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A culture shift drives gains at P.S. 197

P.S. 197 received recognition from NYC Renewal Schools for “Creating a Culture of Collaboration for School Improvement.”

P.S. 197 The Ocean School in Queens has made exciting gains over the past two years. Their ELA scores have risen by 7%—and math scores have jumped by 18%! What’s made this growth possible? This fall, P.S. 197’s ANet coach, Rashid Johnson, asked leaders and teachers to talk about the school’s transformation, and here’s what they said.

What has changed at P.S. 197 over the past few years?

Christina Villavicencio, principal: “My high expectations for my team are clear, and so is my vision for our students. We reflect and we are accountable. If you are going to be here, you are going to invest in yourself and our children. We’re going to make mistakes and we’re going to learn. It’s a safety net where we take chances and risks and grow as professionals. We have each other’s backs.”

Gina Smith, ELA/literacy coach: “Teachers collaborate and share everything. It’s refreshing to see a culture where everybody shares and works together.”

Brad Richman, assistant principal: “When I came into this school, at the infancy of its renewal, it felt like everyone was waiting for the school to collapse. We have grown, and we’re keeping it tight with camaraderie. Loyalty is there.”

Ines Martin, math coach:Our principal is empathetic. She values us, collaborates with us, and makes us feel like part of the team. The community-building aspect of the school is what’s helping. To come to work where people encourage and appreciate me makes my day.”

How has ANet helped P.S. 197 achieve these gains—both the change in school culture and the growth in math and ELA scores?

Christina Villavicencio, principal: Rashid changes our lens in a positive way. It’s reinforced and improved coaching and feedback. When he gives my team feedback, it’s always positive. It’s always a celebration.”

Ines Martin, math coach: “When Rashid comes to the building, the culture is, ‘He’s here to help us.’  Teachers do not see our coach or ANet as a threat, so they don’t get nervous. They get to be who they are because he’s able to break down those barriers of fear. That is impactful.”

Brad Richman, assistant principal: “Rashid has a way of saying things that make sense and is comforting. That energizes teams. For me, he’s raising my game and elevating the importance of asking probing questions and giving teachers immediate feedback. The deeper we got with feedback, teachers started to say, ‘I can do that. I can do that a different way.’”


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