- Red Bank Borough Public Schools
Writing Our Story of Success
RED BANK MIDDLE SCHOOL SEES SIGNIFICANT GROWTH IN WRITING SCORES
Red Bank, N.J.—Red Bank Middle School’s 2018 English Language Arts PARCC scores show that students are demonstrating substantial improvement in this area and specifically the areas of written expression and writing conventions with scores well above the state average. These scores are helping drive the student growth documented in Red Bank’s School Performance Reports published annually by the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE).
The 2018 ELA PARCC scores also demonstrate substantial growth for four-year cohorts. In 2015, as 5th Graders, 24 percent met or exceeded expectations on the ELA portion of PARCC while as 8th Graders in 2018, 62 percent of this same group met or exceeded expectations which represents an increase of 158%! Similar growth occurred in cohorts for Grades 3 to 6 and Grades 4 to 7.
“These growth outcomes are not isolated to this group,” said Dr. Jared Rumage, Superintendent of the Red Bank Borough Public Schools, “but are indicative of the growth taking place throughout our school district.” According to Dr. Rumage, the strong student growth demonstrated by Red Bank students in recent years prompted a fall tour of Red Bank schools by representatives of the NJDOE’s Office of Performance Management. Additionally, in January, the District was deemed high performing through NJDOE’s evaluation process. Dr. Rumage went on to add, “Our scores peak in Grade 8 as a result of the cumulative and collaborative efforts of our entire Preschool to Grade 8 staff. Every person in this District impacts the educational journey of each student and contributes to successes such as this.”
On February 22nd, the District hosted members of the New Jersey Network of Superintendents. The Network is made of 16 school districts from across the State who engage in work surrounding equity and access for all students. Nearly 50 Superintendents and leadership team members visited the Red Bank Borough Public Schools to learn about the environment, structures, and practices that created these strong ELA results, as well as assess what the District is doing to replicate this success in Mathematics.
According to Ms. Stacy Sherwood, Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction, the ELA scores are built upon the District’s comprehensive writing program on top of a readers’ workshop focus. In Grades K through 5, the program follows a writers’ workshop model, with an emphasis on building foundational skills, such as phonics and reading comprehension. The teachers are supported in both workshop models by a K-5 ELA Instructional Coach.
At the Red Bank Primary School, the foundation begins starting in Kindergarten. Students are writing daily to express their thoughts and ideas with an audience. According to Ms. Alyssa May, Kindergarten teacher, “Language and literacy development in Kindergarten includes understanding language and communicating through reading, writing, listening and speaking.”
Ms. Tiffany Fetter, third-grade teacher, states, “In third-grade students are writing informational books, creating imaginative fictional stories, crafting opinion pieces as well as literary essays. The variety of genre writing at the third-grade level prepares students for Red Bank Middle School by providing students with foundational skills. These transferable skills include stating an opinion or claim while providing evidence, paraphrasing research, and using figurative language to add vivid details.”
Primary School Principal Mr. Luigi Laugelli states, "Our teachers have done a tremendous job implementing a writer's workshop approach in their classroom and we are certainly seeing first-hand the results across the continuum. Through teacher leaders, Instructional Coaches and professional development, we are on our way to reaching new heights in writing instruction."
In 6th grade, both reading and writing are embedded into each unit of study with students working in book clubs. A hybrid workshop curriculum is implemented in order to support student readers throughout their book club journey. Units of study are genre-based and book clubs are created by level. Students work together to create a literature-rich environment in which they lead discussions based on the books they are reading. Writing is infused throughout the year and both narrative and analysis writing are mastered.
By 7th grade students already have a good understanding of the format for various styles of writing. Units are geared toward developing mastery of literary elements (point of view, symbolism, irony, etc.) and then building toward analysis of longer literary texts, such as novels and plays. As a result, students in 7th grade focus on gathering the best evidence possible and developing their explanations of this evidence by using various writing strategies. Students write many different types of essays and fine-tune their writing skills through teacher and peer feedback. Emphasis is placed on proper preparation before beginning an essay as well as revisions after completion to ensure that each student will be proud of their final product.
The level of rigor and work peaks in 8th grade, a time when students build upon the skills they have learned in the lower grades. In these upper grades, taught by Ms. Rebecca Lynch (6), Ms. Erin Carty (7), and Ms. Holly Kluck (8), students are exposed to culturally relevant and diverse texts and in Grade 8 there is a heavy emphasis on social justice. For example in 8th grade, the theme is fighting hate with humanity, and students are encouraged through their writing to make connections and understand how their experiences at school relate to the real world. Ms. Kluck begins the year with a study of Latino history in the United States. She says, “We discuss and research the important role that Hispanics have played in the building and growth of this country.”
The teachers understand learning is about more than just curriculum. They believe a significant influence on student learning occurs in language arts and that is their mindset. “It’s not about how we teach students but how we engage students so they want to learn,” said 8th Grade Language Arts Teacher Ms. Kluck. “Teachers are empowered to bring their creativity and passion into the classroom.”
In addition to Latino civil rights, students study African American history and the Holocaust, looking at where racism comes from and how it has manifested throughout history. “Students have feelings, experiences, and opinions they want to share,” said Ms. Kluck. “Writing gives them an outlet to do that.”
To encourage students to open up, Ms. Kluck creates an environment of trust, having students share only if they are comfortable. She credits Dr. Rumage with giving teachers freedom in the classroom and trusting their abilities to create lessons that engage their students. The teaching of writing also happens in a real-world context. For example, students learn how to use evidence and reason to support an argument through debate. What began as a unit in Ms. Kluck’s classroom has now grown to an inter-school debate competition among the four sending districts of Red Bank Regional High School (Red Bank, Little Silver, Shrewsbury, and Union Beach). This year’s debate recently took place at Red Bank Middle School and the Rocket team won for the second straight year.
For the poetry unit, Ms. Kluck again draws on students’ interests. She uses hip hop songs to help students identify poetic elements as well as meter and figurative language. She shows students how contemporary hip hop lyrics and lines from Shakespeare are similar. Students then write and perform their own original poetry. “When students are able to write about something they connect to, something they are passionate about,” said Ms. Sherwood, “they are more willing to take risks, generate more writing, and do so at a deeper level.”
Red Bank Middle School has also embraced community partnerships to enhance its writing instruction. Since January 2015, Project Write Now, a Red Bank nonprofit group dedicated to helping people of all ages become better writers, has worked weekly with 7th and 8th graders in the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Instruction) program, giving students opportunities to write and share in meaningful ways. At the conclusion of each year, students publish their writing in an anthology and share their pieces at a writers’ celebration.
“When we initiated this partnership, we all thought it would benefit our children,” said Dr. Rumage, “but I am certain none of us envisioned the resulting depth and magnitude to which this partnership connected to our students.” Red Bank recognizes these amazing student outcomes are the result of many people including parents, educators, and community partners. As the old proverb goes – it takes a village!
Red Bank, NJ – March 15, 2019 –