Since Michael Polizzi took the reins as Superintendent of New Milford Schools three years ago, he has placed intensive focus on program development, professional support for teacher advancement, increased staffing, reduction of class size and emphasis on student achievement. Part of his philosophy has been that by building effective teachers, you build effective learners. At the curve of three years, the district is beginning to reap the rewards of that vision.
Polizzi announced this week that sixth, seventh and eighth grade students outperformed both the state average and New Jersey schools in the same District Factor Group (DFG) in six out of seven categories in Mathematics, English-Language Arts, and Science on the 2011-2012 New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJASK) exam. Additionally, DEOMS outperformed the state and DFG in Advanced Proficiency of students by five percentage points in English-Language Arts, 4.2 percentage points in Math, and 8.8 percentage points in Science.
According to Polizzi, the New Milford School District’s agenda for growth and innovation is paying off in substantial educational dividends for the children of New Milford.
“These indicators provide evidence that district reform efforts are translating into systemic improvement across all grade levels and in all academic disciplines tested on the NJASK,” he stated.
Polizzi attributes this spike in performance to the dedication and commitment of DEOMS teachers, as well as the coordinated efforts of school administration, under the leadership of Principal Whitney Perro and district Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Danielle Shanley.
Perro credits the school-wide independent reading initiative with the success in English-Language Arts. The independent reading initiative began as a grassroots effort by the seventh grade English-Language Arts professional learning community of teachers two years ago.
"(The independent reading initiative) has engendered a cultural shift in favor of the value of independent choice reading for middle schoolers,” Perro said.
Shanley asserted, “The implementation of a standards-based math program in grades six and seven with quality training for teachers, we believe, has directly influenced the outcomes in mathematics.”
Three years ago, Perro launched the school’s “Kick ASK” campaign through which she inspired what ultimately resulted in the hard work of students and engaged the support and trust of parents.
Perro has drawn on two key mottos which have successfully driven the school’s academic progress: “If nothing changes, nothing changes,” and “Failure is not an option,” to borrow a phrase from educational guru Alan Blankstein. These mantras are persistent, resounding messages that can be heard at faculty meetings, parent gatherings, and seen throughout the building as constant reminders of the kind of mindset required to meet the academic challenges of today and effect positive change.
“This is a case of everybody pulling together at the right time,” Perro concluded.
According to Polizzi, "In the end, DEO students did, in fact, Kick ASK!"
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