BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Superintendent Judith Rattner gave a power point presentation regarding “A+ ideas” at all educational levels at the Thursday, Oct. 20 Board of Education (BOE) meeting.
At the elementary school level the district “borrowed” some ideas from others and developed some ideas within the district. Some of the A+ ideas have already been piloted in the district. The focus of the A+ ideas is to help students learn and to make students “flourish further,” Rattner explained. The district will be benchmarking students’ reading level by using a variety of tools to measure their reading aptitude. Benchmarking allows the schools then to offer more differentiated instruction based on the benchmark analysis of each student.
The special education services will be utilizing an assessment tool – AimsWeb K-12 – starting in the 2016-17 school year at all district schools. The new assessment method will allow teachers to “understand the reading, writing and math functioning levels of their students.” Teachers can then design their instruction based on these levels and track each student’s progress. The instruction will be more specific and goal oriented, Rattner said.
The district is also planning to expand pre-vocational programs to the middle school level. The program is seeking further opportunities especially for students “with more significant disabilities”. The program allows students to become more independent after high school graduation.
Another A+ idea is to provide students with increased support for their social-emotional well-being at the middle and high school levels. Both individual and group counseling is already available for behavioral and family support. Rattner also pointed out that a Rutgers University study had concluded that stressed out students are more likely to skip school. The district is developing means to lighten the students’ stress levels in order to intervene where absenteeism issues are concerned.
In the middle school level the district will introduce the “Connected Math” program. The program enables teachers to “provide hyper targeted instruction and support to students by utilizing Mathspace along with their classroom instruction to implement a blended model of learning.” The program provides students with access to all mathematics curricula, including algebra as early as the sixth grade. Benchmarking will be used to target individuals and small groups based on students’ aptitude levels.
At the high school level the district will be utilizing a web-based tool – AP Potential. The program uses standardized test scores, such as PSAT, to determine which students are likely to score three or higher in AP exams. The method allows the district to identify more students that have the ability to succeed in AP-level courses.
The district will be adding “A Real World Scientific Research” component in applicable high school science courses. Students in the environmental science programs have already engaged in real world scientific research standards, Rattner said. The students simulated “the real-life expectations of an environmental scientist” starting with funding the research by applying grants. The students then conducted the research, carried out experiments, provided conclusions and resolutions to a problem. The program will prepare students to understand the research process and the role of a scientist in society.