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P.S.11…Neighborhood Darling

April 24, 2009








During the past week there has been uproar by a handful of parents about how the principal at P.S 20 runs his school. Within these arguments it was stated multiple times that P.S 11 has now changed, being much improved over the past two years.

Between my two eldest daughters, I have had a student attending P.S. 11 from September 1999 through June 2008.  Both of my kids were able to be in the LEAD program on every grade level (similar to a gifted & talented program- a term I never liked even when I was a part of it) through which their teachers guided them toward academic proficiency. I’d like to note that as of September 2009 the LEAD program is being phased out of PS 11.

Last year a report was released by the DOE giving P.S.11 a passing grade, citing a rise in

standardized test scores, the tests are given to grades 3 to 5. In the category of student performance, which measures student skill levels in English Language Arts & Math, the school received a score of A, with 72.1% of its students at or above proficiency in ELA; 86.6% of its students were at or above proficiency in Math. This is for the school year 2007-2008. Not exactly eye popping great numbers but not bad either.

My last year as a parent in PS 11, the major changes I saw were the make up of the PTA, a small influx of newer resident’s kids in pre-K to K, a change in principal which brought a relaxing of the former strictly enforced rule of no parents being allowed in the school during school hours or popping up to sit in the classroom without notice. The new make up of the PTA were able to pool more resources which is always a good thing. Just last year the school couldn’t get Tish James to come receive an award presented to her, but this year Marty Markowitz, Borough President is attending the Silent Auction.

The teachers, the teaching methodology remains the same. Some cooking activities plus other extra curricular activities that have been added to the classroom and/or after-school are great. Just like having authors to come in to read their books, art workshops w/ classmates on Saturdays, trips to see the Philharmonic, read-a-thon pajama parties, Friday movie nights in the auditorium, family game nights, etc. were some of the things that were great for my kids at PS 11.

So where is the notion that PS 11 just became this “changing” acceptable neighborhood school coming from? Here’s a portion of an interesting comment some made on the NY Times FG/CH blog:

Your post reminded me of two conversations I had regarding the student body of ps 11. A parent pointed out that she liked what she has seen in the younger grades and enjoyed the families she has met but wasn’t too sure about the older grades. But, she said, as the younger kids move up, along with their parents, things should be OK. In my mind, what was underling her comment was the fact the older grades at ps 11 are much more homogenous than the younger grades -mostly black. (I guess the result of gentrification.) That, in my opinion, gave her pause. Had a similar conversation with another parent.

With teachers like Mrs.Kinsale, Ms.Tomlin, Ms.Pitts, Ms.Na Sha, Ms.Wiley, Ms.Copeland, Mrs. Frazier, Ms.Brown, Ms.Smith & Ms.Yelverton, Ms.Lyons and Mrs.Epstein, my children plus a few nieces have been able to do  what I deem most important in school, which is to learn then excel. That is the basis of why P.S. 11 has BEEN a good neighborhood school not because it has some newly changed progressive attitude or
method of teaching despite now being allowed to bring brownies with youngest in tow to the classroom on any given day without notice.


My guess is my kids in the upper grades would be the ones, as referred to in the comment, the newer parents aren’t too sure about, but at least I am sure that this type of attitude is not held amongst the teachers. The same teachers that initiated brunches with the classmates only on weekends in the neighborhood, teachers that held sleepovers at their home for the class at the end of the year because she loved those kids & still does. Being able to see your child’s teachers from years past in passing and her asking about the well being of her former students, her maintaining a genuine interest in the well being of your children…I think that speaks volumes to the type of school family P.S. 11 has always been to us.  Till this day. With that assurance I will walk my daughter to her 1st day of school in September ’10 with the same confidence I had 11 years earlier when I dropped off her older sister.



