R’s and Stars program returns to Eisenhower

FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP – In addition to new students, new teachers and the overall excitement that comes at the beginning of a new school year, the Eisenhower Middle School, Burlington Road, added to that enthusiasm with its second annual R’s and Stars Kick-Off.

The kick-off is part of a school-wide program which promotes defining, teaching and recognizing positive student behavior throughout the year, according to a press release from the school district.

At the start of the school day on Sept. 7, students were greeted by teachers wearing T-shirts with the slogan Got Respect? on them while inspiring music played over the school speaker system.

Signs displaying the three R’s, Respect, Responsibility and Readiness to Learn, lined the hallways amid balloons in the school colors of black and gold.

Once in their classes, students were taught formal lessons on expectations and directions to achieving positive behavior in various situations. More in-depth presentations were given to first-year sixth-graders while seventh-graders and eighth-graders were given mini-lessons as a refresher.

In addition to the annual kick-off, booster sessions are held throughout the year in order to clarify expectations with students.

“The program provides consistent expectations for all and allows teachers to shine a light on good behavior,” Principal Dianne Brethauer said.

During the year, students are recognized by receiving stars, which are recorded on attendance cards. When a student receives five stars, a certificate is sent home to parents by the principal. Each year since the program’s inception in 2005, the number of stars distributed increases. Last year the number amounted to more than 12,000.

The R’s and Stars program began at Eisenhower as a result of a State Improvement Grant funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Students, parents and teachers responded so well to the program that it has been continued and expanded, according to the press release.

Teachers work on committees with building coordinators to develop lesson plans and sets of specific guidelines.

Greg Durante, building coordinator and school guidance counselor, said plans are developed to address different areas such as behavior in hallways, on the bus and in the lunchroom.

“Needs are assessed to develop the behavioral support topics and lesson plans are then created for teachers to work from,” he said.

Teachers use the plans to remain consistent with the expectations and adapt them as necessary to mesh with the subject matter in each class.

“The program is great to promote positive behavior and reinforce what is expected,” said Robyn Ioviero, eighth-grade math teacher. “We build up the positive and have had a great response.”

In order to support and nurture the program, monthly committee meetings are held to evaluate and define concepts. In addition to input from the teachers, a survey of Eisenhower students, parents and staff was initially conducted to determine behavioral needs and expectations for the school. Feedback is also gathered each year to add necessary improvements to the program, according to the press release.