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P.S./M.S. 149 Sojourner Truth

Grades: Pre-K, K-8
41 West 117th Street
Manhattan NY 10026
Phone: 646-672-9020

Our Insights

What’s Special

Dynamic new principal; kids grow vegetables in hydroponics lab

The Downside

Many challenges remain

New furniture, fresh paint, brightly lit halls and a can-do principal are signs that long-beleaguered PS/IS 149 is on the upswing. Kids grow vegetables in a hydroponics lab, study ancient Egypt on trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and learn to dance with Alvin Ailey dancers.

PS/IS 149 shares a building with Harlem Success Academy 1, the flagship school of the Success Academy charter network. For years the stark contrast between the well-equipped charter school and the shabby district school has made children at PS 149 feel like second-class citizens. Now, that's beginning to change. "PS 149 has gone through a very big transformation," said Ilene Altschul. superintendent of District 3.

Claudia Aguirre, principal since 2015, has moved quickly to improve both the physical plant and the quality of teaching. She decided her school--with an enrollment of fewer than 300 children--needed just one, not two, assistant principals; with the $150,000 annual savings she bought new rugs, blond wood tables, matching chairs, and other equipment and supplies.

She sought out volunteers from New York Cares to help with painting; a new custodian cleaned the light fixtures and replaced long burned-out bulbs. The school librarian weeded out old booksone third of the collection--and circulation jumped from 280 books a month to more than 1,000. "When you get the old books off the shelves, children gravitate to the newer books," the librarian said on our visit. Aguirre built partnerships with arts and community organizations to offer fun activities like roller blading lessons and jazz concerts.

She replaced the scripted reading program with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, which encourages children to read books they choose themselves and to write multiple drafts of their essays. She recruited teacher trainers from TC work regularly with staff. She eased out staff who didn't share her vision and hired some energetic new teachers. "We're moving toward a progressive model of instruction," she said; teachers who were unhappy with the changes were encouraged to find jobs elsewhere.

Teachers specialize; beginning in 2nd grade, children learn reading and social studies from one teacher and math and science from another. Children grow kale, chard, basil, and bell peppers in an indoor hydroponic garden.

This tiny school has long had just one class on each grade (except for pre-k, which has two), but Aguirre, former principal of the Dual Language Middle School on the Upper West Side, hope to expand the middle school to two classes on each grade. An imaginative social studies curriculum includes trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art study ancient civilization in 6th grade, to Boston to study the American Revolution in 7th grade, and to Washington to study U.S. government in 8th grade. On our visit, children seemed happy and engaged and the tone of the school was calm.

The Harlem Children's Zone, a community organization, offers free after school until 6 pm, including lacrosse lessons. Other services include a mental health clinic, a dental clinic, tutoring and a washer-dryer for children who might not have one at home to wash their clothes. The school is one of 94 Renewal Schools, low-performing schools that get extra funds designed to boost achievement.

Many challenges remain. There is friction between the principal and staff and between staffers. More than half the teachers mistrust each other, according to school surveys, and nearly half say they don't trust the principal and they don't feel the principal respects them. Aguirre acknowledges that there has been push-back against the changes she has instituted, but points to an increase in teachers' attendance as a sign of progress.

Attendance rates for the children, while significantly improved, are below the citywide average. It will take time for the changes in instruction to be reflected in test scores, which are well below average. It will also take time for the community to embrace the school: The majority of children who live in the school attendance zone have long opted for charters, gifted programs or other specialized programs. Aguirre hopes to lure them back and make the school a true neighborhood school.

SPECIAL EDUCATION: PS 149 shares a building with a District 75 program for children with severe disabilities, some of whom take classes with PS 149. Aguirre believes special needs children should be included in regular classes whenever possible, and has worked to reduce the number of children in self-contained classes.

ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. (Clara Hemphill, March 2017)

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School Stats

Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

Is this school safe and well-run?

From 2017-18 NYC School Survey

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained at this school?
85%
75% Citywide Average
How many students say they feel safe in the hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?
88%
84% Citywide Average
How many students think bullying happens most or all of the time at this school?
36%
51% Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
60%
80% Citywide Average
How many teachers say they would recommend this school to other families?
60%
80% Citywide Average

From 2015-16 NY State Report Card

How many students were suspended?
1%
3% Citywide Average

From this school's most recent Quality Review Report

Are teachers effective?

From 2016-17 School Quality Guide

How many teachers have 3 or more years of experience teaching?
62%
77% Citywide Average
Years of principal experience at this school
2.0

How do students perform academically?

From 2018 State ELA+Math Results Summary

How many elementary school students scored 3-4 on the state math exam?
10%
49% Citywide Average
How many elementary school students scored 3-4 on the state reading exam?
10%
48% Citywide Average
How many middle school students scored 3-4 on the state math exam?
6%
42% Citywide Average
How many middle school students scored 3-4 on the state reading exam?
29%
50% Citywide Average

From 2018 Middle School Directory

What high schools do most graduates attend?
Frederick Douglass Academy

From 2016-17 School Quality Guide

How many 8th-graders earn high school credit?
0%
29% Citywide Average

What is the Pre-K like?

From this school's most recent Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS)

Instruction: Teachers ask kids to explain their reasoning when they solve problems

From this school's most recent Early Childhood Environmental Rating System (ECERS-R)

Activities: Children explore art, music, sand/water, dramatic play and more
Language: Teachers talk and listen to kids in a supportive way
Interaction: Teachers ask kids good questions and invite back-and-forth conversation

Who does this school serve?

From 2017-18 Demographic Snapshot

Enrollment
235
Asian
2%
Black
62%
Hispanic
29%
White
5%
Other
2%
Free or reduced priced lunch
99%
Students with disabilities
23%
English language learners
15%

From 2016-17 School Quality Guide

Average daily attendance
91%
94% Citywide Average
How many students miss 18 or more days of school?
38%
21% Citywide Average

From 2018 School Directories

Uniforms required?
Yes
Pre-K seats
36

How does this school serve special populations?

From 2018 State ELA+Math Results Summary

How many students with disabilities scored 3-4 on the state math exam?
0%
21% Citywide Average
How many students with disabilities scored 3-4 on the state reading exam?
0%
21% Citywide Average
How many English language learners scored 3-4 on the state math exam?
0%
24% Citywide Average
How many English language learners scored 3-4 on the state reading exam?
0%
15% Citywide Average


For more information about our data sources, see About Our Data · More DOE statistics for this school

Contact & Location

Location

Harlem (District 3)
Trains: 2 Line, 3 Line, 6 Line, B Line, C Line to 116th St
Buses: M1, M10, M100, M101, M102, M116, M2, M3, M7, M98

Contact

Principal
Claudia Aguirre
Parent Coordinator
Claudia Aguirre

Other Details

Shared campus?
No
This school is in its own building.
Uniforms required?
Yes
Metal detectors?
No

Zone for the 2017-2018 school year. Call school to confirm.

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