P.S. 11 Purvis J. Behan
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Multiracial PTA and kids who love school
Some writing assignments are one-size-fits-all
Kids love PS 11 so much that they beg their parents to let them come to PTA meetings, one mother says. Another says she was thrilled to hear girls chatting about math strategies on their way home from school. And still another says the principal not only knows every child by name, she also knows what books they are reading.
The enrollment of PS 11 has increased dramatically in recent years, a sign of its growing popularity in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of Clinton Hill. At the same time, the school still has room for children outside its attendance zone, offering a good option to parents who are unsatisfied with their neighborhood schools elsewhere. PS 11 has a large pre-kindergarten program.
I love the diversity, one mother said. Not just the racial diversity, but every kind of diversity. We have homeless kids and kids who live in public housing and kids of doctors, lawyers, artists and designers. Its the happiest place on earth for my kids.
The school has an active, multiracial PTA that offers tours for prospective parents; organizes family movie nights, dances and workshops; and raises money for enrichment activities such as violin lessons and recess coaches on the playground.
The building, while clean, well-lit, and well-kept, has undistinguished 1950s era architecture with drab gray and green tiled walls. The lunchroom can get noisy, and the library is a bit bare. But there are signs of life throughout, from the science room where kids raise trout from eggs (and release them on a field trip to Harriman State Park in the spring) to the auditorium where kids may practice their dance steps in classes taught by Mark Morris dancers or learn to play instruments as part of a program with the New York Philharmonic.
Test scores are among the highest in the district, and teachers make sure that the curriculum closely follows the Common Core State Standards on which the states standardized tests are based. Children answer sophisticated questions about literary devices. For example, all 2nd-graders read Justin and the Best Biscuits in the World, Mildred Pitts Walters story about a black cowboy and his grandson in the American West, and answer the same question: Would you agree that Justin was influenced by Grandpa to behave or feel in a certain way? Use text details to support your argument.
While the writing samples posted on bulletin boards tend to be one-size-fits-all, its clear that children are exposed to demanding and engaging books.
Abidemi Hope became principal in 2015, replacing Alonta Wrighton who took an administrative job in the Department of Education. Hope was previously assistant principal, and parents say the transition has been smooth.
In past years, some parents withdrew their children after a few years in school, in part because they feared the districts middle school options were inadequate. Those fears may be eased somewhat by the opening of a new district middle school, called Dock Street, in 2016.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school offers self-contained and ICT team-teaching classes. While the test scores of special needs children are in line with citywide averages, a goal of the school is to improve those scores, according to the schools yearly plan.
ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. PS 11 sometimes admits children from outside the school attendance zone as well as outside the district. About one-third of children enrolled live outside the district. (Clara Hemphill, March 2016)Read more