P.S. 161 The Crown
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Most kids take music.
Declining test scores, middle school closing for poor performance
For many years, PS 161 was well-regarded school, sought-after by parents in the know. Although the school didn't officially accept anyone outside the neighborhood, it was an open secret that some parents fudged their addresses to enroll their children. The school had a very successful, highly selective middle school.
Now the schools enrollment and test scores are declining, and the middle school is no longer selective. Barely one-third of students tested are reading on grade level, and the Department of Education has decided to close the middle school (and possibly put a charter school in the building.)
Parents posting comments on the Insideschools website have defended the school, praising the dedication of its teachers and special programs, such as steel band and African dance. Most students responding the Learning Environment Survey said they had music class, and nearly half said they had art classes. However, the survey also shows widespread dissatisfaction. Only half the teachers said order and discipline were maintained at the school, and nearly one-third of students said they didnt feel safe.
A New York Times article on the SchoolBook blog blames the schools changing demographics for its decline, suggesting that the administrators were once was able to screen students, particularly in the middle school, and now must accept everyone in the zone.
A new principal, Michael Johnson, was named in fall 2011. He told SchoolBook that the halls are already less chaotic and that he is planning to start an after school program and a Saturday academy to help bring the scores up.
I want the whole school K-8 to remain open, he said. If we do the things I know were capable of doing and bring it back up and not give them more reasons to close us, well be fine.
The school has not responded to Insideschools requests to revisit the school since our last visit in 2002. (Clara Hemphill, DOE statistics and SchoolBook blog post, November 2011, updated February 2012.)Read more