A school where everyone wants to be & learn

PS 205, Bronx, NY
Alex "This was a good conversation. It really made me think hard about what I believe. We picked the same strengths and had many of the same questions. Even our examples of evidence were almost the same. Some of what I heard her say helped me to think about my own ideas differently, and we were able to discuss questions that we had in common. There were even a few things that she said that I know will stay in my head and change the way I think."

Maria "As Alex and I spoke, it was amazing how much we shared. Though his perspective is different, Alex actually has many of the same questions and concerns as I do. We both are dealing with what happens when you take a stand on something or when you are the person who has to make a decision that will affect others. In discussing these things, we discovered that, even though we're not in the exact same position, we approach situations in much the same way. It was very helpful."

Spoken during the debriefing of a self-assessment activity at PS 205, a Communities for Learning school in the Bronx, NY, this exchange clearly illustrates much that is common about a Communities for Learning experience, especially when we consider that Alex is a fifth grader and Maria is the school principal.

Before becoming a Communities for Learning school-based site, PS 205 (a K-5 elementary school) was already a good school. Teachers taught, students learned and parents felt comfortable that they were sending their children to a safe environment. Administration of the two-building school was precise and efficient, with a leadership team that worked well together making decisions and solving problems. There was a history of professional development targeted to the needs of the staff and, when possible, members of the school received training and were then asked to share their learning with their colleagues. The school fostered partnerships related to the school's commitment to technology and the arts. The principal was the undisputed leader, respected and admired by staff, parents and students.

At first their new Learning Community was suspect: teachers were suspicious of the professional learning community as another layer, yet another requirement, yet another example of temporary professional development. Students were confused by the opportunity to work and interact with adults in a learning community setting. Before, the principal's vision was her own, private entity.

But all that has changed. Today, students, teachers and parents have responded to and embraced their Learning Community as their shared vision, and actively create the paths for helping it to become reality. Today, the responsibility for decision-making is shared. Teachers, students and parents engage in problem identification and action planning, and monitor the results of their actions.

Once an 'A' and a 'B' building separated by a block, a zip code and daily routines, PS 205 is now comprised of Upper and Lower schools that share activities and resources daily. Where in the past, visits between the two buildings were rare, students and teachers now trek regularly back and forth for 'events' like assemblies or extra-curricular activities (participated in now by parents, teachers, staff and students), as well as opportunities to engage in 'buddy reading', shared professional development and class visitations. Based on data collected and analyzed, the Community has identified differentiation as its learning focus for the year. Members of the Community that Leads are participating in collegial inquiry, developing an understanding of how this process may be used to promote learning while also deepening their own learning around differentiation and language development.

Finally, the belief that this was all "too good to be true" has been replaced by a sense of pride and investment in the school, its learning and its work, and a determination to sustain and deepen the community long into the future - and conversations like that above, between Maria and Alex, are common and sought after experiences.

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Communities for Learning
825 East Gate Boulevard, Suite 204
Garden City, NY 11530 United States
Tel: (516) 502-4232

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