Betty Scola (right) shows detailed data tables to Elizabeth Walsh (left). All images provided.
Waterford, NJ — Representatives from the New Jersey Department of Education’s Division of Performance visited Waterford Elementary School last week to learn more about Waterford’s practices which have led to strong improvements in state assessments over the last several years. The visit included presentations by Dr. Brenda Harring, Superintendent, and her leadership team as well as observations of classroom instruction at various grade levels.
The district leadership team provided a comprehensive overview of new programs that are positively impacting student achievement. For example, Christine Manna, instructional coach, indicated that the new GO Math! program has helped to strengthen math concepts for students by engaging them in a new way of learning. Number talk discussions among students allows them to think differently about math and numbers. The successful implementation of GO Math! can easily be attributed to the 5E instructional model of engage, explore, explain, elaborate, evaluate. This model promises to transform planning and teaching and develops mathematical understanding in students.
Another meaningful effort to boost student achievement was the district’s participation in the Literacy Leadership Team Institute hosted by Lesley University in Massachusetts. During the 5-day training, Waterford administrators and teachers learned how to build a culture of collaboration. This work will guide the team in developing a common vision of literacy teaching and learning. While at the training, the team focused on lesson planning and student assessment while reviewing research-based models for school improvement, including Literacy Collaborative. Through the work they completed together, participants can actively work to improve student outcomes in reading and writing.
Engaging parents and guardians has been advantageous as new programs are rolled out. The district often hosts evening events to introduce important new learning tools and strengthen the home – school collaboration. The district is keenly aware that they must continue to evolve in order to meet the needs of all students and their families. Increased communication remains a high priority.
“I’m so proud of Waterford’s achievements over the last several years. As a leader, it’s easy to have ideas that can improve student outcomes. It’s completely different when you have a trusted leadership team who can take those ideas and see them through to implementation,” stated Dr. Brenda Harring, superintendent of Waterford Township Public Schools.
A common theme throughout all of the presentations was a methodical approach to the use of student data. Betty Scola, data analyst, shared intricate tables of student data that are used by administrators and teachers to closely monitor student progress. Ms. Scola indicated that her weekly classroom visits to provide support to teachers and students have been instrumental in helping her colleagues understand and value the data she provides them.
The district currently receives Title 1 funding to ensure that students meet challenging state academic content and student academic achievement standards. However, the district is limited to targeting that funding toward students with the highest levels of academic need. The district plans to submit an application to the New Jersey Department of Education to operate a schoolwide Title I program, allowing the district to utilize its funding and resources for all students.
About Waterford Township School District
Waterford Township School District, located in Camden County, is a suburban pre-kindergarten through 6th grade school district with an enrollment of nearly 870 students.
To learn more, visit www.wtsd.org.