P.S. 233 Langston Hughes
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LEGO robotics and art offered during lunch
JANUARY 2013 UPDATE: PS 233 no longer has a district-wide gifted program. Nearly half the teachers responding to the Learning Environment Survey say the school has problems with order and discipline. However, the school offers art and other activities such as LEGO robotics during lunch, which has helped channel students' "high-energy" into "creative action" and decreased the number of incidents in the cafeteria during lunch, according to the Quality Review.
UPDATE Denean Stephens-Spellman has succeeded Aletta Seales as principal of PS 233.
MARCH 2005 REVIEW: At PS 233, nearly half of the classes are designated as gifted. In addition to a program called SOAR, which is designed for students performing above grade level, each grade has a "Javits " class, for students with exceptional strength in non-academic fields. At the same time, the school struggles to provide services to a significant number of children with special needs.
Most SOAR classes are diluted in part, conceded school officials and teachers, because parents lobby hard for their child's inclusion. One teacher said that while she advocated bringing long-shot candidates into the gifted program, the current number of low-achievers was slowing progress in the class; at least two children were at risk of not being promoted to the next grade.
In "Javits" classes, which were created in the early 1990s and draw heavily on the arts, teachers are trained to approach learning from "multiple intelligences," including advanced visual, motor, verbal, social, and artistic skills. A student who is musically inclined, for example, might learn fractions through music notation, while one with strong spatial awareness may use "manipulatives" objects such as blocks or models. Students who have been placed in the program (PS 233 is one of four Javits sites in District 18) are eligible to continue at PS 285, District 18's selective school for the performing arts. "I love Javits," Principal Aletta Seales repeated time and again on our tour. "I like it even better than SOAR. It meets the needs of children."
Seales is a gentle, mothering figure who took over in September 2002. A strong believer in the importance of supplementing academics with recreation, she has instituted both recess and gym for all grades. She also takes a progressive view of discipline; she prefers therapeutic to punitive measures, and keeps three guidance counselors on staff.
PS 233 could use more resources. Parents complain that there aren't enough crossing guards (leaving a busy highway crossing unmanned) and only one security guard (whose job was to baby-sit unruly kids on our visit). During lunch, a teacher had to nurse two children with fever and one with pinkeye. The parent coordinator said the bathrooms were in a terrible state and showed us the mop and bucket she keeps behind her filing cabinet for emergency sanitary service on the bathroom across the hall.
Special education: Another area where resources are needed is special education. The school has numerous children with special needs, and has eight classes for them (some are "self-contained," that is, only for students with special needs; others are "inclusive," mixing special needs and general education students). Still, Seales worries that she is not adequately providing for these children. She is also concerned that some children in special education classes have difficulties that far exceed the school's resources. On the day of our visit, she spent more than an hour restraining an unruly five-year-old who, she said, could not function properly in any class. "He is misplaced," she said of the child, adding that she worried about "the kids who are sweet and kind and just learning disabled who are exposed to troubled children who are emotionally disabled and aggressive." When we checked back a week later, the child in question had indeed been removed from the school in order to start home-schooling. "It's hard for parents to admit that their children need more help," said Seales.
English as a Second Language: Language assistance is provided to children in small groups outside of their regular classrooms.
Admissions: Applications for SOAR and Javits are due in the spring.
After school: The school offers tutorial programs for all grades and science workshops for grades 4 and 5. (Elizabeth Kiem, March 2005)Read more