State Labels Memorial as 'Focus' School
District looks to close achievement gap across schools
As part of its efforts to move beyond the No Child Left Behind program the state of New Jersey released its first statewide accountability report on Wednesday.
Of the schools that were broken into priority, focus and reward schools Howell's Memorial Middle School was labeled as a focus school.
With the focus school designation the district will work with the state to help cut the achievement gap. "We are entering a new stage of accountability in New Jersey, one that frees high-performing schools from state interference and defines a stronger investment from the state to turn around pockets of persistent academic failure," said Acting Education Commissioner Chris Serf.
In a press release from the state, the 183 focus schools are defined as "a school that has room for improvement in areas that are specific to the school." While some focus schools were pinpointed for low graduation rates or lowest subgroup performance Memorial was put in a group with the largest within school gaps.
That classification is defined as having the biggest gap between the highest performing subgroup and the combined proficiency of the two lowest sub groups. While the exact number for the Howell school was not given, the gap has to be at least 43.5 percentage points according to the state.
Howell Public Schools Superintendent Enid Golden said the district is already looking at ways to put a dent into the achievement gap not only at Memorial Middle School but in all the buildings. Golden said as of Wednesday she did not know the exact totals for Memorial. The scores come from a three year total from the NJASK Tests.
Golden said even before these numbers came out she made it a priority to look at the achievement gap. "We've been looking at the numbers ourselves," she said. "That's exactly why I proposed putting money toward closing the achievement gap."
While the designation is not ideal, Golden said they were already aware of the achievement gap issues and look forward to addressing them in the future. "I think it's something we have to work on," she said.
Working in conjunction with the board of education, the schools and the state Golden said a plan will be formulated to tackle the problems. "We're looking at everything," she said. That, she said, includes changes in programs offered and finding ways to increase parent involvement.
She said in conversations with principals in the district they have already been given directions on things to do in their schools. "My directive to the principals was to start submitting proposals to cut the gap," she said. She said those proposals need to be data driven, supported by research and include the school's parents.
As part of their recently adopted budget Golden said approximately $500 thousand will be used to work on the achievement gap.
Golden said she expected the designation and other steps being taken to be discussed at the next board of education meeting on April 18. The full list of schools can be found here.