P.S. 254 The Rosa Parks School
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High test scores; strong teamwork among teachers
Not a lot of play time in kindergarten classes
Located in a gleaming new facility in a neighborhood of modest row houses, PS 254 has an intense focus on academics and conscientious teachers who work together as a team.
Their approach has brought PS 254 high tests scores, glowing marks on school report cards, honors and praise.
"We have great teachers who share their ideas and are willing to learn from one another," said assistant principal Heather Sosnovsky. Together, she said, they engage in "a never ending discussion about education and how to help children." Everyone pitches in—even the gym teacher leads a reading group--and teachers spend lots of time planning lessons together.
Students get homework in every subject every day. Academics start early: kindergarten classes don’t have blocks or dress-up corners, with little time for play during class.
Children do go outside to play at recess and there are trips every month to zoos, museums a local environmental center and community landmarks like the local firehouse. PS 254 has full-time music and art teachers, and all students have at least one of those subjects every week, with many having both.
At the time of our visit, the school had just introduced new math and reading programs as part of the new state standards called the Common Core. There was some grumbling by teachers that the scripted ReadyGen reading program—the fourth the school has used in a decade—used books that were too difficult for children to read. (For more on this see "Teachers Ask is 3rd Grade the New 7th Grade".) But Principal Naomi Drouillard said she was confident children and teachers would rise to the challenge.
In math, students use counting cubes and other tools and are encouraged to find a number of approaches to solving a problem. Some, who did problems in their heads, were reminded of the need to show their work and, in keeping with the demands of standardized tests, not to erase anything.
Each grade has one class that is designated as a gifted class called TAAP (Talented and Accelerated Academic Program).
Special education: PS 254 has one team teaching class with a mix of general education students and those with special needs for every grade. It also had three self-contained classes for children with more severe disabilities.
Admissions: Neighborhood school. (Gail Robinson, September 2013)