P.S. 158 Bayard Taylor
Share this school
Enrichment activities in all grades, strong support for students with special needs
PS 158 is a high-performing neighborhood school with strong leadership, engaging instruction and lots of arts enrichment across all grades. Housed in a large building constructed in 1898, PS 158 has long, winding corridors, high ceilings, large windows, and original details such as oak coat closets. It has two gyms, a small but adequate auditorium and an elevator.
Dina Ercolano became principal in December 2014 after the midyear departure of the school's longtime principal, Darryl Alhadeff. A former literacy coach and assistant principal at 158, Ercolano is credited with fostering a friendlier, more kid-centric vibe, one parent said.
The atmosphere is calm and cheery. It's very easy to know what students are learning as the colorful hallways are lined with projects, essays and art work.
Some classrooms can feel cramped, especially in the older grades, but teachers arrange their spaces thoughtfully to encourage students to move around. On a typical day, students will spend some time gathered on the rug for class-wide lessons and a lot of time working on their own and in small groups at their tables, in cozy corners or sprawled out on the rug.
During our visit we noticed a lot of consistency in instruction across the grades, owing in part to full-time specialists in math, literacy, special education and technology who work with teachers to help them develop and revise lessons and practices. For instance, during independent reading time—especially in the older grades—it's common to find teachers engaged in what Ercolano calls "spinning plates." While most students are quietly immersed in their books, the teacher bounces between two or three small groups of students, monitoring their work on a focused reading task. Ercolano says the practice lets teachers check in with students' progress more frequently than relying on brief, weekly conferences with individual students.
Teachers use technology judiciously. "We don't do technology for its own sake," said Ercolano. Each class has a large television monitor, which is similar to an overhead projector, for use as a teaching tool, and laptop computers are available for research and writing, but during our visit we found the rich classroom libraries and hands-on materials, such as blocks and aides for math including dice and counters, to be the most heavily used resources.
The school uses the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project curriculum, which encourages students to read a wide array of books of their choosing and at their skill level. Starting in kindergarten, students write and revise multiple drafts of work on a variety of topics. In the younger grades they may write and illustrate stories and information books drawn from personal experiences and books they read. By 5th grade, students write complex essays on a range of topics as well as more creative pieces such as fiction and poetry.
Typical of many District 2 schools, 158 uses Investigations Math, which emphasizes conceptual learning and multiple approaches to problem solving, and they draw from the Math in the City program. Teachers balance this with some drilling of math facts.
In addition to visual art, music, gym and science classes, all students have enrichment activities that vary by grade and are funded by the very active PTA. For instance, Marquis Studios provides movement classes to pre-kindergartners and circus arts to 1st-graders; 5th-graders have drama through the New Victory Theater and learn about law as well as stage a mock appellate hearing through Constitution Works.
Instructors from E3Sports organize sports and games during lunch recess to encourage students to get more physical activity.
The school runs its own after-school program. Students may participate in a range of activities for a fee.
SPECIAL EDUATION: The school offers extensive support for students with special needs, including occupational and physical therapy, speech, vision and hearing services, and adaptive physical education. There are ICT classes in each grade and SETSS. Select grades also have part-time ICT, where special education teachers visit classrooms daily during math and English instruction to work with students who need extra support but don't require full-time ICT.
ADMISSIONS: Zoned, neighborhood school with four full-day pre-k classes. The school fills its pre-k seats with zoned students only, and mostly with siblings of older students. (Laura Zingmond, January 2016)Read more