P.S. 150 and NEST readers are tops in the city

By Jared T. Miller

Click above on the name of the school to reveal more data on that school’s performance.

Three of Lower Manhattan’s 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 (New Explorations into Science, Technology and Math), 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.

Community Board 1 member Tom Goodkind compiled the rankings to assess elementary school performance, which tend to have bearing on the middle schools to which their student’s will be admitted. The rankings are based on scores recorded by the New York State Dept. of Education each year after the tests are administered. Ranking the schools shifts the emphasis from yearly improvements in raw scores and examines how each school is performing relative to other schools in the area. Goodkind said this becomes important considering the competitive field of middle schools to which Downtown students may apply.

NEST on the Lower East Side jumped from ninth out of 734 schools included in the rankings to first place this year. Over a third of their students received a score of four on the exams, the highest number to do so citywide. The school has performed consistently well and has remained in the top ten since 2006. Jared Rosoff, assistant principal for NEST’s middle school, called the results “exciting,” but declined to comment further citing school policy.

This year, Tribeca’s P.S. 150 shares first place with NEST, the first time it has been a top ten 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 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.

This year, P.S. 234 jumped over two dozen places to a rank of nine — the first time it has been in the top ten since 2002, when it topped the list.

Kevin Doherty, P.T.A. vice president and former president, praised 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.”

Chinatown school M.A.T has dropped several hundred places relative to other Downtown schools, but test results indicate that the school is making moderate progress since last year. Fourth grade scores at M.A.T. show a growth of several percentage points since the same students took the test in third grade, though only 70 percent earned a passing grade this year. M.A.T. officials were unavailable for comment.

P.S. 124’s drop in ranking is indicative of the high reading scores throughout the city. Nearly 90 percent of students from the school received a passing grade — the same percentage as last year — though the school has slipped several dozen places in rank. Principal Alice Hom explained that her school’s focus on reading comprehension strategies and writing skills, as well as occasionally providing the students with practice test questions contributed to the results.

“It’s not a daily kind of drill that they are facing,” said Hom, about P.S. 124’s test preparation efforts. “[We are] teaching the children strategies to be able to handle any test questions that they’re facing.”