P.S. 63 Author's Academy

Grades Pre-K, K-5
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What’s Special

Strong leadership

The Downside

Learning how to challenge kids at the top

Our Review

Called "the secret of the South Bronx" by satisfied parents, PS 63 is an oasis of calm, boasting steady leadership that enables new and veteran teachers to deliver lessons with very clear expectations. In a word, said long-time principal Reinaldo Diaz-Lens, the school provides students with "continuity."

Children have spots on the rug indicating where they are to sit, and attention is given to details such as how to hold a pencil correctly. In one class we observed, students were instructed to face each other to discuss writing ideas with a partner, and "touch the page" of a book when re-telling the "big event" on that page. Administrators and coaches keep tabs on assessments of student work and every assignment on display has feedback from the teacher.

There is comfort in this level of clarity, and at PS 63 it garners results: "Our kids test well," said Diaz-Lens, referring to state exams, on which children are rated according to a four-point scale with 4 as the highest. "We know we can move Level 1's and 2's up." He showed us the reading levels of a class of 23 second graders: three were reading just below grade level, two above, and the majority were solidly in the middle.

Staffers work closely with children who are struggling and create extra lessons to help them practice gaps in their skills. We watched 4th graders review spelling patterns for this reason, changing singular nouns, like "baby," to the plural "babies." The principal said, "We look at trends. We try to anticipate pitfalls." Kids who are still learning English attend early morning classes. For additional support, there are "self-contained" classes for English learners on every grade level.

In this well-organized school administrators are now asking themselves what they can do for kids at the top. When students finish their math work in class they are instructed to help a partner or practice math facts, but Diaz said these kids can be pushed to do even more in areas like measurement and early algebra. The school has a twice a week early morning classes for high achievers.

Children who have special needs are not treated differently here. On our visit to a team-taught class with a mix of kids who have special needs and their general education peers, a small group of five sat at a back table guided by a teacher. This smaller group was a mix of kids from both camps who needed help with a particular math concept. A "self-contained" class is directly across the hall so children who need a higher level of assistance can easily go back and forth between classes to join lessons depending on their strengths or weaknesses.

In the backyard, a portable "mini school" is occupied by Mott Hall Charter (not to be confused with Mott Hall middle school in Harlem)which will move into several classes in the main building in 2014 as they await the construction of their own building. PS 63 lacks a real gym so each school uses one of two makeshift spaces with padded pillars. The auditorium and the cafeteria are shared.

Admissions: Neighborhood school (Lydie Raschka, October 2013)

About the students

Enrollment
619
Pre-K seats
46
Asian
0.5%
Black
36.4%
Hispanic
59.1%
White
3.2%
Other
0.8%
Free or reduced priced lunch
95%
Students with disabilities
19%
English language learners
20%

About the school

Shared campus?
Yes
This school shares a building with Mott Hall Charter School
How crowded? (Full is 100%)
85%
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

Attendance

Average daily attendance
91%
94% Citywide Average
How many students are chronically absent?
34%
21% Citywide Average

Is this school safe?

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained at this school?
88%
81% Citywide Average
How many teachers say their students are safe outside around this school?
70%
85% Citywide Average

About the leadership

Years of principal experience at this school
12.0
6.6 Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
90%
80% Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal has a clear vision for this school?
94%
87% Citywide Average
How many teachers trust the principal?
90%
79% Citywide Average

About the teachers

How many teachers have 3 or more years of experience teaching?
65%
78% Citywide Average
Teacher attendance
97%
96% Citywide Average
How many teachers say they would recommend this school to other families?
94%
83% Citywide Average
How many teachers think the staff collaborate to make this school run effectively?
96%
87% Citywide Average

Do parents like the school?

How many parents responded to the school survey?
64%
64% Citywide Average
How many parents say they are invited to visit classrooms?
90%
85% Citywide Average
How many parents say this school offers enough courses, activities and services to keep their children interested in school?
89%
87% Citywide Average
How many parents say their child's teacher helped their child adjust to Pre-K?
100%
97% Citywide Average
How many parents say this Pre-K program helped them consider which elementary schools would meet their childrens' needs?
91%
91% Citywide Average
How many Pre-K parents say their child's teacher gave helpful ideas for how to support their child's learning?
100%
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?
34%
40% Citywide Average
How many students scored 3-4 on the state ELA exam?
37%
39% 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
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

How does this school serve English Language Learners?

How many English language learners score 3-4 on the State ELA exam?
10%
10% Citywide Average
How many former English language learners score 3-4 on the State ELA exam?
38%
22% 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
2.02
2.0 Citywide Average
Average math score for self-contained students
2.27
2.3 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for ICT students
2.1
1.9 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for self-contained students
2.51
2.2 Citywide Average
Average math score for SETSS students
4.57
2.8 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for SETSS students
2.49
2.2 Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school offers enough activities and services for their children's needs?
95%
86% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school works to achive the goals of their students' IEPs?
95%
91% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say they are satisfied with the IEP development process at this school?
95%
89% Citywide Average
For more information about our data sources, see About Our Data
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