The Greater Brunswick Charter School
1997 New Jersey Charter School Application
The Greater Brunswick Regional Charter School is defined by the broad themes of child-directed learning in the vein of constructivism, Howard Gardner's "unschooled mind," and Montessori instruction; multi-age groupings of students; a unique degree of parental and community involvement; and a region of residence serving the entire and contiguous school districts of New Brunswick, Edison, Highland Park, and Milltown.
There are three pillars upon which the Charter School will be built:
- Children direct their own education.
- Students, staff, and parents/sponsors create a learning community.
- The Charter School builds civility, community, and democracy.
These pillars rest on the belief that human beings are innately curious, that both the family and community are essential participants in the education of children, and that a vital democracyrequires the nurturing of rational, creative, and communicative individuals. The educational goals of the Charter School encompass three intertwined areas of education: intellectual development, socioemotional growth, and community relationships and civic responsibility. This Charter School will be a place where personal and collective excellence flourish.
Students will have both individual and group educational objectives; thus, the educational program addresses these two facets. The curriculum itself will be both structured and flexible, with the focus on process and skill acquisition. The content will be directed by a combination of student interests, group dynamics, teacher guidance, and the State Core Curriculum Content Standards.
Each child's interests and needs as well as processing style will be used to set developmentally appropriate goals in a Personal Education Plan. The general educational goals of each student's plan are (a) to nurture independent learning and (b) develop the child's full potential. The development of plans is also informed by the State Core Curriculum Content Standards.
Assessment is a dynamic, evolving process that changes as a child develops and incorporates new knowledge and skills. We are concerned with children work and learn as well as they learn. Any evaluation should examine each child on the basis of his or her own progress, not in relation to a generic "norm." We view assessment as a process to improve student learning, as well as a means for charting a child's progress. Teachers will be given latitude in developing appropriate ways to monitor the development of students' knowledge, understanding, and skills throughout the school year. This repertoire of assessment tools will include student portfolios, teacher records, inventories, student journals, exhibitions, as well as standardized tests.
Assessment of teaching and administrative staff, as well as the school itself, will be linked to student assessments in a logical and meaningful way. This is referred to as the "assessment/accountability loop." This loop is necessary because all the school's stakeholders should be accountable to one another. This loop will promote personal and institutional excellence. High student achievement on standardized tests will be one measure of success for our school. After three to four years, we will do better than comparable districts on these objective test measures. However, more complex self-assessment criteria will be needed to judge progress as it relates to the broad goals of the Charter School mission statement. An internal process of self-evaluation will be confirmed, reinforced and refined by an outside assessment team. The goal of both internal and external assessment, in turn, will be to produce a detailed action plan for self-improvement and adjustment for the school as a whole.
Parental involvement in the running of this Charter School is central to its success. We envision a school with small classes that works to create a strong sense of community, empathy, and trust among its students. We welcome parents/sponsors as full partners in the education of the school's children and will rely on them to commit a significant amount of labor in the school.
The Charter School will work to ensure an atmosphere in which parents/sponsors feel inclinedand not burdenedto contribute their time and effort. The Charter School will also work to ensure that incoming parents/sponsors are supported in undertaking their responsibilities. Adult mentors, the staff, and job coordinator will work to make tasks clearly defined, manageable, and reasonable.
The Board of Trustees represents all parts of the school communityparents/sponsors, staff, and studentsand serves as the directly elected agent of the General Membership to manage the operation and growth of the school. Members of the Board of Trustees are parents of children enrolled in the Charter School. The Board of Trustees will be served by an Advisory Board of community members, experts, and specialists who will play a central role in implementing the Charter School's mission. At this time, members of the Advisory Board include Dr. Penelope Lattimer, Assistant Superintendent New Brunswick Public Schools; Alice Alston, Princeton Research Institute for Science and Mathematics - Learning; Holly Houston, the Center for Leadership and School Structure; Jacque Rubel, Director Emeritus, Institute for Arts and Humanities Education; and Cary Cherniss, Rutgers Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology.
The School Review Committee, comprised of professional staff and parents, is the primary vehicle for developing specific educational policies and developing the curriculum. This committee ensures that the curriculum and educational program reflect the mission of the school, the expertise of our educational professionals, and the concerns of the General Membership. This committee also ensures educators have a strong role in the governance of the school.
The Charter School will open in September, 1998, with 100 students encompassing the ages 5 through 12 (or the equivalent of grades K through 6). A balanced financial plan is submitted assuming a guaranteed revenue stream of $714,736 from state, local, and categorical aid; an additional $90,000 from a Federal grant for Charter School startup; and an additional $20,000 revenue from fundraising.