Middlesex County STEM Charter School will also replicate best practices implemented at Central Jersey College Prep Charter School that worked for all students including Hispanic students and students from low socioeconomic background. Middlesex County STEM Charter School leadership is confident that replicated design elements from Central Jersey College Prep Charter School coupled with STEM curriculum will produce a high level of student achievement results for the population of Perth Amboy City. The following key elements will be implemented as a replication from Central Jersey College Prep Charter School:
Increased Technology Integration: One-to-one technology is a major component of Central Jersey College Prep Charter School (CJCP) classrooms where teachers no longer function as the sole source of the content knowledge. Instead, learning at CJCP becomes more interactive with shared responsibility between students and teachers. In CJCP’s classroom, teachers become facilitators while students are held accountable to play a more active role in the learning process. Studies largely showed that one-to-one technology initiatives made a positive impact on the teacher pedagogy, student learning experience, classroom behavior management, and achievement results. In addition, families from low socioeconomic background and minority are less likely to afford a computer and internet access at home, and so possibly lack of the required knowledge and skills to meaningfully utilize these resources.
Similar to CJCP, Middlesex County STEM Charter School’s teachers will use technology to introduce, reinforce, extend, enrich, assess, and remediate student mastery of learning objectives. Students will use computers to design their own product by employing word-processing, database, presentation and graphic software. Computers will also empower students to produce higher quality work, and allow to express their ideas with creative illustrations and demonstrations to teachers as well as their classmates. Like CJCP, Middlesex County STEM Charter School teachers will use Google Apps for Education and Google Classroom on a daily basis to facilitate their classroom in a better collaborative way. Through the one-to-one technology program, Middlesex County STEM Charter School will be able to offer interactive electronic textbooks for all subjects. Using unique features of the technology, teachers will also be able to design and implement individualized instructions that eliminate the personal differences among the students for quality instruction. Students will use and explore instructional software programs in or out of the classroom to expand their knowledge and skills and have a better grasp of the learning objectives.
Learning from CJCP’s experience and findings from research, Middlesex County STEM Charter School will also implement the one-to-one technology program in which every student will be provided a one-to-one device to ensure all students have ample access to technology. This one-to-one technology program will eliminate financial barriers for students from low socioeconomic background to have access to technology. Given the high percentage of students (80%) receiving free/reduced lunch in Perth Amboy Public Schools, Middlesex County STEM Charter School’s implementation of one-to-one technology program will present a potential to address disadvantages facing students from minority and low-income families in increasing their technology literacy, which will eventually translate into increased student achievement and closure of achievement gap.
Extended opportunities for advancement: Central Jersey College Prep Charter School offers high school courses in math and science at the middle school level. This in turn allows for increased participation in honors, advanced placement, and college level courses during the high school years. Students’ exposure to rigorous and differentiated curriculum starts as early as the 3rd grade through the gifted and talented program implemented at Middlesex County STEM Charter School. Students participating in the gifted and talented program at the elementary level will likely to take middle school courses in the 5th grade, which will eventually turn in to increased participation in high school courses in middle school especially in math. Middlesex County STEM Charter School founders are confident that this model coupled with the integration of the STEM based curriculum will be equally successful at Middlesex County STEM Charter School. This will eventually increase the participation of Hispanic students and economically disadvantaged students in advanced and honors courses at the middle and high school levels.
Remediation: At Middlesex County STEM Charter School, student academic performance classifications are determined through an ongoing data analysis and a structured benchmarking system. The school’s instructional team will identify and address the academic needs of each student throughout the school year. Students are tiered into categories based on their performance indicators and assigned to intervention or enrichment sessions as needed. Level 1 students are referred to the Response to Intervention program (RTI). While RTI programs are offered in all public schools in New Jersey, the RTI program at Central Jersey College Prep Charter School is innovative and consists of the following two components: 1) Students are placed in additional remedial courses in math and ELA throughout the school day in addition to their typical course loads. 2) They are given one-on-one or small group tutoring during the intervention hours as part of their daily schedule. This additional instruction allows for 10 hours or more of instruction in each math and ELA per week for these struggling students. Our Level 2 and 3 students are assigned to tutoring or RTI services based on their performance levels from benchmark assessments and running records. Throughout the marking period, these students are continually tracked by their teachers, the guidance department and administration to ensure student growth as well as implement additional intervention strategies as needed.
Research shows that continued instructional support beyond the classroom instruction is critical to keeping minority students in higher-level classes. Furthermore, students with low socioeconomic backgrounds who received school-based supplemental instruction made significant achievement gains in state assessments as compared to others. Using research and Central Jersey College Prep Charter School’s practices as a guide, Middlesex County STEM Charter School administrators and teachers will devise a remediation plan for students who are in need of extra help. Due to the existing student demographics in Perth Amboy area, the remediation will be a major component of the instructional structure at the school. The school expects to enroll a high percentage of students from low socioeconomic background. These students will qualify for additional federal and state assistance such as Title I funding to supplement instructional services at the school, which will enable the instructional staff to individualized instruction for each student.
Small learning community: Another component of the Central Jersey College Prep Charter School’s instructional infrastructure that will be replicated at Middlesex County STEM Charter School is the small classroom size and low student-teacher ratio. The average class size at Middlesex County STEM Charter School is anticipated to be 20, coupled with a 10.5:1 student-teacher ratio. Studies reported that students who were taught in smaller classes posted higher test scores. In addition, students receive more individual attention from teachers in smaller classes. Consequently, smaller classes present an opportunity for increased learning and less behavioral problems as a result of increased interaction between the students and teachers in smaller classes. Specifically, minorities benefitted more from being in smaller classes for the long run, which may result in closure of the achievement gap. Coupled with the small classroom size, the low student-to-teacher ratio helps yield positive outcome and helps close the achievement gap for struggling students. The anticipated small class size and low student-to-teacher ratio at Middlesex County STEM Charter School will allow for individualized student attention and the ability to track student growth and progress on a personal level. This practice will be a key component at Middlesex County STEM Charter School to obtain similar results produced at Central Jersey College Prep Charter School and promised by the research.
Embedded enrichment and enhancement opportunities: Embedded within the daily schedule is an activity period. This period at the end of each day is a 40-minute session in which students are assigned to various clubs, activities or tutoring sessions each day. By embedding this in the schedule, it alleviates issues such as transportation or conflicts with other activities. Students in need of intervention are schedule to tutoring sessions during this time. Other students are scheduled to clubs or academic activities. This model effectively allows for all our students to receive the individual intervention services they need while simultaneously allowing students to engage in extra-curricular activities without restraint due to transportation needs.
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