P.S. 65 The Academy of Innovative Learning

Grades Pre-K, K-5
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What’s Special

Progressive curriculum incorporates music, dance and art; racially diverse student body

The Downside

Small gym

Our Review

At their previous school, Sophie Scamardella and Liz Rodriguez noticed schoolchildren participated more, retained more information, and developed more self-esteem when lessons incorporated music, dance, and art. Today, Principal Scamardella and counselor Rodriguez have infused the arts into core beliefs of Staten Islands PS 65, known as the Academy of Innovative Learning. This new and growing elementary school in Staten Islands historic Tompkinsville neighborhood combines a heavy dose of those arts within a whole child curriculum that also emphasizes social and emotional growth.

We teach them skills for life, not just skills for school, said Scamardella, who is perhaps one of the most gregarious and talkative principals in New York.

The school opened in September 2008 with 180 kids in grades pre-K through 1st. Grades have been added annually, and by fall 2012 the school became a complete pre-K through 5th elementary. Teachers seem to love working at PS 65: None has quit since its opening, and Scamardella gets a stack of applications for each new spot.

Students wear blue uniforms bearing the school mascot, the dolphin, which represents intelligence, integrity, respect and honesty. The symbolism seems to rub off on the kids, a racially diverse crowd who during our visit were excited about their lessons and polite toward teachers. Theres no yelling in this school, said counselor Rodriguez. Everyone wants to be here.

PS 65s historic building features soaring ceilings, large windows, wood floors and enviable views of New York Harbor. Renovations have added amenities such as elevators, bright colors and two science classrooms. The campus recently added an auditorium and an outdoor playground, but the indoor gym is the size of a dance studio.

The emphasis on art is manifested through the inclusion of musical instruments, songs, or art projects during regular lessons. Scamardellas previous experience taught her that struggling or withdrawn students felt comfortable and engaged when handed an instrument or paint brush that allowed self-expression. Children need to believe in themselves, Scamardella said. How can you learn when youre coming in crying and upset? New York art and dance troupes often work with teachers to integrate art into lessons.

When we visited in March, on Dr. Seusss birthday, students in many classes wore tall hats ( la The Cat in the Hat) they had created out of construction paper and decorated with poetry. One class was playing Seuss Jeopardy on a SMARTboard. In a science class, teacher Danielle Moreau was reading Seusss The Lorax and making comparisons to the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

Scamardella said the PS 65 curriculum aims to teach children to be problem-solvers and lifelong learners, and students may get customized assignments based on their individual needs or strengths. The curriculum includes Everyday Math, physical education, Spanish and daily reflection and sharing time, in which children record what they learned, enjoyed or observed. They earn tokens for good behavior and good choices, which can be exchanged for items in the Feeling Good Store.

Special education: Special ed students participate in general ed classrooms but are offered extra services as needed. PS 65 is piloting a new program using this approach.

Admissions: In 2016, the school had roughly 200 applications for 32 kindergarten seats, which were mostly filled by siblings of current students (only seven seats were available after sibling priority, according to the parent coordinator). (Skip Card, March 2011; updated by phone call with parent coordinator, Lydie Raschka, August 2016)

About the students

Enrollment
426
Pre-K seats
36
Asian
2.1%
Black
19.7%
Hispanic
43.4%
White
27.2%
Other
7.5%
Free or reduced priced lunch
59%
Students with disabilities
23%
English language learners
4%

About the school

Shared campus?
No
This school is in its own building.
How crowded? (Full is 100%)
133%
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

Attendance

Average daily attendance
96%
94% Citywide Average
How many students are chronically absent?
10%
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?
89%
85% Citywide Average

About the leadership

Years of principal experience at this school
8.0
6.6 Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
96%
80% Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal has a clear vision for this school?
97%
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?
79%
78% Citywide Average
Teacher attendance
97%
96% Citywide Average
How many teachers say they would recommend this school to other families?
100%
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?
47%
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?
92%
87% Citywide Average
How many parents say their child's teacher helped their child adjust to Pre-K?
95%
97% Citywide Average
How many parents say this Pre-K program helped them consider which elementary schools would meet their childrens' needs?
95%
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?
57%
40% Citywide Average
How many students scored 3-4 on the state ELA exam?
56%
39% Citywide Average

Arts offerings

This school has 0 dedicated spaces for the arts.
This school has 4 licensed arts teachers in Dance (part-time), Music (part-time), Theater (part-time), and Visual arts (part-time)
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)
Average math score for ICT students
2.25
2.0 Citywide Average
Average math score for self-contained students
2.81
2.3 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for ICT students
2.1
1.9 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for self-contained students
3.17
2.2 Citywide Average
Average math score for SETSS students
1.96
2.8 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for SETSS students
2.01
2.2 Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school offers enough activities and services for their children's needs?
96%
86% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school works to achive the goals of their students' IEPs?
96%
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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