Hitting the books

Students head back to class Sept. 5

For all the talk of graduation rates and test scores, the real revolution in education will probably come only when the words “back to school” are as welcomed by students as they are by parents and teachers. With that as the measuring stick of progress, there’s probably still a ways to go until that parity is reached. That said, roughly 29,000 Jersey City students will head back to class on Thursday, Sept. 5 for the start of the 2013-2014 school year.
A year ago, the Jersey City Public School District hired Dr. Marcia Lyles as its new superintendent. Since then, the district has been its programs to improve education for students throughout the district. While some in the community have criticized Lyles for some of her administrative hires in the central administrative office on Claremont Avenue, she said last week that her focus for the past year has been to make access to quality education more “equitable” across the district.

‘We expect to offer dual enrollment opportunities in all of our high schools, where students can take college courses and receive college credit while still in high school.’ – Marcia Lyles
“All of our initiatives are designed to ensure that our programs, practices, and policies prepare our students for college and career, are research-based, and equitably accessible to all,” Lyles said.
To that end, she said there are a number of either new or expanded initiatives that students can take advantage of this academic year.

New and expanded programs

Last week the school district announced an elementary school-level science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) pilot program it is offering in partnership with Liberty Science Center.
“Every Friday for 29 weeks, 50 third graders from PS #30 and PS #24 will go to the Science Center for a half-day of immersive science instruction where they will participate in hands-on lab workshops that allow them to draw on the Science Center’s rich resources to deepen their understanding of science concepts,” said Lyles. “Simultaneously, their teachers and educational aides will work each week with Liberty Science Center’s professional development team to bring best-practices back to their schools and seamlessly integrate the students’ experiences [there] with what is presented in the classroom. This partnership is significant because it provides third graders high levels of STEM instruction through a curriculum that is rigorous and hands-on. Working more closely with Liberty Science Center will allow us to engage younger children in STEM in a sustained and in-depth way.”
In addition to this pilot initiative, the district as expanded its ninth grade academies to Ferris, Snyder, and Dickinson high schools. Lyles said these academies are designed to ease the transition from middle school to high school so that the step up to high school is “a more coherent and personalized experience for students.”
There is already a ninth grade academy in place at Lincoln High School.
In addition, this year the district will do a pilot on Springboard, a college prep curriculum, in the middle and high schools. Lyles and the Board of Education hope that Springboard will, Lyles said, “expose our students to more rigorous work that will prepare them for skills they will need beyond high school… We also expect to offer dual enrollment opportunities in all of our high schools, where students can take college courses and receive college credit while still in high school.”
In MS 7, the district will expand its current Honor Opportunity Potential Enrichment program to bilingual students.
Several schools will this year be run under new leadership, as Lyles shifted some school principals during the summer months. PS #3, PS #5, PS #11, MS #22, PS #29, MS #40, Snyder High School, and Dickinson High School are among the schools that have, or will have, new principals this school year.
The timing of these staff changes was somewhat surprising to some parents, who said that in some cases outgoing principals did not have an opportunity to say goodbye to their students, which parents say could be jarring for students come Sept. 5.

Two charter schools get new homes

In addition to the traditional public schools, Jersey City is also home to several charter schools, which have either already started their fall semesters or will this week. Like public schools, charter schools are free to attend, although families have to apply for admittance. Unlike traditional public schools, charters schools draw their student bodies from families across the city and are not neighborhood-based.
In 2011, the New Jersey Department of Education approved three new charters for Jersey City, two of which, the METS Charter School and JC Global Charter School, recently opened new campuses for their institutions.
METS, which currently runs from sixth grade through the eleventh grade, is now based at 211 Sherman Ave. in the Jersey City Heights.
JC Global, which will make its debut this school year, last week opened its new facility at 255 Congress St. JC Global currently runs from kindergarten through third grade.
Like all expanding schools, JC Global plans to add a grade each year until it has reached its target top grade. JC Global will add a grade each year until it reaches grade eight.

E-mail E. Assata Wright at awright@hudsonreporter.com.

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