Plan Calls For Redesign of MS 198
By Howard Schwach
For the last two years, Middle School 198 in Arverne has been designated as a School Under Register Review (SURR) school. It earned that designation because of failing Mathematics and Reading scores on standardized tests and because of the disciplinary problems in the school.
Recently, however, a process has begun to redesign the school to its very core, a process that many will hope will revitalize the school, bring up its test scores and reduce the violence that the school has long been known for.
"The real problem in that school is that the students don't have any hope or any dreams for the future," says District 27 Special Projects Administrator Phyllis Greenberg. "They think that what they have now is all that there is, that nothing that happens will make a difference."
"That is what we have to change," she adds.
Three years ago, the district added grades five and six from PS 105 to the school in order to satisfy the elementary school's redesign plan. At the same time, it added extra teaching and administrative staff to the building's table of organization.
The district also added a special reading program called Success For All" (SFA) to the school's fifth and sixth grade curriculum.
Those changes, however, did not allow the school to move in the right direction.
Because scores failed to rise as much as the city and state educational bureaucracies wanted them to, the school was designated as a SURR school late last year.
What changes will the district build into its new redesign plan?
The SFA program will be added to the seventh and eighth grade curriculum in an attempt to increase the reading scores of students in those grades.
"Since MS 198's major feeder school, PS 105 (which was just returned to the district after some years in the Chancellor's District), uses the SFA program for all of its students, they will be prepared to continue the program when they get to MS 198," says Greenberg.
There will be an outreach program from MS 198 to the students and parents at its two feeder schools PS 105 and PS 42.
"We need a better understanding, a better articulation process between elementary and middle schools," she adds.
There will continue to be a lower class size cap and additional staff.
There will be a "creative discipline" program in the school. The program, sponsored by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) will help in channeling inappropriate behavior in other directions than violence.
The district will hire only licensed and certified teachers for MS 198.
"This is tough, but we have been doing it, and it works," Greenberg told The Wave. "Now, we have to work to keep those teachers."
How about rezoning the school so that students without educational problems could be zoned for MS 198?
"That's not my area, you'd have to ask the school board about that," Greenberg demurred.
So, The Wave went to the school board.
"We are planning to take a close look at the zoning in Rockaway," says Steve Greenberg, the president of Community School Board (CSB) 27. "We rezoned the mainland schools under the theory that students should be zoned for their neighborhood schools. We are looking to do the same thing in Rockaway."
Greenberg told The Wave that the new housing being built on the peninsula will create a problem, one that cannot be remediated until the children are actually living in Rockaway.
"We made a map of where the new building was going up and compared it with our school zones," Greenberg says. "There is a lot of building going up around PS 183, PS 105 and PS 42. Luckily, there is room in those schools. We looked at the building around PS 225 and there we have a problem. There is no room at PS 225."
"The main thing, is that we have to do what makes sense for the children, for parents and for the community," Greenberg adds. "We have to have some common sense."
Once the district completes the plan, it must be approved by a panel of educational experts from outside the city.
Then, it must be approved by the state's education commissioner.
Only then can it begin in September of 2002.