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Ozone Park school to get $3.1m for 5-year program

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A private foundation is teaming up with a private philanthropy to donate $3.1 million to Ozone Park’s PS 65 to implement a five-year experiment to improve students’ reading, math and science scores, a spokesman for the groups said.

The Baltimore-based Success for All Foundation, which introduced its first reading program in 1987 based on research from Johns Hopkins University, will provide $615,330 in funds for the initiative at PS 65 for the 2002-2003 school year, said spokesman Adam Sachs. He said similar amounts would follow for an additional four years.

“We want to see what happens if you are able to provide all the resources necessary for (students) to succeed, and how well a school will do under those circumstances,” he said of PS 65, which has been affiliated with the Success for All Foundation since 1998. “We’re trying to improve our existing program and trying to do a more intense program than we do at other schools.”

Sachs said this is the first year the SFA foundation has initiated a comprehensive whole school reform model which seeks to improve a school’s standardized test scores. He said the foundation, which works with 57 schools in New York City, wants to ensure kindergartners read at a third-grade level after three years in the SFA program. Sachs said the success of a school with the SFA formula depends on the staff and students at a school, not just their curriculum.

The principal of PS 65 at 103-22 99th St. in Ozone Park declined to comment on the donation. The district superintendent and spokeswoman for the New York City Board of Education did not return repeated phone calls.

PS 65 has been in the news recently because of controversy that it was built 35 feet above the toxic remains of a former industrial site. Parents and teachers were afraid that the carcinogen trichloroethylene, or TCE, was causing students to get sore throats, rashes, and spells of nausea and dizziness.

Sachs said the additional funds will go a long way to help students learn more and, ultimately, improve the school’s below-average standardized test scores.

“We will be providing $1,000 extra per student per year on average,” Sachs said of the partnership. “Depending on some students, some will need more, others will need less.”

In 2002 on state standardized tests, PS 65, an elementary school with grades K-6, had 37.6 percent of its students at passing level for reading and 42.2 percent at passing level for math.

Sachs would not identify the private philanthropy that is donating all the funds for the program but said the group is run by a Long Island-based businessman who has an interest in the New York City area. He said one of the men working in the philanthropy had a connection to PS 65, but he would not disclose the nature of the relationship.

The five-year program will include English as a Second Language resource videos/DVDs, leadership training seminars for teachers and students, New York University graduate tutors, a computer-assisted tutoring program, and diagnostic testings to evaluate students’ progress in the reading program, Sachs said.

Sachs said the foundation targets schools that traditionally perform below average on standardized tests and have mixed income and racially diverse student populations. He said science programs will follow after the initial implementation of the reading and math programs.

According to district statistics for 2001, PS 65 had 624 students and spent an above-average $10,419 per student compared with the rest of New York City which on average spent $9,678.

The school has a majority 53.5 percent Hispanic population, followed by a 28.7 percent Asian population, 10 percent white population and 7.7 percent black population. About 10 percent of the students are recent immigrants to the United States.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 156

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