P.S. 185 The Early Childhood Discovery and Design Magnet School

Grades Pre-K, K-3
Staff Pick
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Zone for the 2017-2018 school year. Call school to confirm.

What’s Special

LEGO design curriculum; emphasis on play and creative activities.

The Downside

Only goes through 2nd grade

Our Review

At PS 185 very young children learn about the grown-up subjects of engineering and design. Also known as the Early Childhood Discovery and Design Magnet School, PS 185 serves students in pre-K through 2nd grade. The tone is gentle, supportive and balanced. There's plenty of instruction in reading and math, even in pre-K, but teachers also infuse lots of play and creative activities into daily lessons.

Children study dance and piano, practice yoga, take walks in Central Park and delve into engineering basics in the Lego Lab. Once a week they spend time on longer projects based on science and social studies units, such as constructing and labeling the parts of trees out of recycled materials, or creating a comic strip on how matter changes state.

Unlike many schools, PS 185 has moved toward a more playful and project-based model since the citywide adoption of Common Core learning goals: it has added the weekly projects and brought back "centers" such as blocks and dramatic play in kindergarten. Next: big blocks and tricycles in the playground.

Principal Jane Murphy taught at progressive Central Park East I back when it served mostly low-income families, as PS 185 does now. She believes children from all walks of life are best served by "stimulating and challenging curriculum." The school's nice mix of structure and creative freedom has begun to attract a few professional parents new to Harlem. Murphy is proud that the school is able to draw middle class parents even without a gifted and talented program, which she finds exclusive and sometimes divisive. "Children need to interact with lots of different kids," she said.

PS 185 teachers try to take into account the needs of children who surge ahead as well as those who fall behind. In the Lego Lab, a child spoke excitedly of using "interlocking" and "overlapping" pieces to build a sturdy wall. During group phonics lessons, a child may work independently on more advanced skills. Children gather in small daily math groups based on what they need help with most. A reading teacher works daily with eight groups of struggling readers in the library.

Teachers emphasize the child-friendly rules"be safe, be kind, be helpful, be ready"by awarding points in the shape of cut out bumblebees. Yet choice, chatter and movement are encouraged, giving kids opportunities to learn to regulate their own behavior too.

Parents raved about the "small and personal" community and discovery-filled approach. "I want them to have this fervor and zeal for learning," said a mother who felt some schools were "too focused on tests at an early age." The downside: some parents wondered where to send their children for 3rd grade. "It's one of the biggest concerns of families here," a parent said.

Most graduates attend PS 208, which serves grades 3 to 5. This is one solution, though a mother with children in both schools said she missed the camaraderie and playful approach of the early childhood school.

PS 185 is housed in a two-building complex that it shares with PS 208, Harlem Link Charter School and PS 226, a small program run by District 75, the citywide district for students with severe disabilities.

SPECIAL EDUCATION/ESL: There are several team-taught classes that place some children with disabilities in general ed classrooms with two teachers. An ESL teacher provides support to English language learners both in their regular class and also outside the classroom. There is one "self-contained" class for children with significant disabilities.

ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. The school has admitted students from outside the zone and the district in recent years. (Lydie Raschka, November 2016)

About the students

Enrollment
234
Pre-K seats
61
Asian
2.1%
Black
61.5%
Hispanic
26.5%
White
5.1%
Other
4.7%
Free or reduced priced lunch
85%
Students with disabilities
21%
English language learners
3%

About the school

Shared campus?
Yes
This school shares a building with Harlem Link Charter School and PS 208.
How crowded? (Full is 100%)
96%
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?
31%
21% Citywide Average

Is this school safe?

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained at this school?
90%
81% Citywide Average
How many teachers say their students are safe outside around this school?
100%
85% Citywide Average

About the leadership

Years of principal experience at this school
6.8
6.6 Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
78%
80% Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal has a clear vision for this school?
100%
87% Citywide Average
How many teachers trust the principal?
72%
79% Citywide Average

About the teachers

How many teachers have 3 or more years of experience teaching?
53%
78% Citywide Average
Teacher attendance
97%
96% Citywide Average
How many teachers say they would recommend this school to other families?
89%
83% Citywide Average
How many teachers think the staff collaborate to make this school run effectively?
95%
87% Citywide Average

Do parents like the school?

How many parents responded to the school survey?
100%
64% Citywide Average
How many parents say they are invited to visit classrooms?
93%
85% Citywide Average
How many parents say this school offers enough courses, activities and services to keep their children interested in school?
90%
87% Citywide Average
How many parents say their child's teacher helped their child adjust to Pre-K?
98%
97% Citywide Average
How many parents say this Pre-K program helped them consider which elementary schools would meet their childrens' needs?
85%
91% Citywide Average
How many Pre-K parents say their child's teacher gave helpful ideas for how to support their child's learning?
96%
96% 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?
28%
40% Citywide Average
How many students scored 3-4 on the state ELA exam?
33%
39% Citywide Average

Arts offerings

This school has 3 dedicated spaces for Dance, Music, and an Auditorium
This school has 2 licensed arts teachers in Dance and Theater
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

How does this school serve students with disabilities?

This school offers self-contained classes
This school offers team teaching (ICT)
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school offers enough activities and services for their children's needs?
90%
86% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school works to achive the goals of their students' IEPs?
87%
91% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say they are satisfied with the IEP development process at this school?
90%
89% Citywide Average
For more information about our data sources, see About Our Data
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