Ann Street School in Newark, NJ, is the educational center of a vibrant multilingual community in the city”s Ironbound district. The school serves 1400 students in a Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 8 configuration in a facility whose core classrooms were constructed in 1895. Within the community only a third of the adults have a high school education or college experience. Half of the students arrive in school from backgrounds placing them at academic risk. A third of the students are in programs to develop sufficient English-language skills to allow them to learn in a general program classroom. A majority of students meet the income criteria for free or reduced lunch. Today this school leads the city in measured student achievement, performance on state assessments and daily student attendance and places last in incidences of violence and vandalism. Its achievement record compares favorably with suburban districts with smaller class sizes and homogeneous populations.
Our school takes responsibility for its conditions and began a sustained program to make education work. Working intuitively and as a loose team, the staff made the school safe for all students and elevated learning to the status of primary school mission. The school leadership began to use data to guide improvement. Today, the school engages in continuous progress improvement based upon regular data collection, analysis and targeted change. The similarity of sub-group achievement within the grade and upward trend in both standardized and criterion-referenced test performance demonstrates that all students are meeting high achievement standards.
Every component of school operations addresses student achievement. From the moment the child is greeted by an adult through the end of the after-school program, there is one message summarized in the school motto: Be responsible, be respectful, and get a good education.
The faculty and administration continuously revise the curriculum and instructional approaches to increase alignment with the New Jersey Core Curriculum Standards and the assessment tools used by the state. From Pre-Kindergarten, the students learn what they must do to meet performance expectations and learn that they can achieve academically. Daily, they are prepared to deliver upon demand, what they are doing to meet personal and school learning challenges. Monthly, teachers report how they are addressing priority areas and provide full class sets of student work to demonstrate student instruction, share materials and engage in on-site staff development under the leadership of the assistant principals.
School governance combines traditional administrative hierarchy for operational purposes and stakeholder group collaboration for goal setting and instructional improvement. The School Leadership Council (SLC) brings elected representatives from the faculty and the Home and School Association together with selected others (including support staff and students) to review school and student performance, develop goals, monitor implementation plans, and facilitate communications on expectations and issues. The members of the School Leadership Council meet regularly with their constituents to share the work of the SLC and to obtain feedback and information.
The parent organization, Home and School Association, has participating membership exceeding the student enrollment. The Association actively brings parents into the educational process through outreach and services to meet their needs. Meetings are conducted monthly in three languages to enable almost every family to interact directly with the organization”s leadership and to have a voice in the school itself. The Association provides extensive financial support to augment the basic financial resources for the school.
To better integrate the learning process, classroom instruction is based on interdisciplinary units of instruction. From this base students utilize problem-solving strategies in mathematics and science and apply them to other content areas of the curriculum. Collaboration projects in the classroom and enrichment activities enable students to analyze, synthesize and evaluate information in order to pursue the discovery process.
Effective reading, however, drives student learning. The literacy emphasis helps all students expand their knowledge beyond the curriculum and develop personal views of themselves and the world that promote group tolerance and personal aspiration. Every classroom engages in the Read a Thousand Books challenge, and most succeed. The school”s library enjoys an annual book circulation exceeding 27,000.
The administration and staff continue to pursue the goal of increasing student achievement. A feeling of pride is the driving force that provides the energy, passion and ethical commitment that every child will meet every standard.
The school and its staff have received many awards based upon their work over the years. The one that means the most is the success of the students after they leave. Ann Street School”s students do well in high school. The private and parochial schools as well as the city”s magnet programs make a concerted effort to recruit them. The high schools want them for more than the enrollment benefits. The students come with a work ethic that is a model for others at all academic levels; they communicate their belief in the ability of all students to learn and to take personal responsibility for their success. As a consequence, Ann Street School boasts of many valedictorians from these high schools.
Ann Street School has become the defining institution in its neighborhood. People move to the immediate community to raise a family and to be a part of a true neighborhood school where expectations are high, goals are attained and students achieve.