P.S. 51 Bronx STEM and Arts Academy (formerly Bronx New School)
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Small classes; recently renovated building
Low academic performance
Founded as the Bronx New School by parents in 1988, PS 51 is now called the Bronx STEM and Arts Academy, a tiny nurturing school open to children from throughout District 10.
As one of New York City’s Community Schools, PS 51 tries to meet the physical, emotional and social needs of children and their families as well as academic ones. Classes are small, so kids get more attention. Students call teachers by their first names, they are not required to wear uniforms, and tables are arranged so children can discuss topics during lessons. Class pages on the web site provide guidance to parents about how to help their child in school. PS 51 offers a number of programs focused on children’s emotional development, including RULER, which aims to help children recognize emotions, express them appropriately and regulate them.
According to a Department of Education report, teachers at the school work hard to adjust classwork to each child’s level. The school makes extensive use of students’ evaluation of themselves and their classmates, a process which the children say helps them improve their work. And there are interesting assignments; 2nd graders, for example, wrote realistic fiction reflecting how New York City has changed over the years.
The school, though, has faced challenges in recent years. Scores on New York State tests are low and have declined. Although tardiness has improved, about a quarter of the children are chronically absent, missing at least 18 days of school. Enrollment has declined sharply since 2011 when PS 51 had to leave its former location two miles away after toxic chemicals were found on the site. The school currently occupies a former Catholic school that has been well renovated with a gym, music room and computer lab.
PS 51 recently added a music teacher. Other arts instruction is provided by classroom teachers and arts organizations, such as The DreamYard, National Dance Institute and Education Through Music. The school focuses on making connections between the arts, academic subjects and technology. The website shows children study recorder, guitar and string instruments. Children attend performances and visit museums. Another outside organization, Curious on the Hudson, provides hands-on science classes and projects. There is an extensive after-school program as well.
The Department of Education gave the small pre-K program strong ratings for emotionally supporting children and being well-organized but thought it was only fair in term of instruction.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school provides some special education services but in 2020 had no team-teaching classes, which allow up to twelve students with special needs to learn alongside general education students in the same class, and no small “self-contained” classes for children with more serious disabilities.
ADMISSIONS: PS 51 accepts children from throughout District 10 and students from outside the district who have siblings in the school or who attended pre-K there. (Gail Robinson, from web reports, February 2020)