LINWOOD — Educational success is not just about collecting the right information, but rather what is done with that information to improve student outcomes, Mainland Regional High School Superintendent Mark Marrone says.
Marrone was speaking at a meeting Tuesday of school administrators and state Department of Education officials Tuesday at Mainland, part of a tour of the high school, which was recently named one of seven Lighthouse Districts in the state.
“We have a responsive educational community,” Marrone said earlier Tuesday, just before the arrival of NJDOE Deputy Commissioner Peter Shulman.
Before arriving at Mainland, Shulman visited another Lighthouse District, Cape May City Elementary School, on Tuesday morning. He has plans, along with Commissioner Kimberley Harrington, to visit all the Lighthouse Districts in the state to find out what they are doing right.
The Lighthouse District designation, announced by the NJDOE in September with the latest PARCC test results, recognizes districts for “illuminating the path toward academic growth and student success” by achieving academic growth in English language arts and mathematics with diverse student groups.
The DOE will hear from educators from all the Lighthouse Districts in order to highlight best practices. The visits are part of that initiative. State officials said Tuesday they are interested in efforts that could be scalable.
Marrone said the positive data that won Mainland its recognition this year is a byproduct of the district responding to the needs of the community over several years. One of those needs was the changing demographics and economic situations of the members of its three communities: Somers Point, Linwood and Northfield.
Marrone said the district started its after-school IMPACT program for students to earn or recover credits they may have missed due to being out of school. In addition, the district started a ninth-grade program for at-risk students to transition them to the high school experience.
“We did it last year, and we saw a number of kids improved,” Marrone said.
Mainland Regional and Cape May city schools were recognized Wednesday by the state Department of Education as two of seven Lighthouse Districts in the state, a new designation highlighting academic growth.
Shulman said he has heard from teachers around the state that despite all the data collected on student progress by school districts, the teachers don’t have access to that data. He said he was particularly impressed with Mainland’s ability to share its data with educators in the district.
Marrone admitted that at first, Mainland wasn’t sharing enough data, and it’s still a work in progress.
Dorsey Finn, Mainland coordinator of planning, instruction and evaluation, said the district also has been effective in evaluating its faculty members. Finn said the evaluations push teachers to implement rigorous coursework that will prepare students not just for college but for careers.
“Get teachers to look beyond June,” Finn said.
Marrone said he was proud and humbled to be leading a Lighthouse District.
“It gives validation that we are heading in the right direction,” Marrone said.
School districts around the state spend all year preparing students for the spring PARCC testing, but when the test is over, the work is far from done. As test results are released the following fall, administrators and teachers begin analyzing results and developing ways to improve for the next year.
Marrone said he hoped the state Education Department was able to see that Mainland is a school that really loves its kids.
“And our teachers really have a passion for what they do,” he said.