P.S./M.S. 149 Sojourner Truth

Grades Pre-K, K-8

What’s Special

Dynamic new principal; kids grow vegetables in hydroponics lab

The Downside

Many challenges remain

Our Review

New furniture, fresh paint, brightly lit halls and a can-do principal are signs that long-beleaguered PS/IS 149 is on the upswing. Kids grow vegetables in a hydroponics lab, study ancient Egypt on trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and learn to dance with Alvin Ailey dancers.

PS/IS 149 shares a building with Harlem Success Academy 1, the flagship school of the Success Academy charter network. For years the stark contrast between the well-equipped charter school and the shabby district school has made children at PS 149 feel like second-class citizens. Now, that's beginning to change. "PS 149 has gone through a very big transformation," said Ilene Altschul. superintendent of District 3.

Claudia Aguirre, principal since 2015, has moved quickly to improve both the physical plant and the quality of teaching. She decided her school--with an enrollment of fewer than 300 children--needed just one, not two, assistant principals; with the $150,000 annual savings she bought new rugs, blond wood tables, matching chairs, and other equipment and supplies.

She sought out volunteers from New York Cares to help with painting; a new custodian cleaned the light fixtures and replaced long burned-out bulbs. The school librarian weeded out old booksone third of the collection--and circulation jumped from 280 books a month to more than 1,000. "When you get the old books off the shelves, children gravitate to the newer books," the librarian said on our visit. Aguirre built partnerships with arts and community organizations to offer fun activities like roller blading lessons and jazz concerts.

She replaced the scripted reading program with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, which encourages children to read books they choose themselves and to write multiple drafts of their essays. She recruited teacher trainers from TC work regularly with staff. She eased out staff who didn't share her vision and hired some energetic new teachers. "We're moving toward a progressive model of instruction," she said; teachers who were unhappy with the changes were encouraged to find jobs elsewhere.

Teachers specialize; beginning in 2nd grade, children learn reading and social studies from one teacher and math and science from another. Children grow kale, chard, basil, and bell peppers in an indoor hydroponic garden.

This tiny school has long had just one class on each grade (except for pre-k, which has two), but Aguirre, former principal of the Dual Language Middle School on the Upper West Side, hope to expand the middle school to two classes on each grade. An imaginative social studies curriculum includes trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art study ancient civilization in 6th grade, to Boston to study the American Revolution in 7th grade, and to Washington to study U.S. government in 8th grade. On our visit, children seemed happy and engaged and the tone of the school was calm.

The Harlem Children's Zone, a community organization, offers free after school until 6 pm, including lacrosse lessons. Other services include a mental health clinic, a dental clinic, tutoring and a washer-dryer for children who might not have one at home to wash their clothes. The school is one of 94 Renewal Schools, low-performing schools that get extra funds designed to boost achievement.

Many challenges remain. There is friction between the principal and staff and between staffers. More than half the teachers mistrust each other, according to school surveys, and nearly half say they don't trust the principal and they don't feel the principal respects them. Aguirre acknowledges that there has been push-back against the changes she has instituted, but points to an increase in teachers' attendance as a sign of progress.

Attendance rates for the children, while significantly improved, are below the citywide average. It will take time for the changes in instruction to be reflected in test scores, which are well below average. It will also take time for the community to embrace the school: The majority of children who live in the school attendance zone have long opted for charters, gifted programs or other specialized programs. Aguirre hopes to lure them back and make the school a true neighborhood school.

SPECIAL EDUCATION: PS 149 shares a building with a District 75 program for children with severe disabilities, some of whom take classes with PS 149. Aguirre believes special needs children should be included in regular classes whenever possible, and has worked to reduce the number of children in self-contained classes.

ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. (Clara Hemphill, March 2017)

About the students

Enrollment
256
Pre-K seats
22
Asian
2.0%
Black
61.7%
Hispanic
28.9%
White
3.9%
Other
3.5%
Free or reduced priced lunch
96%
Students with disabilities
30%
English language learners
11%

About the school

Shared campus?
No
This school is in its own building.
Uniforms required?
Yes
Metal detectors?
No
How crowded? (Full is 100%)
68%
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

Attendance

Average daily attendance
92%
94% Citywide Average
How many students are chronically absent?
30%
19% Citywide Average

Is this school safe?

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained at this school?
44%
75% Citywide Average
How many students think bullying happens most or all of the time at this school?
52%
25% Citywide Average
How many students say they feel safe in the hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?
77%
85% Citywide Average
How many teachers say their students are safe outside around this school?
89%
84% Citywide Average
How many students say most students treat each other with respect?
20%
46% Citywide Average

About the leadership

Years of principal experience at this school
1.0
6.4 Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
62%
79% Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal has a clear vision for this school?
52%
86% Citywide Average
How many teachers trust the principal?
55%
79% Citywide Average

About the teachers

How many teachers have 3 or more years of experience teaching?
71%
78% Citywide Average
Teacher attendance
98%
96% Citywide Average
How many teachers say they would recommend this school to other families?
35%
79% Citywide Average
How many teachers think the staff collaborate to make this school run effectively?
45%
85% Citywide Average

Do parents like the school?

How many parents responded to the school survey?
33%
59% Citywide Average
How many parents say they are invited to visit classrooms?
77%
79% Citywide Average
How many parents say this school offers enough courses, activities and services to keep their children interested in school?
81%
84% Citywide Average
How many parents say their child's teacher helped their child adjust to Pre-K?
92%
97% Citywide Average
How many parents say this Pre-K program helped them consider which elementary schools would meet their childrens' needs?
77%
88% Citywide Average
How many Pre-K parents say their child's teacher gave helpful ideas for how to support their child's learning?
92%
95% Citywide Average
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

Test scores

How many students scored 3-4 on the state math exam?
6%
39% Citywide Average
How many students scored 3-4 on the state ELA exam?
12%
40% Citywide Average

Arts offerings

This school has 2 dedicated spaces for Visual arts and an Auditorium
This school has 1 licensed arts teacher in Music

Engaging curriculum?

How many students say this school offers enough programs, classes and activities to keep them interested?
46%
72% Citywide Average
How many students say they are challenged in most or all of their classes?
45%
55% Citywide Average
How many students say the programs, classes and activities here encourage them to develop talent outside academics?
43%
70% Citywide Average

Are students prepared for high school?

How many 8th graders earn high school credit?
0%
28% Citywide Average
How many graduates of this school pass all their classes in 9th grade?
70%
87% Citywide Average
What high schools do most graduates attend?
Urban Assembly School of Business for Young Women, the
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

How does this school serve English Language Learners?

How many former English language learners score 3-4 on the State ELA exam?
0%
18% Citywide Average

How does this school serve students with disabilities?

This school offers self-contained classes
This school offers team teaching (ICT)
Average math score for ICT students
1.68
1.9 Citywide Average
Average math score for self-contained students
1.82
2.2 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for ICT students
1.71
1.9 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for self-contained students
1.96
2.2 Citywide Average
Average math score for SETSS students
1.73
2.3 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for SETSS students
1.92
2.3 Citywide Average
How many students say that students with disabilities are included in all activities?
59%
69% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school offers enough activities and services for their children's needs?
94%
84% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school works to achive the goals of their students' IEPs?
100%
89% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say they are satisfied with the IEP development process at this school?
94%
87% Citywide Average
For more information about our data sources, see About Our Data
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