teaching strategies.
(This school is featured in New York City's Best Public Elementary Schools. Vanessa Witenko, November 2004; updated with information on the Nest Program by Pauline Zaldonis, August 2013)