PS/MS 8 Robert Fulton
Brooklyn NY 11201
Zone for the 2017-2018 school year. Call school to confirm.
High performing school in high-income neighborhood; innovative partnerships, projects and math program
Overcrowding in elementary; middle school still developing in old, shared building with metal detectors
UPDATE JULY 2017: Principal Seth Phillips left PS/IS 8 to take a position at the nearby Brooklyn Friends school. Assistant Principal Trish Peterson, who had been overseeing the elementary grades, was named the interim acting principal, the New York Daily News reported.
2016 REVIEW: Tucked away in a quiet corner of Brooklyn Heights, PS/IS 8 has active parents, an imaginative curriculum and a special focus on social studies. It hums along like a well-serviced vehicle. Long gone are the days when the school was under-enrolled and struggled to attract students.
Now its problem is just the opposite: how to accommodate all the students who live in the neighborhood, especially with the explosion of new high-rise buildings along the waterfront near the Brooklyn Bridge.
After several years with long waitlists for zoned kindergartners, there was a contentious rezoning battle in the 2015-2016 school year, and a chunk of the PS 8 zone in DUMBO and Vinegar Hill became zoned for PS 307. That change meant that PS 8 might be able to take back some classroom space for music and drama rooms, although longtime principal Seth Phillips thinks the reprieve from overcrowding may be brief, with so much new construction continuing in the area. "They keep putting up big buildings," he said.
Thematic social studies units are at the heart of the curriculum. Second-graders create a "Box City" of restaurants, banks, a hotel and even an Irish pub from cardboard boxesandlearn about community, business and architecture in the process. Each "citizen" is given $100 per day to "live" in the city and must figure out how to pay taxes.
Fifth-graders learn to argue for a cause they believe in as part of Project Citizen, a program designed to encourage participation in government. One group was avidly seeking more physical education timePS 8 students only get one gym period per weekciting research that shows too many children are obese.
Disappointed by the city math curriculum, the PTA purchased Bridges in Mathematics curriculum, the first, and maybe the only, public school in the city to adopt it. Adopting it "is one of the best things we've done," the principal said. "Kids can speak about math. There is a heavy emphasis on manipulatives, using tools to really understand the material," said Phillips. "Test scores are steadily increasing and [progress shows in] the way the kids talk math, the language they use. The kids are remembering what they learn from year to year."
The PTA raises close to $1 million each year. (The day we visited was the eve of a golf tournament fundraiser). In addition to the math curriculum, the money pays for teaching assistants and enrichment programs such as a long-standing collaboration with the Guggenheim Museum to bring teaching artists into the school and to take 3rd- and 4th-graders to the museum where they learn to become docents.
Classrooms are clean and clearly laid out with well-defined centers. This lends a calm atmosphere even in the art room where soft music was playing. Missing is the clutter of hanging paper charts--the use of SMART Boards in each classroom means that teachers can display charts on them, teachers said.
Parents may bring their children right to their classrooms. There is no homework in kindergarten or 1st grade, a bone of contention for some parents. "It's a no win--there are some parents who really want it and some who don't. We try to find a happy middle ground," said Phillips.
The middle school, begun in 2012, is still developing, said Phillips who spends more time there after a turnover in administrators. "It's a huge learning curve. More work has to be done to find the right match of the population and the teachers."
Middle school students give high marks to the two-year Spanish immersion program. Even though this is the first time they have been exposed to the language, most of them test out of high school Spanish, Phillips said. Three times a year, students do explorations, dropping all of their other studies for two weeks, to look into questions such as "What is courage?" They invite speakers and develop projects about courageous people such as Martin Luther King, Jr.
Not all PS 8 students stay for the middle school, put off by its shared location with a high school and the fact that kids must go through a metal detector to enter the building, located a few blocks away at 105 Tech Place. (The phone number is 718-875-1021.)
MS 8 graduates get into some very competitive high schools: In 2016, two students were accepted into Stuyvesant, 10-12 into Millennium Brooklyn. Midwood and Murrow are other popular choices.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: There is at least one ICT team-teaching class on every grade. "We're still strong believers in the ICT model," Phillips said. PS 8 enrolls some severely disabled children, including some who are non-verbal and have one-on-one assistants.
ADMISSIONS: Zoned, neighborhood school. Overcrowding means there is a kindergarten waitlist some years. PS 8 students are guaranteed admission to the middle school but there is room for upwards of 15 students from outside the school. The admissions is "limited unscreened," meaning that priority is given to students who attend an open house. (Pamela Wheaton, May 2016)