LIVINGSTON, NJ - Collins Elementary School has recently been named a Reward School by the N.J. Department of Education.  Collins was one of only 57 New Jersey schools that were recognized for their overall testing achievements; something that has been achieved through students earning high NJASK scores for the past three years running.

John Leister, Collins School Principal explained that, “We never knew about this award.  Standard testing is one measure of a student’s growth, it’s not the end all and be all. Having said that, NJASK test scores do give us some measure of student learning and naturally, we are always pleased when student proficiency is increasing.”

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Leister has been the principal at Collins School for the past several years and has recognized a pattern for success.  Simply put he states, “I think great schools are great because of great teachers.  We use a collaborative model where teachers, administrators and parents work together on behalf of the kids.”

In addition, staying current and keeping the learning process rolling for all was another ingredient.  “The professional development in Livingston is second to none,” said Leister.  He explained that the Livingston School district partners with Columbia University so that teachers can go for training offsite, and staff developers can come from the University to work with faculty onsite.  “It’s an incredible partnership.  Teachers are always improving their craft.”

Mr. Leister has worked in four different school districts so far and distinguishes his current staff.  “I have never seen a harder working faculty.  We have teachers here from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and many work from home.  They help students before school, at lunch and after school.”

Leister’s enthusiasm for student success is also shared with Collins’ teachers.  When asked to comment on the school’s recent distinction, Jenni Merlo shared her take on the collective goal of her fellow educators.   “We’re trying to encourage kids to be interested learners and to ask questions.  We introduce kids to concepts one year and we can trust that the next year their understanding will be taken to a deeper level.”

The Principal also added that certain learning tools proved to be integral in student growth.  “I’m excited!  We are starting to incorporate technology in exciting ways for teaching and learning.”  Recently the district purchased new LCD projectors and document cameras which have allowed learning to become more visual and interactive.

Lastly, The Child Study team, Special Education and Basic Skills teachers play an important factor in keeping all student scores up.  “Struggling learners who need support are with master teachers,” said Leister.

According to the New Jersey Department of Education, "High Performing" schools are classified as schools that show proficiency levels at the top 10 percent of the state in all categories of students.  The school must also have a proficiency rate greater than 90 percent, or 95 percent for high schools.  Livingston High also received this distinction in 2012.