BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District is embarking on a five-year review of all its programs to ensure they are on par with best practices and have all the resources needed to be successful.
Assistant Superintendent Daniel Silvia said the district has grouped its programs into schedules for a five-year curriculum rotation, with the main core subjects highlighted, followed by the separate groupings. Currently, he said, they are working on the business and industrial arts curriculum.
“We have been looking at the program, going through what the expectations are and giving guidance,” he said. “But this is new for everyone.”
First, Silvia said, the district begins the program evaluation, then begin curriculum writing in the spring to ensure that teachers see the changes before they leave for the summer.
“Usually we do curriculum in the summer, but the reason we are moving to the spring is because when we do it over the summer, teachers are coming in September and it is the first time they are seeing it,” he said. “It’s a lot for a teacher when it’s a new year, new class.”
“This is a significant shift,” he added. “There will be some growing pains.”
Once the curriculum is written, Silvia said, the district will begin to implement the draft pilot, and then narrow down to a few options before expanding the pilot to a larger group.
“Once we do that, we implement the full program,” he said. “Teachers works with it for a year, implementing the new curriculum with all the new materials.”
After that, Silvia said, they make slight updates and implement them to begin the program again.
“That’s the five-year rotation,” he said.
Every year, Silvia said, there are programs being done.
“The purpose is to make sure we are aligned with best practices and aligned with the standards,” he said. “It is required by the state to evaluate and be on a cycle.”
The first part of the evaluation, Silvia said, is the mission of what the district values and the philosophy for the program. That is followed by an introduction covering the physical program and a review of the curriculum, instruction, assessment, professional development and student performance.
Silvia said they will be looking at course offerings and specific sub groups in response to enrollment to ensure equity over the courses. They will also look at class sizes, trends with regard to increases and decreases in enrollment, progression of study to see how students move through the program and the frequency of instruction in each grade level.
In addition, Silvia said, they will do a review of staffing, education levels and more.
The next part of the process, Silvia said, is data collection, with surveys for teachers, staff and students to get insight into the programs.
“Most educators will tell you where there are weaknesses and strengths, and how do we ask the right questions,” he said.
Next, Silvia said, they look at model programs for the same things they are thinking about for their own district programs.
“I think this holds a different value,” he said. “There are certainly school districts we want to compare ourselves to with scores and more, and see where students are achieving."
“When we talk about model programs, just because a school district has fantastic scores doesn't mean they have a model,” he added. “We are creating specific criteria for what a model program is for each area.”
After that, Silvia said, they do a review of assessments, the differences between the assessments and rubrics.
“And then once we look at that, we are going to get into the student performance analysis, and what the trends are in the performances that we need to take into account,” he said.
Board member Melanie Thiesse asked whether the district will be evaluating homework.
Silvia said the surveys being sent out will have questions about homework.
“We want to get information on what the experience is like at home,” he said. ‘There are things we think we need to improve on, but this will help us know where to move and, as we go through a cycle, something may change.”
At the end, Silvia said, there will be recommendations for staffing, programs, resources and technology, as well as a proposed timeline and curriculum.
“We are asking as part of the program evaluation for people to tell us what we need to do in all of these areas to get everything they want without worrying about money,” he said. “The idea is we don’t want them to be constrained with saying we can’t afford something.”
“We want them to give us the good, the bad and the ugly when looking at current programs,” he added, “and shoot for the moon when looking at what is needed.”
Silvia said that at the end of the five-year evaluation, these answers and opinions will inform what the district does next.
Silvia said the whole review procedure is a work in progress and will take time and work to properly implement.
“I’m not reducing the expectations, but the next program evaluation will be better because we will learn from the first ones,” he said.
Superintendent Russell Lazovick agreed.
“This is an evaluation, it is not a perfect process,” he said. “We will get better at it, and we have to routinely evaluate the process.”
“In other districts, teacher satisfaction went up, they saw dramatic improvements and parent understanding of the programs was huge,” he added.