P.S. 254 Dag Hammarskjold
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Does a good job with a wide range of academic abilities
Space is tight, no real gymnasium
Every letter home to parents is written in Chinese, Arabic, Russian and English at PS 254, a growing, multiethnic elementary school in Sheepshead Bay. Despite the challenges of teaching English to many newcomers, the school has achieved impressive success on state reading and math exams, and teachers seem happy: 100 percent said they would recommend the school to other families on the 2016-2017 NYC School Survey.
John Norton became principal in 2016, after serving as assistant principal for many years at IS 381. Teachers say he is an effective manager, according to the survey. To boost the arts, he increased part-time music and art teachers to full-time, and is launching a new arts partnership with the Shubert Theater. Weekly arts classes include a glee club in the upper grades, and visual art brought in by the respected Studio in a School program.
The school has enrichment classes in grades K-5 for kids who score highest on assessments administered by the school. (These classes are similar to the city’s gifted and talented program, Norton said.) Additionally, team-teaching classes incorporate students with special needs, and two small self-contained classes serve up to a dozen children with severe disabilities.
To address the wide range of academic needs at the school, a specialist works with small groups of students on specific reading skills that may be weak, such as finding the main idea in a story. Teachers use the Project Read program, a multisensory, hands-on approach to address phonics, grammar and writing skills. “We have a multicultural setting,” said Norton. “A number of ESL teachers push into classrooms to assist English language learners.”
Test scores are better than the district and citywide average, but one of the school’s goals in the 2017-2018 yearly plan is to give students “more time to struggle, make mistakes and learn on their own.” To this end, the school will launch a mobile science lab in 2018 with a grant from the Brooklyn borough president. A science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teacher will travel from room to room to get kids “working together to problem solve,” Norton said, such as building a bridge or designing a car.
The school does not have a formal gymnasium, but there is a large, renovated playground and a room set aside for gym classes. “We are tight in terms of room,” the principal said.
ADMISSIONS: PS 254 accepts kids from within the zone. There is not enough room for all zoned students in the single pre-k class. There is room for all in the zone for 5-year-olds in the seven kindergarten classes. (Lydie Raschka, school data and interview, January 2018)Read more