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P.S. 55 Maure
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Close-knit community and solid leadership
Some large classes, no real gym or auditorium
Located on a tree-lined street of homes with front porches and backyards large enough to hold barbecues, PS 55 is a mid-size school serving mostly Latino, Indian, South American and Pakistani children. The vibrant spirit in this "Little Guyana" neighborhood is also in evidence in the eager hand-raisers at PS 55, who enjoy friendly debate with peers and strong connections with teachers. The mantra is: "We say what we think. We write what we say, and if we had the time we would read all day."
Children seem happy and engaged and we saw some lively interactive lessons. Classes can get large; for example, the 33 kids we saw in a 1st-grade class, but teachers are experienced and the administration pays for assistants in some rooms. Teachers explained concepts in a relaxed manner with refreshing clarity. Some are more successful than others in drawing kids out and introducing activities to keep students interested, but all staff have committed to at least one "game day" per week to address skills. We saw a game on matching equivalent fractions and a game that required children to define geometry terms.
Teachers lead weekly clubs based on their skills and passions. In science club, children examined puppy fur, onion skin and other substances through a microscope. In career club they wrote a letter to the custodian inviting him to talk about his job.
For years the school dubbed itself the "King of the 2s" because so many kids earned a Level 2 out of 4 on state tests. Now, there is an after-school program two days a week to help kids reach higher and small group interventions for low performers inside and out of the classroom. "We still need to address the upper end of the spectrum a little bit more," said Principal Ralph Honore. "About 20-25 kids in grades 3-5 could be challenged more," he said. That said, the staff takes pride in how well their students perform in middle school with about 96 percent passing from 6th to 7th grade according to the Quality Snapshot.
Honore works closely with Assistant Principal Marc Slippen. Long-standing educators and friends, they finish one another's sentences, and think deeply about how to make education better at PS 55 (including the difficult work of excessing "deadwood" teachers), and say they have at least a decade more in them to make improvements.
Parents prefer kids not go out on cold weather days, Slippen said, to explain why children were indoors watching videos on an overcast, mild 55 degree day. It was jarring to see especially following an excellent science lesson about the importance of exercise on the performance of the heart.
The school has seen a decline in enrollment, as have most of the district's schools. At PS 55 this has resulted in the loss of several promising newer teachers and the consolidation of classes, increasing class size. Families doubled up in single-family homes have left due to lease problems, rising rents or a change in jobs, the principal said. Attendance suffers when, for example, Indian families enroll children in school for a few weeks for major family events here, or a new immigrant family moves away mid-year when a parent accepts a job elsewhere.
PS 55 has a small multipurpose room instead of an auditorium. A recreation room serves as the gymnasium.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: There are three self-contained "bridge classes" (k-1, 2-3, 4-5) that place children with disabilities from different grades in the same classroom. Every grade has a team-teaching classroom that incorporates children with special needs.
ADMISSIONS: Zoned, neighborhood school. (Lydie Raschka, May 2016)Read more