BETSY ROSS SCHOOL
Nestled in a beautiful residential community is a little gem, Betsy Ross School. All schools have their own culture; the culture of Betsy Ross is not just that of academic excellence but one of caring, loving, and acceptance. Describing Betsy Ross School, a second grader once wrote, “I love my cozy school.” This is a sentiment shared by many children and parents as they begin their first journey through school at Betsy Ross. As primary educators, the staff of Betsy Ross School recognizes the tremendous responsibility we have to frame each child’s first school experiences. We realize the powerful impact we have on the lives of children both academically and emotionally. We strive to educate the whole child, meet his/her developmental needs, celebrate individual efforts, inspire academic achievement, and include the family in all we do as a community of learners.
Our school is in Mahwah, an expansive, diverse community, which covers approximately 26.5 square miles in northwest Bergen County, NJ. The name of our town comes from the native Lenni Lenape word “mawewi,” which means “meeting place.” We continue this history as we come together for learning and support. Our school’s mission is to meet the varied needs of our diverse student population so that each student has the opportunity to maximize his or her educational potential.
In September 2012, the United States Department of Education recognized Betsy Ross School as a National Blue Ribbon School, highlighting the amazing qualities of our K-3 school: high performing students, dedicated, skilled staff and supportive parents. National Blue Ribbon status only goes to the highest performing schools in the country. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan shared, “Schools honored with the National Blue Ribbon Award are committed to accelerating student achievement and preparing students for success in college and careers. Their work reflects the conviction that every child has promise and that education is the surest pathway to a strong, secure future.”
The New Jersey Department of Education named Betsy Ross a Reward School in 2014 for its high performance on standardized tests. This recognition, awarded to a select number of schools in Bergen County, came as no surprise to the staff of Betsy Ross School, for their dedication and hard work is evident each day.
The acquisition of reading, writing, and math problem-solving skills are priorities at the primary level. Students are instructed using a research-based reading and writing program designed to increase their confidence and fluency through direct phonics instruction, leveled reading of both fiction and non-fiction texts, and a rigorous writing program. Our reading and writing programs, based on the Columbia University Teachers College Workshop model, emphasize “just-right” books, author study, writing in multiple genres, and writing for real-world audiences. Students learn writing crafts that help them to write authentically, with purpose and voice, and to assess their writing through the use of rubrics. The importance of non-fiction reading and writing is an area of focus, and our students have many opportunities to read and write across the curriculum in content areas such as math, science, social studies, the arts, and physical education/health. Our mathematics program, Everyday Math, emphasizes problem-solving and the development of higher level thinking skills. Daily home assignments connect to math topics from the classroom, and a technology-based support system is accessible to students at home and in school. Additionally, we utilize a technology-based computation program, Reflex Math, which the students can use both in school and at home. Keeping school and home connected is one of the reasons Betsy Ross students are ready when they move to fourth grade. Student support services include remedial reading and mathematics, speech, ESL and special education programs for qualifying students.
Our collaborative staff is committed to continual professional development that improves teaching craft and student learning outcomes. They regularly engage in in-depth analysis of multiple sources of assessment data to inform instructional practices and best meet the varied needs of our students. Teachers meet both horizontally and vertically across the grades to plan, share best practices, conduct action research, and examine student work. We believe that this continual focus on educational excellence, coupled with tremendous support from our students’ families, is largely responsible for our success.
The Library/Media Center provides instruction in research and technology skills, as well as the development of lifelong readers. Students have supervised Internet access in all classrooms, through the Library/Media Center, our computer lab, tablets, and a wireless mobile cart with two sets of laptops. All classrooms have Promethean interactive whiteboards, which provide the opportunity for teachers to deliver lessons using multiple sources that provide dynamic auditory, visual, and kinesthetic experiences for all students. Teachers can immediately assess student understanding of concepts through the use of ActiVotes, a wireless, hand-held student response system tied to the Promethean boards.
Our annual Science Day, Walk-a-Thon, Field Day, Author Days, and themed reading incentive program, as well as monthly curriculum-related assembly programs, provide school-wide enrichment. Our teachers seek mini-grants to fund innovative curricular projects through the Mahwah Schools Foundation, a volunteer group of parents and community members who, supported by local businesses and fund-raising efforts, have donated over a million dollars to the Mahwah schools. Betsy Ross staff and community are constantly looking for grant writing opportunities that will foster our school’s positive growth and change.
Character and citizenship education is the center for our daily and monthly activities. Our social-emotional learning program, called “Responsive Classroom,” teaches children to value honesty, responsibility, and respect and actively teaches caring for one another. Children work together each day during morning meeting to build their classroom community and learn about respect and kindness. All 216 students gather in our All-Purpose Room for a welcome meeting with the principal each morning to discuss school happenings, our school theme for the year, community news, and to recognize everyday excellence that our students display. The entire school community ends the welcome meeting with a recitation of the Betsy Ross School pledge: “I am a citizen of Betsy Ross School. I will do my best to treat others with kindness and respect and follow the school rules.” This is just another reason why Betsy Ross School is so unique.
Parents are an integral part of Betsy Ross School. Our Home School Organization has thirty-five committees that sponsor numerous events. The HSO funds assemblies, field trips and the purchase of many materials and resources for daily use. The HSO is actively involved in the Read-a-Thon, Math Mania, and many more of our annual traditions. They also lead food collections to donate to local agencies.
The Betsy Ross staff and parents create a close-knit family of dedicated stakeholders providing a nurturing school environment – a “home away from home.”