Compare & Contrast: Heights’ PS 8 & Vinegar Hill’s PS 307

DNAInfo.com offers an intriguing comparison today between P.S. 8 at 37 Hicks Street in Brooklyn Heights and P.S. 307 in Vinegar Hill: “Despite academic struggles in the past, P.S. 8 has long been admired for its active parent groups, partnerships with local art organizations and innovative after-school programming… P.S. 307 in Vinegar Hill, meanwhile, has grappled with low attendance, disciplinary problems and lack of parent involvement, not to mention low test scores.”

Both improved progress report grades from C’s in the 2010-2011 school year to B’s last year. At P.S. 8, 80% of students passed the state’s English test, and 83% passed the math test in 2011-2012 school year, according to DOE figures. P.S. 8 Principal Seth Phillips says, “We’re seen as an example of how a school can turn around. I think we’ve done a pretty good job, and I didn’t do it alone.”

More from the story: P.S. 8, Robert Fulton, 37 Hicks St.

P.S. 8 is a well-regarded option for elementary-age students. The parent association is active and involved in organizing fundraisers, committees and volunteer trips. According to Insideschools, the school has historically been overcrowded, but recently middle school students were relocated to a nearby high school building, giving younger children more room to learn. A new building was also added to the school in 2011 to create more space for art and music.

The school is dedicated to extracurricular activities, including a new glee club in 2012, where students had the chance to perform popular songs like “Rolling In The Deep” by Adele and “ABC” by the Jackson 5. Other after-school activities include robotics, cheerleading, film, drama and the student newspaper.

P.S. 8 also worked with Parsons The New School for Design and the Guggenheim Museum to enhance students’ experiences in the arts.

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  • PS8 Parent

    The above quote provides incorrect information. The middle school was never at the Hicks location. It is in it’s first year (with 6th grade only this year – 7th and 8th will be added in the next two years) at a different location. Also, the new building houses classrooms, too.

    This has been a 10 year process. PS8 was for years under served by the neighborhood, Parents got involved and Seth Phillips came. The rest is now history. And just one word about the test scores – they are total bunk. The kids who have graduated PS8 have been accepted to the best middle schools in the city. They have been well educated in a well rounded way – academically, artistically and socially. I have had children enrolled at the school for 9 years. I have seen the growth and change, and it is inspiring.

  • Ben

    PS8 is a good school, but it’s not a great school and I think it’s time for the school push forward instead of maintaining this “turnaround success” storyline. That’s done. I’m tired of “.. and I didn’t do it alone.” I’m ready for “..and there’s still a lot to be done.”

    Music and art? Very mediocre. They do have paid contracts with various arts organizations so most grades get 10-15 weeks of classes (@ 1x a week).

    Science? Mediocre. Other area schools do a better job.

    “Innovative after-school programming” — I don’t know where this is coming from. There is very basic Y and KidsOrbit programming which is adequate child care. This year, there is one, 10-week session of teacher-led classes in a things like cheerleading, etc. This is very far behind other schools who allow parents to come in and dissect cow eyes, etc — and the PTA makes a lot off these classes — or the schools who bring in top facilitators from places like the Brooklyn Robot Factory or experts teaching Mandarin or Circus Arts.

    There has been a lot of forward movement in PS8. Much of it at the hands of the administration and much of it due to the development of DUMBO and the rush of a wealthy population. If DUMBO would have been rezoned as PS307 – things would be different.

  • Cranberry Beret

    If you think anyone connected to PS8 (as opposed to the press) is “maintaining this ‘turnaround success’ storyline” then you spend too much time reading news stories about the school and not participating in the PTA or other efforts. Everyone involved (whether admin or parents) is already of the mindset “..and there’s still a lot to be done.”

    Most of the areas for improvement are funding-related, not for lack of vision or attention.

  • Ben

    I am a parent and go to the PTA meetings (me and about 30 other people, btw).

    I hear the “I can’t have done this alone” often and I’ve heard it as recently as the most recent principal/class meeting in the last week (or two, not to out myself). Also heard we need to expect the test scores to go way down this cycle due to new test. Kids who scored in the 3s may move to a 2 or even a 1. Wow.

    I totally disagree about the funding issue. PS8 has more PTA funds than all but a handful of brooklyn schools and they are spent almost exclusively at the direction of the principal. Again, this doesn’t happen at most schools. Sometimes, they’re not savvy about it going the extra mile. This recent after school experiment netted north of 25k which was “a complete surprise” to the admin. For what reason, I have no idea. Ugh, I’ve been trying to get them to do this for years. Other schools have double the offerings, offer them 4x a year and yes.. make 200-300k+ off their program.

    Anyway, I’m sure I’ll see you in the morning, right?

  • Freddie

    apples to oranges

  • PS8 Parent

    I believe that Seth has the greatest understanding and holistic view of the school to make the decisions about where the funding goes. He know where the holes are and does the best job he can to fill them with enrichment programs. Even though we are a comparatively wealthy school, most families with the means do not come close to contributing what they should. The “I pay my taxes, therefore I shouldn’t have to contribute” is far too prevalent. Public school, at least the good ones, are not free. The more money we have the better the school will be.

  • David Austin

    Circus Arts? Now I have to worry that my kid has fallen behind in juggling?

  • LM25

    can any PS8 parents comment on here and say the strengths they feel PS8 has, and the weaknesses?

  • LM25

    As a PS8 parent can you tell me some of the weaknesses of the school and the strengths?

  • slyone

    Sure there’s room for improvement in the school; what’s exciting to me is that I think the school is interested in continuing improvement. It does happen more slowly than I would like — doesn’t everything? — but it happens. On music: the school got a grant in the form of musical instruments from the VH1 Save The Music Foundation to start instrumental music education for 4th and 5th graders. Details are being worked out, but it’s something that’s in the works right now. On after-school: there’s a task force researching a bunch of other schools’ programs right now to see what other places do and what works. Someone mentioned other schools making 200-300K — many nearby schools with longstanding PTA-run after-school programs don’t do that well, making some money, but in the 10K range or less; if you get the info about the schools you know of to the task force, that would be helpful.

    Someone below asked for a parent’s perspective on strengths and weaknesses. I think the school’s commitment to long-term enrichment partnerships is reasonably unique in public schools, and the partnerships are incredibly well-thought out and well-done. Unlike some others, I guess, I do think the school takes a commitment to arts education seriously, and continuously works to improve those programs. I think its writing program is strong, (as well as reading, at least in terms of being creative about pushing students toward multifaceted comprehension — but I think many NYC public, and private for that matter, schools have similar reading and writing programs, and a lot depends on individual teachers’ implementation). I also think the social studies units are thoughtfully done, thanks to help from a long-term staff developer. I would like to see more from science, more from math (which may come with the new curriculum), and more of a conversation about how to allow for differentiated instruction in an inclusive classroom environment. I think the school gets the big things right, and I’m very happy to be part of our local public school.

  • LM25

    thank you !