Education

Two Struggling Schools Set For Overhaul

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Paterson Board of Education offices
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PATERSON, NJ - Two of Paterson's most troubled schools - No. 10 and No. 4 - were among nine in the state picked to get an infusion of federal funding to help them make dramatic changes in their students' performance.

 

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School No. 6 was one of 19 struggling schools in New Jersey that applied for the funding but was not approved.

 

The federal School Improvement Grants (SIG), which were announced on Wednesday, will provide $55 million over three years for the nine schools. Exactly how much each school will receive will not be determined until August, officials said.

 

The SIG money comes with requirements. For example, School No 10 was among five put in the "Turnaround" category, which mandates that the school district replace the principal and remove at least 50 percent of the staff. Prior to receiving the grant, Paterson Public Schools already was in the process of appointing a new principal at School No. 10.

 

School No. 4, also called the Rev. Dr. Frank Napier Jr. School, was put in the "Transformation" category, which requires a new principal, but not an overhaul of the staff. The school district already satisfied that requirement by assigning a new principal to the school last year.

 

At School No. 10, which is on Mercer Street in the 4th Ward, just 37 percent of eighth grades met proficiency levels in languages arts and 34 percent in math on standardize statewide tests in the 2009-10 school year. Also, 32 percent of the students were suspended at some point during the year, according to the state-issued school report card.

 

At School No. 4, on Clinton Street in the 1st Ward, 39.6 percent of eighth graders were proficient in language arts and 16.3 percent in math and 27 percnt of students were suspended, according to the school report card. 

 

School No. 6, which didn't get the money, also had poor scores on its report card. Located on Carroll Street in the 4th Ward, the school had 38.6 percent of its eighth graders proficient in language arts and 24.6 in math, while 23 percent of its students were suspended.

 

Paterson Public Schools' application for the funding said it would separate School 10 into two clusters - a lower school for pre-K through 5th Grade and  a middle school for grades 6 through 8. In pre-K through grade 2, the district plans to stress literacy; at grades 3 through 5, the curriculum would be infused with a "civic engagement pathway model,'' and that will be infused into the school’s curriculum; and the middle school  "will institute a college readiness pathway model to prepare students for high secondary achievement.'' 

 

The application says the school year at School 10 will be increased by by 300 instructional hours using outside vendors. For example, 6th through 8th graders will have "extended learning hours" at a local college on Saturdays.
 

In addition, staff would get extra training, including the implementation of a flex time program that would allow teachers to participate in "professional development opportunities.''

 

“Intervening in our lowest performing schools is one of the most important things we can do to ensure that all students in New Jersey graduate from high school college- and career-ready,” said Acting New Jersey Education Commissioner Chris Cerf, in a press release. “We must be willing to take drastic steps to help our most vulnerable students, and these new funds and changes at the school level will give these students a real chance to succeed.”

 

In announcing the grants, officials noted that most of the schools that received funding through the program last year already showed  improvement.Two schools, one in Trenton and one in Newark, were dropped from the program for failing to meet its requirements. Last year, there were no Paterson schools among the recipients.
 
According to the education department's press release, districts getting funding through SIG this year will have to develop a plan to enact reforms in all schools across the district, tied to the four key pillars:
  • Academics – implementation of the Common Core State Standards by 2014
  • Performance – development or purchase of robust formative assessments that provide timely data to teachers and administrators
  • Talent – implementation of a performance evaluation system aligned to the state’s Teacher Evaluation Pilot, including at least 50 percent of evaluations using objective measures of student achievement (such measures need not consist exclusively of summative tests such as the NJ ASK or HSPA).
  • Innovation – development of a dropout identification and intervention system.

“We encouraged districts to think boldly about the type of radical change needed to improve their lowest performing schools, and we are glad to see that they responded,” said Acting Commissioner Cerf.  “However, the performance of an individual school is inherently connected to what is happening across the district, and we believe these district-wide changes will be vital to sustained improvement in these schools.” 

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