Port Morris (P.S./M.S. 5)
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Clean, bright building with great leadership
Test scores have a way to go
PS/IS 5, also known as the School of Community Leadership, offers children music, art, science, dance, and trips to museums and the zoo. Each child gets a laptop computer and internet access at home, as part of the city's iZone project. The school offers bilingual instruction for children who speak Spanish. In 2012 it expanded to include middle school grades with priority to continuing 5th graders from the elementary school.
The school provides a safe and positive atmosphere with support for children's social and emotional needs, including three full-time social workers. The building is cheerful and well kept, featuring a nice gym and tree-shaded playground. Every day staff members welcome students with "words of wisdom" to set a positive tone. Teachers seem happy here, and many have long experience, according to school surveys.
Mary Padilla, who has been principal since 2001, has encouraged creative, kid-friendly lessons. Her teachers have worked with Teachers College to help improve their pupils' writing skills. Children are encouraged to revise their work, writing multiple drafts of their essays. During past visits, we saw a colorful paper timeline with dates of inventions such as the zipper, the automobile and the Band-Aid, a concrete history lesson the children had made themselves. In a lesson that combined geography and math, children estimated how long it would take to drive to New Jersey and to Florida. Projects like this are more common than fill-in-the-blank test prep. "We don't teach to the test and we don't do a lot of test prep," said Padilla.
The school serves a transient population, including several dozen children in homeless shelters. About 20 percent are English language learners who receive assistance from a specialist in and out of the classroom. The 20 percent of children who have special needs are served in self-contained classes as well as in team-taught classes alongside their general education peers.
Academics have a way to go. State test scores plummeted during 2013, a year when many schools saw a drop in scores due to harder tests. The school has adopted new programs: ReadyGen, GO Math, Expeditionary Learning and Connected Math Project 3. These programs "provoked much discussion and inquiry amongst faculty and school leaders leading to major adjustments" in the order and content of the lessons, according to the Quality Review. There are two academic coaches to help teachers and kids, one for math, and one for literacy.
Special education: Childrens' needs are met in a variety of ways including speech therapy, small group instruction and counseling. School reports show that not all children who require occupational therapy receive the help they need.
Admissions: District 7 priority to students living in the northern area. (Clara Hemphill, December 2012; updated by Lydie Raschka, August 2014)Read more