highlands elementaryTrenton, NJ – Today, the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) recognized seven Lighthouse Districts for illuminating the path toward academic growth and student success. The Lighthouse District Initiative is a result of conversations with many educators, families, community members, and students who encouraged the state to focus on growth.

 

Through the Lighthouse District Initiative, the NJDOE is highlighting districts that have, over the past several years, achieved academic growth in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics with diverse student groups. The Lighthouse Districts have demonstrated student academic progress as a result of setting high academic standards, using assessment data to identify each and every student's needs, and working tirelessly to provide the necessary educational supports.

"Lighthouse Districts show what types of academic gains are possible when visionary, instructional leaders, dedicated educators, and supportive board members work together on behalf of the children in their community," said New Jersey Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington. "The Lighthouse Districts show that New Jersey is on the right path; their success has been contingent upon building a community of educators, students, and families who believe each and every student can and will excel beyond New Jersey's high academic standards." 

The NJDOE will be engaging with educators from the Lighthouse Districts to create a sustainable support network for districts.

"By highlighting the best practices of the Lighthouse Districts, districts across the state can benefit from resources that come directly from their peers and illustrates how closing the achievement gap is possible," said State Board of Education President Arcelio Aponte

"We are committed to giving the Lighthouse districts the platform to be models for how to use data to tell the story about what students need and to support other districts in lighting their own path for their students' success," Commissioner Harrington added.

The seven school districts recognized as Lighthouse Districts include:

School District County
Mainland Regional Atlantic
Beverly City Burlington
Black Horse Pike Camden
Cape May City Cape May
Highlands Monmouth
Mine Hill Township Morris
Washington Township Warren

 

Highlands Elementary School issued the following statement to their facebook page:

 

Dr. Susan Compton and Principal Rosemary Schutz are passionate about using data to tell the story about how to help students reach their full potential. They are also passionate about celebrating students’ success. The administration at Highlands celebrates and encourages students through school publications, academic pep-rallies, an Elementary Honor Society, and investments in media lab and a makers' space so students feel free to explore.

School-wide implementation of Running Record and NWEA MAP Growth formative assessments allow teachers at Highlands to gather data in real time, make quick adjustments to instruction, and facilitate ability and flexible grouping. "The data provide targeted instruction in the classroom, targeted Title I Academic Support Instruction in school and after school for reading and mathematics, and other interventions needed as indicated by the data," Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction Daniel Layton says. "The use of this assessment helps support our school and districts initiative to provide the most targeted and personalized learning experience." Melissa Way, mother of five students who attend and have attended Highlands Elementary, says that teachers explained her students’ PARCC scores to her in a way that makes sense: “my son in 6th grade had phenomenal growth….my 2nd grader needed more personalized attention and he’s getting so much support from his teachers.”

After noticing literacy gaps in incoming students, Highlands expanded their half-day pre-kindergarten to a full day program. By introducing elements of literacy and vocabulary work into pre-k, the Highlands team was able to make strides in the number of students who were on grade level for kindergarten and first grade.

Highlands thinks about data in the big picture as well: Dr. Compton explains, "Data meetings are held with grade levels and cohorts of teachers to analyze the PARCC evidence statements. Teachers are provided the evidence statements for their previous year of instruction and the statements for the students they currently have. At these meetings we work on realigning scope and sequence to address our identified weaknesses in our curriculum and our instruction." Highlands also utilized recommendations and guidance from the Monmouth County Office to build alignment among their curricular resources. They hired Math and English Language Arts specialists, added a full forty five to sixty minute block of balanced literacy to each grade level and increased the length of the math block so students had more time to practice skills. The Highlands team also decided to move many students with disabilities from self-contained classrooms into inclusion settings in order to expose students to the most rigorous lessons possible. Ultimately, Compton explains, Highlands "names and claims" their students--figuring out what students need as individuals and assuming the responsibility to provide the necessary supports that all children need in order to achieve.


Ask Highlands to tell their story:
 Balanced literacy
 After school intervention time
 Instructional supervisors
 County office support
 Full-day pre-K
 Increase in sight-word goals
 Running Record and NWEA
 Data conversations with parents
 STEAM focus