Newton Schools In Good Shape and Continuing to Grow
Wednesday, September 26, 2012 • 1:16pm
NEWTON, NJ - “One of the things I miss from being a principal is the passion of doing the work and, clearly, from tonight’s presentations you can see that come through. That makes me excited for our students and our staff,” said Superintendent Dr. Kennedy Greene in regards to the evenings Student Assessment Reports and School Improvement Plans.
The evening was kicked off by Director of Academic Services Kristi Greene who discussed moving the schools from NJCCCs to the Common Core State Standards. The new standards, for English and Mathematics, are fewer, clearer, more rigorous and internationally benchmarked.
“It’s all real world emphasis in the common core,” said Kristi Greene.
She explained that there is a hope to increase professional dialogue with what works well for students involving skills and the assessment of the skills once learned. There are two optional assessments the first one is a diagnostic, which gives teachers the ability to see if their methods are working and if not how they may change their tactics. The second optional assessment is the mid-year assessment which would be summative. Required assessments are performance based, speaking and listening and an end of the year assessment.
The time line for the new Common Core State Standards is 2013 for pilot/field testing, 2014/2015 for full administration of PARCC assessment and summer 2015 to set achievement levels. There is also a new statewide accountability system where, for example, a school with a 60% proficiency in Mathematics in 2011 will be expected to reach 80% proficiency in six years.
The three principals of the Newton school system each gave a Student Assessment Report for 2012. Jim Tasker, principal at Newton High School, said that 94.7 percent of students passed the HSPA in Language Arts on the first try and 79.7percent passed in Mathematics on the first try; both percentages were improvements from the year before.
All percentages at Halsted Middle School went up as well according to Principal Jeff Walderon who said, “We’re making progress in the right direction. There is progress each and every year as they [the students] go through.”
Merriam Avenue’s Student Assessment Report was given by Principal Karen Perez. She found that fifth graders needed to focus a bit more on working with texts in Language Arts and in Mathematics teachers need to slow their pace a bit more to make sure children are following. In grade 4, math seemed to be in line, while reading needed to be concentrated on more than it is.
“We must find a way to balance all of our student’s needs,” said Perez.
Regarding the Common Core Mathematics she continued, “It’s not about the answer, it’s about the process.”
Each principal also went over a school improvement plan. Merriam Avenue would like to continue to work on parent involvement, themes/ workshops, close achievement groups, adjusting to larger class sizes and increasing teacher collaboration. They have seen success in their parent drop-in center, the quantity and quality of parent programs, a comprehensive database to track parent programs, Project Read, Leveled Literacy Intervention Program, various forms of technology and balancing small group instruction.
At Halsted Middle School they would like to continue to research strategies, lunch and learn activities, family activity nights, open door day, implementation of data, enrichment restructure and expanding the extended day program. They have seen success in increased parent involvement, weekly student focused discussions in all units, implementing folders in all grades, doubled the number of students in the STARS program, implemented their enrichment program, refined individual student profiles and their peer mentoring program. They know that they need to work on the Common Core State Standards, as some of the students are lacking the necessary background information to do well.
Newton High School’s goals are to strengthen the curriculum and instruction, to partner with community groups to increase student achievement and opportunities and to develop personalized student learning plans for the freshman class, through mentoring programs, meetings with parents and, if a student fails a class, having them attend after school tutoring programs for the subject they failed one day a week. They would also like to expand project advance through Sussex County Community College and Syracuse University, decrease the freshman failure and dropout rates, develop mathematics assessments, expand online course offerings and establish student internship programs.
Some of the many successes the high school has seen have been the improved eighth grade visitation day and effectively implementing Naviance and eDocs into college application processes through the Guidance Department.
Once the presentations were complete, the board approved the following items. In Board Business: approval of minutes, authorization of the secretary to pay bills, approval of the preliminary financial reports, acceptance of the Board Secretary’s certification, approval that no fund has been over expended and the approval of line item transfers.
In Programs: approval of field trips for Merriam Avenue School, Halsted Middle School, and Newton High School.
In Personnel: approval of Writing Lab, Computer Lab and Math Lab personnel, approval of Ski Club Advisor and volunteers, approval of school diabetes care providers, approval of co-curricular advisors for school fitness and field hockey, approval of part-time TA and Spanish language parent outreach, approval of LLD Homeroom Supervisor and nine teachers for extended day, approval of lunch supervisors and winter coaches, approval of substitute teachers, CORE team member, AP and College level course teachers and athletic site managers. It was also decided that Newton would be sharing the cost of the joint Swimming Program with Lenape Valley.
In Business: approval of district purchases, approval of district travel expenses, approval of the carry-over funds, approval of the addendum to the Food Service Agreement and approval of the disposal of a Sohmer Piano.
The Newton Board of Education includes Ed Caffrey, Ann Marie Cooke, Stella Dunn, Jessica Egner, Ms. Gianni, Stephen Goldschmidt, Rich Heckman, Tina Larsen, Ray Morris, Nanette Thomas, Terry VanAuken, Dr. Kennedy Greene and Donna Snyder.
The next Newton Board of Education Meeting is Tuesday, October 30 at 7 p.m.