At Struggling School, Pride Displaces Failure
The Newton School celebrates a jump in standardized test scores that may have saved it from complete shutdown.
Just last summer, the Newark Teachers Union invested $100,000 into an improvement program at Newton, though they had poured more than half of that into political attack billboard ads around the city.
The so-called new Newton, which has been touted as a model for education reform, not only raised the school’s profile within the district but also freed it from the usual bureaucracy and paperwork that dictate school life, Newton teachers and administrators said. With the support of the union, Newton was able to replace 6 of its 44 teachers, a turnaround for a place that had once been known as a “training ground,” of sorts, for teachers who failed in other schools. It also extended the school day by an hour for the middle grades.
Seton Hall’s education professors took over much of the staff development, scheduling workshops on data analysis and coaching newer teachers in their classrooms. They equipped every Newton faculty member with a free I.B.M. laptop, and handed out basketballs and tickets to Seton Hall’s home games as an incentive for students and their parents. About 50 Seton Hall undergraduates came to Newton last fall to tutor students.
“I didn’t feel alone,” said Kevin Kilgore, 23, a third-grade math teacher who just finished his first year at Newton. “Teaching can be a very lonely profession. When you’re in a classroom, you’re the only adult. Because of this alliance, I knew there were many people, many adults involved.”