CHESTER SCHOOL DISTRICT (27-0820-020)

Black River Middle School

Black River Middle School students are growing up in a rewarding and complex society. Exemplary preparation for future success requires that students confront new ideas, facts, and procedures head-on and process them accurately and efficiently. As students encounter information, they continually clarify new insights and expectations. Teachers design multiple strategies to develop assessment tools and to advance student abilities to communicate complex data. Of course, students require a considerable set of skills to retain and comprehend new information; therefore, all areas of academic life address the attention, interest, and incentive they need to become life-long proficient learners.

Black River Middle School’s objectives are designed to improve student performance, strengthen high expectations of achievement in all areas, and foster positive community relations and trust in school goals. Opportunities for high academic achievement advance well-designed instruction and assessment. Curriculum implementation and continuous review encourages intensive planning to benefit student learning through unique and innovative strategies such as peer tutoring, Study Island, Math Explorations, and Tech Detectives activities. As a result, Black River Middle School was re-designated in 2014 as a School to Watch by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform. For further information, please visit www.middlegradesforum.org. Additionally, the New Jersey Department of Education named Black River a High Progress school.

Offering all children ways to learn the positive benefits of personal accountability and choosing alternative peaceful solutions increases their attention in class. A comprehensive focus on learning empowers our students to achieve on academic tests and to be productive contributors in real world settings. Character education curriculum is infused across all content areas to advance caring and responsibility throughout our school. Peer leadership demonstration lessons are in place to create classrooms where academic success is supported, social connections encouraged, and the bonds of family, school, and neighborhood reinforced. In fact, Black River’s Advisory Program was designed to promote kinship among the students by providing them with a forum to meet and establish social relationships, discuss issues relevant to middle school students, and build camaraderie with peers from all grade levels under the guidance of teachers who offer a creative and nurturing environment for optimal success of the program.

Encouraging children to learn through their interests has increased interpretive skills and enhanced their ability to link personal knowledge with school experiences. For example, all students develop annual goals and career goals with input from their parents and school administrators. The Core Curriculum and Cross-Content Workplace Readiness Standards addressed by this practice include developing career planning, using technology, and designing opportunities for students to enhance their skills in the following essential areas: critical thinking, decision making, problem solving, and self-management. Members of the staff document cumulative progress indicators while teams of teachers collaborate on interdisciplinary activities, homework support, differentiated instruction, and virtual field trip experiences. Infusing 21st century skills throughout the curricula ensures that students can think critically, communicate effectively, and use creativity and innovation in all aspects of life. For example, our students have 1:1 Chrome Book usage and are given student email accounts along with the use of Google Documents. These programs allow students to communicate with teachers and collaborate with other students. They can share documents, spread sheets, presentations, and other media. Gmail and Google Documents allow the students to participate in a safe online community. The implementation of 21st century skills is also evident in the school’s use of the Power School web-based data program and the overall effort to communicate our schools’ story via social media. Power School provides students and parents with on-demand access to grades, attendance, and other pertinent information in order to track and assess individual progress. Social media outreach provides stakeholders, community members, and anyone interested in the school’s programs to follow and interact with our educational efforts in real time. In addition, students have time to build and experiment in the BRMS Makerspace located in the media center and supervised by our librarian.

Professional growth is an important part of the school culture. Staff members are active contributors at faculty meetings, participate in online book talks, visit each other's classrooms, and collaborate with the technology coaches. Google Classroom has become an integral part of how students access information, submit assignments, communicate, and collaborate. Teachers also leverage the power of Google Apps for Education to foster innovation within their PLCs. Many staff members have taken the initiative to become Google Certified Educators that will ultimately help promote the success of all students. Often Black River Middle School staff will present best practice teaching techniques at educational conferences such as the New Jersey Association of Middle Level Educators Annual Conference.

In effect, the focus of the middle school experience at Black River is to teach students to develop skills that will help them to make meaningful connections between what they learn at school and what they need to know in the world outside their classrooms. As a result, academic success is highlighted as a collective value for all members of our school community.