P.S. 76 A. Philip Randolph
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Welcoming school with lots of extra adults
Lots of kids are homeless and chronically absent
PS 76 has a warm, tolerant culture, despite many challenges. Teachers are happy to be here and children and parents feel safe and welcome, according to school surveys. But nearly one-third of the children at PS 76 are homeless, and the instability in their lives makes it hard for them to succeed at school. Nearly half the children miss more than a month of school so it's no surprise that most PS 76 students have weak academic skills.
Children assigned to the temporary shelter across the street register for PS 76, only to be reassigned to another shelter in Brooklyn or the Bronx within a few weeks, says long-time Principal Charles DeBerry. Some then transfer to schools near their new shelters; others stay at PS 76 and commutebut are often late to school because of the distance involved.
The proliferation of charters schools in the past decade has added to the churn at PS 76, says DeBerry, principal since 2003. Throughout the year, he says, children arrive at PS 76 who have been asked to leave charters because they are struggling academically or have behavior problems; at the beginning of each year, some childrenoften the most academically successful onesleave PS 76 for the charters, De Berry says.
"There's a constant turnover," DeBerry says. He said 20 children transferred into his school from charters between August 2016 and the first week of March 2017; in the same period, 23 children left for charters.
Although most of the children who live in the attendance zone choose charter schools, gifted programs or other public school options downtown, PS 76 attracts children from adjoining District 5 in Manhattan and the Bronx. "We're a desirable school for children who aren't zoned for it," DeBerry says with a smile. "We go out of our way to make everyone welcome." The school has added a 6th, 7th and 8th grade in recent years to boost enrollment and to offer children some continuity from elementary to middle school, he said.
There are lots of extra adults in the classroom and special services provided by the Harlem Children's Zone, a community organization. The school opens its gym and computer lab for middle school students at 7 am (elementary school students may arrive for breakfast at 7:30 am). Harlem Children's Zone offers free afterschool until 6 pm. DeBerry, who came to teaching after a career as a first lieutenant in the Air Force, is well-liked by parents and staff, according to school surveys.
The academics are mostly traditional. On our visit, pre-kindergartners traced letters; kindergartners played word bingo; and 2nd graders listed to their teacher read aloud from The Earth Dragon Awakens, historical fiction about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, while 3rd graders read short passages from stories and answered questions as part of preparation for the state's standardized reading tests.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school offers SETSS (special education teacher support services) and self-contained classes for children with special needs only. The building houses a District 75 school for children with severe disabilities.
ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. More than half the children enrolled in the school live outside the attendance zone. (Clara Hemphill, March 2017)