Borough schools set goals for upcoming year

Many will focus on penmanship and green consciousness

BY ENID WEISS Correspondent

As the summer winds down and the school year begins, Metuchen school officials have been looking back and forward as they evaluate last year’s educational goals and plan for the upcoming year.

Presented to the board by Schools Superintendent Terri Sinatra and school principals at its Aug. 19 meeting, the plan must be reviewed by the county superintendent of schools and then presented to the board before adoption.

Last year’s goals included focusing on safety rules for kindergartners at Moss School, improving student wellness through nutrition and exercise at Campbell School, and increasing student NJASK math test scores and enhancing reading comprehension at Edgar Middle School. The goals for the high school concentrate on improving math scores and nutrition awareness.

Goals for the upcoming year include increasing special-needs awareness and better penmanship in students at Moss School, and improving student penmanship and stepping up Spanish language lessons at Campbell School. At Edgar Middle School, the goals include augmenting reading comprehension in the second half of a two-year plan and raising environmental and social consciousness. Goals at the high school focus on amplifying foreign language writing skills and strengthening math problem-solving skills.

Students from the district’s early intervention programs are increasingly being included in regular classroom activities, prompting the Moss School goal for the 2008-09 school year.

“We have found that the more students understand their peers with special needs, the more inclusive the environment becomes,” said Paul Pineiro, director of curriculum, reading from a report about the school goals.

The penmanship goal will include handwriting exercises for school, home practice, and educating parents on the issue. He also commented on the second goal and how it came from a meeting with first-grade teachers.

“There was concern expressed that students lack the fine motor skills required to develop their written expression skills,” he said. “Colleagues I have spoken with in the county share our district’s concern that students seem to have decreasing fine motor skills and cannot express in writing what they can express verbally … . It’s a basic goal, but one we think is necessary.”

Campbell School also will focus on penmanship, with a goal of 85 percent of its students demonstrating improved penmanship. The elementary school’s other goal will expand its Spanish language curriculum from a “special” status to a language and cultural infusion.

Edgar Middle School is riding the “green” trend as it focuses on expanding recycling efforts, teaching water and energy conservation, and collecting donations of sneakers, eyeglasses, coats and other clothing items for reuse.

The middle school’s other goal — continuing its two-year literacy program — involves continued instruction in several different learning strategies for students to use when reading. For example, one strategy uses graphic organizers or charts for students to write down important points from the reading.

At the high school, the math goal homes in on 10th-grade problem-solving skills when it comes to open-ended questions and data analysis. The goal is to teach not only the math concepts used, but also how to take such tests that concentrate on what historically were known as story problems.

Spanish, French and German classes are all included in the high school’s world language goal of having 85 percent of its third-year language students pass a writing proficiency test. The goal also prepares students for honors and advanced placement (AP) coursework by teaching students how to write letters and compose essays in their foreign language.