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A high-quality, orderly school with a terrific science fair
Larger classes in the upper grades
Located in a quiet residential neighborhood, the boxy, three-story brick building that houses PS 159 could easily be mistaken for a suburban school. The outside calm hints at what goes on inside, where student work is displayed on neat bulletin boards. At this school, learning is organized, and it is everywhere. Even the cafeteria-typically rowdy and deafening even at the best schools-has a controlled feel.
A \"Students of the Month\" bulletin board greets visitors in the front hallway. Each child at the school is featured on it at least once before graduation, says Principal Marlene Zucker. The emphasis on giving every student a public pat on the back says something about the school\'s approach to teaching, too. \"Our educational philosophy focuses on differentiating instruction for each student,\" says Zucker, who has led the school for 12 years.
The curriculum leans toward the traditional, although teachers try progressive techniques, too. Among them is TERC math, which is mandated by the district and stresses creative approaches to solving problems. TERC is combined with a more traditional approach, and the pairing has had \"mixed results,\" Zucker says. The school also offers strong art and music programs, a smaller drama program, and twice-weekly after-school workshops that integrate art with science and literacy. PS 159 is one of the 209 successful schools the chacnellor has exempted from the citywide unifrom curriculum mandated in 2003.
The book-filled classrooms have desks organized in groups and are practically wallpapered with student work. There is ample space at the school, which even has an outdoor reading garden, and a class-size reduction grant has allowed the school to keep younger classes small. Unfortunately, beginning in 4th grade, classes push the upper limit, with 30 students per class.
P.S. 159 is the only elementary school in District 26 with a 6th grade (most students continue on to IS 25, which begins in the 7th grade), and Zucker and her staff seek to form one cohesive community, K-6. The \"Gold Medal Club\" literacy program, for example, has all the kids reading (or being read to, in the case of the youngest grades) the same book every other month. A bulletin board in the cafeteria highlights responses ranging from well-formed 6th-grade essays to simple sentences cobbled together by kindergarteners.
The school has one separate special education class. Other special education students are enrolled in general education classes, but receive special services every day. A part-time ESL teacher works with the school\'s 40 or so English language learners. For the most part, students are admitted from PS 159\'s zoned area, although the school does accept some variances. (This school is featured in New York City\'s Best Public Elementary Schools. Deborah Apsel, February 2003/updated 2005)Read more