P.S. 133 William A. Butler
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Intentionally diverse school with Spanish and French dual-language classes
Some parents complain theres too much emphasis on test prep; difficult to attract English Language Learners
PS 133, open to children from two school districts, has a beautiful building, a racially diverse student body and dual language classes in Spanish and French. An active PTA raises more than $140,000 a year.
There are two Spanish dual language classes; two French dual language class and two general education classes on each grade, starting in kindergarten. The French classes tend to be predominately white; the others have a mix of children of different races and ethnicities. While at least on one parent of a child in the general education class said these disparities create a feeling of haves and have-nots in the building, Principal Heather Foster-Mann says she works hard to ensure that all children get access to the same resources. For example, children who are not in the dual language classes receive instruction in Spanish.
Colorful student projects line the hallways and entryway in the welcoming building. On our visit, we saw some excellent teachers and some whose lessons were less imaginative; some lively class discussions and some kids filling out worksheets. Several parents complain there is too much emphasis on preparing for standardized tests; one said the kindergarten homework load was excessive and another complained there is not enough time for play. The 2015 Quality Review said the school should do more to challenge high achievers, but it commended the school for its high expectations and good communication with parents.
When PS 133 moved into a new $66 million building in Park Slope in 2013, some parents were concerned that the historically black and Latino school would become dominated by white, upper-income families, because new construction of expensive apartments was driving out long-time residents. To forestall that possibility, PS 133 adopted an updated admissions policy designed to foster socioeconomic and ethnic integration. The school is open to children from across districts 13 and 15, with a priority to children who are learning English or who qualify for free lunch.
The PS 133 admissions policy has had mixed success. The school has had trouble recruiting Spanish-speaking children from outside the neighborhood; only four percent of children are classified as ELLs. Even when busing was provided, many parents from immigrant neighborhoods like Sunset Park, were reluctant to send their children outside the neighborhood, school officials said. The fact that bus stops are as far as 10 blocks from children's homes and that the early 6:55 am pick-up time also discouraged parents, they said.
While the principal is committed to maintaining diversity at the school, she is less concerned with meeting the admissions quotas. "I don't pay attention to whether they are ELL or qualify for free lunch," said Foster-Mann, principal since 2007. Rather, she seems content to serve the children she hasseveral of whom came up to her for a hug as she walked through the halls on our visit.
While the school hasn't succeeding in attracting many children who are learning English, it has attracted students of different races and ethnicities: about one-third are white, one-third are black, and one-third are Latino. Parents may visit classrooms the first Friday of every month, followed by coffee and a chat with the principal. The longtime parent coordinator Ahmed DickersonMr. Dis available to answer parents' questions.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school offers Integrated Co-teaching as well as self-contained classes.
ADMISSIONS: Lottery for Districts 13 and 15. Two thirds of the seats go to District 15; one-third to District 13. Priority is given to English Language Learners and students who qualify for free or reduced price lunch. Applicants who indicate French or Spanish as their native language are given a language assessment prior to admission. (Clara Hemphill, October 2016)