14 Comments leave one →
  1. Cym permalink
    April 24, 2009 4:35 pm

    I have been following the massive commentary on the other blog in regards to PS 11 vs PS 20. I find it interesting that with all that has been said about each school, no one has been able to acknowledge the staff’s tremondous efforts in educating our children as eloquently as you have. Children are a reflection of those that nurture them. My children don’t have interactions with the principal on a day to day basis. Its their teachers that influence them when they are in school, they come home and reiterate what has been taught to them in classroom discussions, during hw checks etc, or just casual down time where the teacher is showing a side of them that they may not ever get to see. My children know what makes their teachers a human being- outside of the classroom. So all this back and forth about why the principal makes or breaks a school, in my opinion are nonsense. Its the teachers (as well the parents) that have a far greater impact on our childrens success in any school. Everything else is politics.

  2. Genevieve permalink
    April 24, 2009 7:03 pm

    Why would the school present an award to Tish James? She barely does anything in her CM capacity besides yammer on about issues (a talker with no action) so I can’t imagine what she has possibly done for the school. She’s a tax-evading, attention seeking, hate-bating, liar….and if the blogs from her former tenants are true, a slumlord. She doesn’t want her neighborhood to improve, she wants to keep her constituents poor, unsafe, and un-educated…this allows her to continue to hold power, and her fear of an educated responsible constituent group is frequently displayed in her hateful rhetoric against all forms of progress. Don’t honor her as she has done very little to honor and uphold education and progress.

  3. bknesto permalink
    April 24, 2009 7:07 pm

    “She doesn’t want her neighborhood to improve, she wants to keep her constituents poor, unsafe, and un-educated…this allows her to continue to hold power, and her fear of an educated responsible constituent group is frequently displayed in her hateful rhetoric against all forms of progress.”

    Please elaborate on this some more or cite examples…

  4. justin permalink
    April 24, 2009 7:46 pm

    I’m nowhere close to having kids, so I’m not particularly in tune with this conversation. I did, when I was at NYU a few years ago, work as a part time classroom aide at PS 56 on Gates, a school which is, I would guess, 80-85% black (and about 0% non-immigrant white). I’m white, grew up in suburban Massachusetts, went to public school in a town with a reputation for an above-average school system, and to my eyes, 56 was a perfectly fine elementary school, and I would feel comfortable sending my kids there (if I had kids, which isn’t happening for a good long time). I recall teachers at 56 commenting on how even they thought PS 11 was MUCH better than 56, so, to my generally uninformed self, the idea that PS 11 is just now coming around to being adequate seems like complete nonsense. Nesto’s experience with his daughters would appear to confirm this. I’m not really sure what people expect from an elementary school, to be honest.

  5. Anna permalink
    April 24, 2009 9:59 pm

    Thank you for always writing so openly and honestly. I really enjoy reading your posts.

  6. April 25, 2009 9:05 am

    wow some of these comments are wild

  7. bknesto permalink
    April 27, 2009 5:06 pm

    “PS 11’s reading test scores, for example, are consistently better than those
    in ‘better’ schools – notably Brooklyn
    Height’s PS 8, Boerum Hill’s 261 or
    Park Slope’s 321.”

    -Sean Redmond Spring 2007 The Hill

  8. crazypants permalink
    April 27, 2009 6:00 pm

    Thanks for the post, good to hear about the school. My kid’s too young still, but we’ll be looking for a place soon.

    As to your question “So where is the notion that PS 11 just became this “changing” acceptable neighborhood school coming from?” – if I may suggest, I think you’re looking for insult where there might not be one intended.

    Earlier in your post you have nothing but good things to say about the recent changes in the school – new principal who relaxed rules about parents being on-site, new PTA w/ new resources and pull to bring in influential politicos, improved test scores, new activities such as cooking classes, etc. All of these changes seemd to have happened recently and all seemed to have either been a result of good working synergy between faculty and parents, with sepcial mention for the new parents and kids at the school.

    Is it really so wrong-headed for one of these newer parents – who’s seen dramatic improvement in test scores and new receptive faculty and all manner of assorted goodness to feel that in some part all of these recent successes – successes which work to benefit every child in the school – is the result of their involvement in the school?

