mak­ing the grade

WHAT’S THE BEST CON­FIG­U­RA­TION FOR SCHOOLS?

201 Family - - SERVICE PARENTS -

North Jer­sey res­i­dents are very proud of their lo­cal schools. Many left the city – kick­ing and scream­ing, but still they left – for the ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able here for their chil­dren. While the rep­u­ta­tions of the schools can be com­pa­ra­ble across the re­gion, the ac­tual setup of the dis­tricts can vary widely.

The ques­tion some par­ents may have about the schools is what grade con­fig­u­ra­tion is best. There isn’t re­ally a def­i­nite an­swer. Stud­ies have been done on this topic, but th­ese have been largely in­con­clu­sive, based in part on the fact that there are so many other vari­ables to con­sider such as school size and so­cioe­co­nomic fac­tors.

We spoke to ad­min­is­tra­tors from three dis­tricts with dif­fer­ent struc­tures to get their take.

Frank Mazz­ini is the prin­ci­pal of two schools in De­marest – County Road School, which houses pre-K to 1st grade, and Luther Lee Emer­son School, which houses 2nd to 4th grades. Stu­dents go on to a 5-8 school and then a re­gional high school.

“We are able to fo­cus on the needs of a smaller age range in each school, in­clud­ing aca­demic, be­hav­ioral and so­cial needs,” Mazz­ini says about his setup.

Fa­cil­i­ties and re­sources can be adapted to a more spe­cific age range. “County Road re­cently had a new play­ground in­stalled – it was built just for that age level,” he says. “More­over, we work closely with the Par­ent Teacher Or­ga­ni­za­tion to make sure school as­sem­blies are catered specif­i­cally to the grades in each school.”

Mazz­ini notes that the teach­ers work col­lab­o­ra­tively to en­sure a smooth tran­si­tion for the stu­dents, and the district just added an in­te­grated preschool, with the idea of cre­at­ing a con­tin­uum of ed­u­ca­tion.

Ram­sey has two schools that are pre-K to 3rd grade – the Mary A. Hub­bard School and the Wes­ley D. Tis­dale School. Then stu­dents go to a school for 4th and 5th grade, an­other one for 6th to 8th and then high school. Su­per­in­ten­dent Dr. Matthew Mur­phy says this al­lows the district to con­cen­trate fi­nan­cial re­sources, staff and pro­fes­sional ma­te­ri­als where it needs them. It also im­pacts class­room setup.

“Learn­ing spa­ces mat­ter. This has a di­rect im­pact on stu­dent out­comes,” he says. “For ex­am­ple, for a K-3 school, we can de­sign an art room or a me­dia cen­ter dif­fer­ently than we do for the older stu­dents. A fifth grader is vastly dif­fer­ent than a first grader.”

Dr. Mur­phy notes that the schools have been set up this way for a very long time, “and they are very suc­cess­ful.”

Dr. Michael DeToro is the prin­ci­pal of the Joyce Kilmer School in Mah­wah, which houses 4th and 5th graders who come to­gether from three K-3rd grade schools. He views Mah­wah’s setup as a won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity for all of the kids to tran­si­tion to­gether.

“There is a lot of new­ness, which usu­ally hap­pens in mid­dle school. At that age, the kids feel self-con­scious. It is sim­pler to tran­si­tion kids in 4th grade than in 6th – there are dif­fer­ent

WRIT­TEN BY LESLIE PERL­MUT­TER

32 JAN­UARY 2017 (201) FAM­ILY 201mag­a­zine.com

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