The Young Men’s Leadership Academy, a failing all-boys school, is being targeted for a “turnaround” effort by the school district.
Under the plan unveiled on Wednesday night, the school district will have all staff members, except the principal, re-apply for their jobs at the school. School day will be extended by 60 minutes. And teachers will be provided extensive professional development, through the summer and during the school year, on effectively instructing boys.
“We’re interested in having teachers there who are interested in serving these students,” said assistant superintendent Cicely Warren. “We really need for the staff to be experts in teaching the way young boys learn.”
District staff have visited all-boys schools in place like Boston to figure out a way to remake the Young Men’s Leadership Academy, which was created three years ago with lofty goals that never materialized.
The school was placed in the lowest five-percent of low-income schools in the state by the New Jersey Department of Education earlier in the year. 90-percent of the boys failed English section of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) in 2016-17 school year.
Longtime school board member Jonathan Hodges asked about the reading scores on Wednesday night. He wanted to know where the boys were falling short.
Warren identified reading comprehension.
Hodges asked whether the school will include hands on learning which is appealing to young minority boys like MakerSpace.
Warren said the district is looking at project-based learning. Hodges suggested introducing Makerspace to the school. She said a plan has to be put together before the district purchases materials for Makerspace.
“We’re not catching their attention. We got to find ways to capture their attention, particularly early on, so they can be locked into the education process,” said Hodges.
The school suffered from instability both in location and staff. The school was moved from downtown Paterson to Prospect Park. The district extended the lease on the Prospect Park building for two more years to ensure stability.
Some school board members wanted a way to lock in teachers for two or three years after training them. However, this won’t be possible under the existing teachers’ contract.
“It’s our hope those teachers will remain with the program,” said superintendent Eileen Shafer on Friday referring teachers trained to educate boys. “When we get the right people, we’re not going to be transferring people in and out.”
There will be no “forced placement” of staff without the principal’s permission at the school under the plan, said Warren.
Warren said the changes will be made ahead of the 2018-19 school year. She outlined ambitious goals for the school, which has fewer than 60 boys in grades 3-7 (8th will be added in Sept. 2018), in her presentation to the school board.
She wants 80-percent of students entering grades 3-5, who are two or more years behind in reading, to boost their reading skills by one level through guided reading and intervention. She wants school attendance increased by 2-percent from the current 93-percent.
Students in 6-8 grades will improve their writing skills by 25-percent, according to another goal.
School board members Capers called it a “good” plan for the school.
“We don’t need to close it. We need to fix it. I like Ms. Warren’s plan,” said Capers. He said the district needs to provide the school’s principal with resources.
Capers said he is also lobbying the district to let the students use the YMCA on Ward Street for gym.
“They don’t go anywhere,” said Capers. He said the YMCA has a track field and swimming pools the boys can use.
The Young Men’s Leadership Academy will be the city’s 2nd “turnaround” school. School 21 was designated in 2016.