P.S. 249 The Caton

Grades Pre-K, K-5
Staff Pick
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What’s Special

Good leadership, strong academics, longer school day & lots of arts

The Downside

Some dimly lit corridors; grade expansion means less space for out of zone students

Our Review

PS 249 is a happy, active place, where strong academics and enrichment activities give all children a chance to excel. "Grandparents," easily spotted in bright red Department of Aging jackets, help watch over little ones and provide extra hands in the classroom. Students may play intramural soccer, dance to the beat of African drums, or learn the violin during the school day. There is always a buzz of activity, even on Fridays, when children typically are distracted by thoughts of a school-free weekend.

That's mostly because of "Super Science Fridays," an entire school-day each week devoted to science-related instruction. "Attendance on Fridays was kind of a challenge," says Principal Elisa Brown, so she had to come up with something special. Students may conduct experiments in class, build volcanoes with the science teacher, and devote themselves to non-fiction books during reading period. "When they leave on Fridays, they leave with a project, something they made, and in a calm, happy tone," Brown says.

Students at PS 249 seem genuinely happy to spend time at school. Those in grades 3-5 stay until 5:30 pm two days a week and come in on Saturday mornings. A lot of extra-curriculars - such as soccer teams, or music or dance lessons, are available at the school.

Formerly an early childhood school serving PK-3, PS 249 has added a 4th a 5th grade. It enrolls many students who arrive with little grasp of English. To serve them, the school offers a dual language Spanish-English classes. Kindergartners start with one period a day in which they are immersed in their non-native language; upper grades have more. The hallways are also split, clearly denoting with signs which rooms are designated for English immersion and which for Spanish immersion. These rooms face each other, so that when students or teachers change classes, they don't have to travel very far. For non-dual language classes, many classroom teachers are trained in English as a Second Language, so children are not pulled out of class.

The ESL-trained teachers are going to be with you all day, teaching every subject, said the principal, a soft-spoken but imposing figure. She was a Cahn fellow in 2007, a recognition of her strong leadership.

Children thrive with stepped-up arts activities. Artists from the Ifetayo Cultural Arts Academy teach African dance, drumming, drama, capoiera and art. The Noel Poynter Foundation brings in musicians to teach students to play the violin. Theres a drama teacher on staff.

You need a lot of things for 800 plus kids to keep them engaged, said the principal. "Kids that might not be as successful with academics have an opportunity to shine in another way."

The school is proud of its wellness policies which include a lot of physical activity under the guidance of a licensed phys ed teacher and 10 am healthy snacks for all. PS 249 adopted a positive behavior (PBIS) approach to discipline with color-coded -- red, yellow and green -- charts in classrooms to indicate what kind of day a student is having. Children earn "bee" points for good behavior enabling them to shop in a small school store.

Academics are strong. We treat all children as if they were gifted, says the principal. Students get lots of individual attention, especially during the second period of each day when all instructional staff is working with students in classrooms. Teachers work closely together with the more experienced staff mentoring newer faculty. Teachers participate in a book club on Wednesday.

Children dress in tidy uniforms-light and dark blue for grades 1-3 and khaki and white for grades 4 and 5. They read from science textbooks, and take spelling tests. To prepare for the city's standardized reading and math exams, the school assesses students with tests at least three times a year. Everyone begins the day by doing a math problem and a math review. There are also before-school, after-school, and Saturday test-prep sessions.

Students also get the opportunity for travel: 3rd graders spent a week on a farm in Vermont; 5th graders visited historical sites in Philadelphia.

English language learners: Many students from Spanish-speaking countries such as Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Honduras and El Salvador are in Spanish-English dual language classes. Other new immigrants come from Haiti and from African countries and are taught in regular classrooms by teachers trained in ESL.

Special education: There are several self-contained classes, but no Integrated Co-Teaching classes. We look at kids individually, the principal said. There are occupational, physical and speech therapists.

After school: Community organizations such as Ifetayo and the CAMBA hold extracurricular programs after-hours and on Saturdays in the building that are free-of-charge for PS 249 students.

Admissions: Neighborhood school. Because it has expanded its grades there are few seats for out of zone kids; the school is at 110 percent of its capacity, administrators said. (Pamela Wheaton, May 2013)

About the students

Enrollment
901
Pre-K seats
36
Asian
6.0%
Black
41.3%
Hispanic
48.2%
White
3.8%
Other
0.8%
Free or reduced priced lunch
100%
Students with disabilities
17%
English language learners
24%

About the school

Shared campus?
No
This school is in its own building.
How crowded? (Full is 100%)
128%
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

Attendance

Average daily attendance
95%
94% Citywide Average
How many students are chronically absent?
13%
21% Citywide Average

Is this school safe?

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained at this school?
100%
81% Citywide Average
How many teachers say their students are safe outside around this school?
92%
85% Citywide Average

About the leadership

Years of principal experience at this school
16.0
6.6 Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
98%
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?
98%
79% Citywide Average

About the teachers

How many teachers have 3 or more years of experience teaching?
66%
78% Citywide Average
Teacher attendance
96%
96% Citywide Average
How many teachers say they would recommend this school to other families?
98%
83% Citywide Average
How many teachers think the staff collaborate to make this school run effectively?
100%
87% Citywide Average

Do parents like the school?

How many parents responded to the school survey?
89%
64% Citywide Average
How many parents say they are invited to visit classrooms?
88%
85% Citywide Average
How many parents say this school offers enough courses, activities and services to keep their children interested in school?
93%
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?
100%
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?
70%
40% Citywide Average
How many students scored 3-4 on the state ELA exam?
56%
39% Citywide Average

Arts offerings

This school has 3 dedicated spaces for Dance, Visual arts, and an Auditorium
This school has 3 licensed arts teachers in Dance, Music, and Visual 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 Spanish.
How many English language learners score 3-4 on the State ELA exam?
47%
10% Citywide Average
How many former English language learners score 3-4 on the State ELA exam?
42%
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
2.5
2.0 Citywide Average
Average math score for self-contained students
2.53
2.3 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for ICT students
2.29
1.9 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for self-contained students
2.33
2.2 Citywide Average
Average math score for SETSS students
4.99
2.8 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for SETSS students
2.69
2.2 Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school offers enough activities and services for their children's needs?
82%
86% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school works to achive the goals of their students' IEPs?
92%
91% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say they are satisfied with the IEP development process at this school?
91%
89% Citywide Average
For more information about our data sources, see About Our Data
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