In a recent gathering of the Englewood School Board, discussions regarding student proficiency based on standardized testing results and an innovative mentoring program stood out.
The New Jersey Graduation Proficiency Assessment (NJ GPA), which gauges 11th-grade students’ readiness for graduation in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics, showcased Englewood’s growth. The district’s ELA results displayed 86.5% of students as “graduation ready,” overtaking the state average of 80.5%. However, in Mathematics, 51.2% of students were prepared, slightly below the state average of 55%. A deeper dive into the data revealed Academy and Choice students achieved a striking 100% graduation readiness in ELA, while Englewood resident students stood at 80.1%.
While Englewood’s successes in English language arts were lauded, the focus gravitated toward continual enhancement, especially in Mathematics. The impressive rise of economically disadvantaged students from a 35% proficiency rate in 2022 to 87% in 2023 garnered particular praise. Additionally, students with disabilities, who previously recorded zero passes in the English language arts test in 2022, surged to a 50% pass rate in 2023.
Mr. Armental, principal of Dwight Morrow High School, highlighted the strategies propelling these advancements. Initiatives like revised master schedules, increased engagement, academic accountability, and a strategy of placing students based on academic proficiency rather than grade level were lauded.
Beyond the figures, the board heard a presentation from Dwight Morrow Academy and UPenn Wharton alumnus, Mr. Ryan Pruitt, who discussed the “Blu in school” mentoring program. Initiated during the pandemic, Blu focuses on enabling students to design passion projects that align with their career ambitions. These projects, spanning from startups to intricate mechanical designs like a working cardboard airplane, give students a competitive edge when applying to colleges or internships.
Having started at UPenn, Blu has since expanded its horizons, reaching schools from Philadelphia to Ohio. Its yearly highlight, the Project Festival, offers students a platform to showcase their ventures, with the most promising ones winning funding. A board member reminisced about attending this festival, commending the initiative’s potential to help Englewood’s academic culture.
The board also discussed the subject of board member attendance and the intricacies of remote participation. The proposal of an overall attendance requirement either virtually or in-person spurred back and forth among council members. Amidst the multiple suggestions, a motion to return the draft policy to the policy committee for additional scrutiny was raised.
As the meeting neared its conclusion, security concerns and the district’s hiring practices were raised by resident Dario Shears. The board elucidated its strategies while maintaining the aim of in-house hiring, even amidst the challenges of position vacancies.