P.S. 20 Clinton Hill

Grades Pre-K, K-5
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What’s Special

French dual language, robust after-school, band

The Downside

Uneven instruction, particularly in math

Our Review

PS 20 strives to meet the needs of children living in public housing developments alongside those living in brownstones and pretty wooden houses in the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill neighborhoods. The school has struggled with declining enrollment as it faces competition from private schools, charters and other district public schools. But it is beginning to stabilize; reasons include a popular French dual language program, enticing pre-kindergarten classes and robust after-school choices, even for the youngest kids. Active parents make a difference here, bringing fresh ideas and talents, which are embraced by the administration.

Additional strengths include a school band, musical theater and an urban agriculture program called PS 20 Farms that was founded by parents. The hallways are decorated with children's spidery still-life plant drawings based on the sprouts growing in the science lab. In warm weather, children plant seeds in the planters outside the school and then harvest and sample the bounty.

Upbeat principal Lena Barbera has expanded project-based learning and the arts, as she did in her previous job as assistant principal at popular PS 261. In 2010 she polled her teachers to discover new talents and found a teacher of vocal music and a French teacher among them. As a result, even children not enrolled in dual language get a chance to study French in a "cluster" class.

Teachers in dual language were expressive and engaging on our visit, and in an upper-grade, non-dual language classroom, children were interested as they discussed a biography of environmentalist Rachel Carson. A few students mentioned an experiment in science class, in which they had tried different solutions to clean oil off bird feathers, as after an oil spill. Yet instruction was uneven. In a couple of classes, teachers spoke unnaturally loud, and in an overly warm classroom, kids looked sleepy as they watched a lesson on a SMART Board, with the lights off, one child with his head on his arms.

The school generates strong opinions on a Fort Greene listserv, from those extolling its ethnic and economic diversity to those who fret over bad student language and behavior. On school surveys, most teachers say order and discipline are maintained and they overwhelmingly support the principal. Test scores are disappointing in math, but the school's yearly plan shows teachers are trying to provide a stronger foundation in the lower grades by strengthening daily math routines.

The building is shared with Academy of Arts and Letters, which spans kindergarten through 8th grade. PS 20 occupies the first floor and part of the second, and the schools share common spaces. The cafeteria is sun-lit but small; the resulting scheduling crunch means that kindergartners must eat lunch at 10:30 am.

Dual language classrooms are ideally an even 50-50 split between native English and native French speakers, some of them children of African and Haitian immigrants, and some from France. In the first year of its program (2013), PS 20 had only three French-speaking children in dual language out of about 20 students; the second year it had about six. The principal said interest in the program has been growing each year.

The school offers rare pre-kindergarten after-school hours through Kaleidoscope Early Childhood Development Center. The Boys and Girls Cluboffers after-school programming, costing only $5 per student for the whole school year. Children can also learn piano after school. The two schools both participate. "You should see this school after 3 pm," said Barbera. "There are kids everywhere."

After graduating from PS 20, students attend Academy of Arts and Letters, MS 113, Fort Greene Prep and Mark Twain, among other middle school choices.

Special education: Self-contained classes are phasing out as kids are incorporated into ICT (integrated co-teaching) classes. In some of these team-taught classes, however, there are not enough kids to justify the hiring of two full-time teachers. A roving SETSS (special education teacher support services) teacher helps out as needed.

Admissions: Neighborhood school. Native French-speakers get priority in admissions to the dual language program. (Lydie Raschka, February 2015)

About the students

Enrollment
410
Pre-K seats
54
Asian
4.6%
Black
50.5%
Hispanic
21.7%
White
17.3%
Other
5.9%
Free or reduced priced lunch
62%
Students with disabilities
14%
English language learners
4%

About the school

Shared campus?
Yes
This school shares the building with the Academy of Arts and Letters
Metal detectors?
No
How crowded? (Full is 100%)
119%
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%
21% Citywide Average

Is this school safe?

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained at this school?
100%
82% Citywide Average
How many teachers say their students are safe outside around this school?
100%
88% Citywide Average

About the leadership

Years of principal experience at this school
7.0
6.6 Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
100%
82% Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal has a clear vision for this school?
100%
90% Citywide Average
How many teachers trust the principal?
100%
82% Citywide Average

About the teachers

How many teachers have 3 or more years of experience teaching?
81%
78% Citywide Average
Teacher attendance
97%
96% Citywide Average
How many teachers say they would recommend this school to other families?
100%
85% Citywide Average
How many teachers think the staff collaborate to make this school run effectively?
100%
89% Citywide Average

Do parents like the school?

How many parents responded to the school survey?
50%
65% Citywide Average
How many parents say they are invited to visit classrooms?
94%
85% Citywide Average
How many parents say this school offers enough courses, activities and services to keep their children interested in school?
86%
86% Citywide Average
How many parents say their child's teacher helped their child adjust to Pre-K?
100%
98% Citywide Average
How many parents say this Pre-K program helped them consider which elementary schools would meet their childrens' needs?
85%
92% Citywide Average
How many Pre-K parents say their child's teacher gave helpful ideas for how to support their child's learning?
96%
97% 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?
39%
40% Citywide Average
How many students scored 3-4 on the state ELA exam?
39%
39% Citywide Average

Arts offerings

This school has 4 dedicated spaces for Music, Theater, Visual arts, and Media arts
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

How does this school serve English Language Learners?

This school offers Dual Language classes in French.

How does this school serve students with disabilities?

This school offers self-contained classes
This school offers team teaching (ICT)
Average math score for self-contained students
2.68
2.4 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for self-contained students
2.17
2.2 Citywide Average
Average math score for SETSS students
4.18
2.8 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for SETSS students
2.38
2.2 Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school offers enough activities and services for their children's needs?
73%
86% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school works to achive the goals of their students' IEPs?
93%
91% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say they are satisfied with the IEP development process at this school?
80%
89% Citywide Average
For more information about our data sources, see About Our Data
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