    One can argue that its possibly a little tin-eared for the new parents to claim all or most credit for any positive changes in the school, but it certainly does not mean that it’s a slight directed at the older more “homogenous” kids and fanilies in the school.

    It’s more of a chicken or the egg argument. Did the school improve dramatically and very recently because of the efforts of the older kids and their parents or because of the new influx of parents and faculty? I think that’s a fair question.

  9. bknesto permalink
    April 27, 2009 7:06 pm

    It is not a chicken or the egg argument. The kids who regularly outperformed their peers at schools like 321, 261, 8, etc in reading are the same kids who continued to improve before the influx of newer residents children. The TEACHERS & TEACHING METHODS in the classroom remain the same. I should know my daughters have had some of the same teachers.

    There have been no MAJOR changes at PS 11 at the end of the day. Nothing changed in the way my child was being educated.

    crazypants, I also had nothing good to say about all the things my kids were apart of at PS 11 prior. As someone who’s had children in the school since ’99 I think I would notice if a group of parents made noticeable “changes” at their school. It’s a fallacy a slap in the face to all the great teachers in school and the MANY parents who send their kids to school prepared academically and socially.

    All you hear about in the local blogspere /forums is a how a group of parents got together and “changed” PS 11. A good amount of how the Dept. of Education gauges success is by student performance on standardized tests. The kids who are tested precede this so called “change” made by this group of parents while outperforming their counterparts at some of the more lauded schools. My childrens development had nothing to do with “change” at PS 11, it had everything to do with what was already in place. The people claiming responsibilty for this “change” don’t have kids past the first grade. How can they take credit for children in grades 3-5 progressing academically or rising test scores? Changes weren’t made where it counted most…in the classroom.

  10. crazypants permalink
    April 27, 2009 7:41 pm

    bknesto – your point is appreciated and well received. The improvements in test scores is solely the exemplary result of the older kids at the school and their parents, all of whom have been at the school longer than the newcomers.

    Your umbrage at any late comer wishing to take credit for child’s and the existing staff’s performance is just.

    Is there a lottery for kids outside the area (I assume that Dean and Franklin is outside the zone)?

  11. bknesto permalink
    April 27, 2009 7:47 pm


    If I’m not mistaken the school is now open to kids outside of the zone. I know it wasn’t this was way when I first enrolled my kids but I recall reading this had changed recently on

  12. M.O.G. permalink
    April 27, 2009 11:52 pm

    WOW… haven’t been on Clinton Hill Chill for a minute…. Always good subjects BKNESTO… My son attended PS 11 from K – 5th grade… and When he was placed there with Mrs. Epstein I remember clearly that PS 11 was one of the best in its district…PS 11 has always been known to be a good school… unfortunately my son no longer attends the school but BIGGUP to the the School of Urban Arts & Letters, where he now attends!!!!

  13. April 29, 2009 3:40 pm

    It is a pleasure to read such a heartfelt appreciation as you have written here.

    You mention your daughters and your neices thriving in PS11.

    Concurrently, I keep hearing how hard it is for many or most boys to channel their boyish kind of energy into traditional sit-down three-Rs classroom learning. (I know it was hard for me.)

    This makes me wonder: How are boys doing in the school?

    Also, all the wonderful teachers you name are women. Are there any wonderful men teachers?

  14. May 5, 2009 1:34 am

    I am a parent but my daughter has a ways to go before she goes to school. However, I vote at PS 11 and I thought it was just like the schools I grew up in. I went to a suburban school in Ohio and when I walked in I saw a school that looked like home. I knew I wanted any children I have to go there.
    The issue you are writing about is a valid one. I worked at a charter school in NYC and the influx of white parents created a takeover of many groups and activities within the school. I think their intentions were good, but it appeared they were displacing everyone else. Manifest destiny in the primary school. But, it is thorny. Wealtheir and whiter people can get things done. Sadly, this is true in this world. So, these new parents end up getting all the glory because they look like the reporters covering them.

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