Volume 79, Number 13 | September 2 - 8, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

A special Villager supplement

P.S. 150 and NEST + M pulled into a tie for first place in the city in the 2009 fourth-grade reading test rankings.

Fourth graders from P.S. 150 and NEST are the best

By Jared T. Miller

Three of Lower Manhattan’s elementary schools are top-10 performers citywide on reading tests, according to this year’s state testing results, though some others continue to slip in rankings.

Downtown schools NEST + M, P.S. 150 and P.S. 234 all showed marked increases in performance from last year’s fourth-grade English Language Arts examinations. Chinatown schools Manhattan Academy of Technology and P.S. 124 both saw significant decreases in ranking this year, though both schools continue to improve their performance on state exams.

Compiled by Community Board 1 member Tom Goodkind, the rankings are useful in assessing elementary school performance and tend to have bearing on the middle schools to which their students will be admitted. The rankings are based on scores recorded by the New York State Department of Education each year after the tests are administered. Goodkind said these rankings shift the emphasis from yearly improvements in raw scores, and examine how each school is performing relative to other schools in the area — important when there is a finite number of middle schools to which Downtown students can apply.

NEST +M jumped from ninth out of 734 schools in New York City to first place this year. More than a third of its students received a perfect score (of 4) on the exams, the highest number to do so citywide. The school has performed consistently well and has remained in the top 10 since 2006.

This year, P.S. 150 shares first place with NEST + M, the first time it has been a top-10 school since 2006. Goodkind suggested that P.S. 150’s strong leadership plays a role in its success.

“The greatest asset that they have is their principal,” Goodkind said of P.S. 150’s principal, Maggie Sienna. “She’s just incredible.”

Sienna called this year’s results “wonderful.” She said that for P.S. 150, success on a test is a “secondary, or even tertiary part of our curriculum.” Instead, she explained that a focus on building reading skills and heavy parent involvement was a key factor in this year’s scores.

“We want to focus on having a really strong reading program to create the most engaged readers we can,” Sienna said. “[Parents] are very supportive of this curriculum, and they’re a great resource to have.”

Sienna’s former school — P.S. 234, where she taught kindergarten — is also doing well, said Goodkind. Slightly more than 99 percent of P.S. 234’s students received a 3 or a 4. This year, the school jumped more than two-dozen places to a rank of 9 — the first time it has been in the top 10 since 2002, when it topped the list.

Kevin Doherty, current P.T.A. vice president — and P.T.A. president when the tests were administered — gave similar praise to P.S. 234’s emphasis on developing strong readers through the school’s literacy program, rather than teaching to a test.

“It’s just a single data point,” said Doherty of the test results. “It’s about skill building, personal development for the children over the long haul.”

Though Chinatown schools M.A.T. and P.S. 124 continue to drop in rankings, both schools are showing improvement. Fourth-grade scores at M.A.T. show an uptick of several percentage points since the same students took the test in third grade, though only 70 percent earned a passing grade this year. And though P.S. 124 has slipped several dozen places this year, almost 90 percent of its students are earning a passing grade on the test.

At press time, representatives from M.A.T. and P.S. 124 were unavailable for comment.


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