Differentiated instruction will be focus in classrooms

Differentiated instruction
will be focus in classrooms

JACKSON — Parents and students coming back to school will enjoy the results of a summertime sprint by the facilities staff and a push by administrators to implement a new approach to reaching each and every student.

"Every June we take a deep breath and jump in to all the work we have to do and every September we look back and wonder how we got it all done," said Superintendent of Schools Thomas Gialanella. "This year is no exception. Once again, our staff has worked hard all summer to create the best educational and physical environment for our students."

Gialanella said the district is ready to welcome more than 9,750 students on Sept. 3, the first day of school. District enrollment has grown by more than 300 students since graduation day just three months ago.

"Because of our research over the years, it’s no surprise that our district continues to grow at this rate, but it continues to be a challenge," Gialanella said.

In addition to the scrubbing, waxing and general repair that takes place in every school, the district embarked on a number of facility improvements this summer, including:

• Completing the construction of a new gymnasium at Switlik Elementary School;

• Removing and replacing the decades-old tile throughout the Switlik school and installing a new HVAC system there that will provide air conditioning to student classrooms;

• Paving the transportation facility parking lot;

• A complete restructuring and repaving of the parking lot at the Goetz Middle School;

• Repairing the tennis courts and relining the track at Jackson Memorial High School;

• Renovating the girls locker room at the high school;

• Installing a new heating system in the Clayton cafeteria at the high school;

• Completing a drainage repair project at Johnson Elementary School;

• Completing a sidewalk and curb repair project at Holman Elementary School;

• Renovating trailers at Switlik, Goetz and McAuliffe as a proactive measure to prevent water damage;

• Replacing the gym curtain at the McAuliffe Middle School.

While crews worked to prepare the buildings, administrators and principals worked to introduce a number of new and improved educational initiatives, including a plan to train and encourage teachers to apply the principles of "differentiated instruction" in their classrooms.

"At its most basic level, differentiated instruction is the idea that when it comes to education, ‘one size’ does not fit all," said Gialanella. "It may sound like a new educational buzzword, but it is actually an approach that we have spent a great deal of time researching and refining and we are looking forward to putting it into practice."

Differentiated instruction requires a careful evaluation of the learning styles, abilities and interests of each student within a classroom on a continuing basis. It asks educators to create activities and instruction that takes into consideration the differing learning styles of students in order to meet the needs of each student in a classroom.

The district is working on helping teachers learn to better recognize the diversity of learning in each child and to increase the variety of teaching methods and assessment tools used during the school day.

The district’s in-service training on Sept. 2, which is themed "Meeting the Needs of All Learners," will focus on these principles. Administrators and teachers who have spent the past year creating an action plan for the district will help train their fellow teachers using specific and practical tools and activities that can be immediately applied in the classrooms during the year.

"The key here is not to just talk to teachers about what we should do, but to provide specific examples of classroom activities that will help them," Giala-nella said. "These specific and very creative tools will help teachers evaluate and reach students who have different learning speeds and styles."

This year the district will also:

• Continue its schedule to review, implement and assess all areas of instruction by adopting a new health and physical education curriculum and reviewing the math and music curriculum;

• Continue to plan for the opening of Jackson Liberty High School in 2006 by reviewing how to schedule and execute one curriculum in two different facilities.