Mission and Overview
The mission of the John Y. Dater School is to provide each student with an upper elementary school educational experience that bridges the gap between the district’s primary schools and the middle school. Our school motto, “Work Hard and Be Kinder than is Necessary” is the guiding principle of our school. Building upon this foundation, Dater School places an equal emphasis on Character, Content, and Skills. In this narrative I will highlight our school priorities and some of the exciting new initiatives. These priorities and initiatives include: 21st Century Learning, an integrated curriculum supported by teacher learning, co-teaching, a standards-based report card, technology integration, the education of the whole child, and school-community partnerships. Everyone at Dater School strives to provide our students with a stimulating learning environment where they can grow socially, emotionally and academically.
Our rigorous curriculum consists of reading, writing, social studies, mathematics, science, world languages, art, music, library, physical education and health. This year both grades have been organized into two departments: Humanities and Mathematics/Science. Each teacher receives instruction from one teacher in each department. The Humanities teacher facilitates a robust curriculum integrating reading, writing, and social studies. Reading, writing, and social studies are integrated into a course of study called Humanities. We use Balanced Literacy for the teaching of reading and writing through the workshop model and intentionally plan opportunities to integrate reading and writing with the grade-level Social Studies curriculum. In Grade 4 this curriculum includes an exploration of Economics, Colonial America, Native Americans, The American Revolution, and Government. In Grade 5 the curriculum focuses on the Ancient World. The mathematics/science teacher guides the students through both mathematics and science, making connections when appropriate and useful. Students are also benefiting from a new textbook series in mathematics that is aligned with the rigorous New Jersey Learning Standards. The faculty and staff at Dater School continue to demonstrate a commitment to professional learning. Over the course of the year the staff will continue working with staff developers and the district’s new instructional coaches in the areas of Balanced Literacy, Mathematics, and Technology. Furthermore, the teachers show evidence of professional growth through participation in district-developed workshops, continued attendance of out-of-district workshops, the completion of graduate courses and serving on various District committees.
21st Century Learning Initiative
Along with all of the Ramsey Schools, we place a heavy emphasis on 21st Century Skills. These habits of mind, which are emphasized across the curriculum, include collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking, research, and the use of logic and evidence. In the classrooms, students are engaged in activities that build critical thinking and evaluative skills in an atmosphere that recognizes and appreciates student strengths. These are skills consistent with the mission of all of Ramsey’s schools and with the goals of our district’s 21st Century Learning Initiative.
This year Dater School is expanding its co-teaching model to include two full sections in both Grade 4 and Grade 5. Co-teaching is defined as two certified teachers jointly delivering substantive instruction to a diverse, or blended, group of students in a single space. Each teacher brings their experience and expertise to the co-teaching partnership. In these classrooms, the co-teachers (a general education and special education teacher) collaboratively create lessons, use different models or approaches to develop instructional strategies based on student needs. Some models that will be used include stations, parallel and alternative teaching. Our belief system is that all students are a part of the learning community/classroom and make valuable contributions even if their abilities differ. Co-teachers focus on using student data and student work to analyze student learning and collaborate to make informed decisions about instruction.
We continue to grow in the area of instructional technology, each classroom is equipped with a SmartBoard, document camera, and student work stations. Students and teachers also take advantage of the 240 iPads that we have to share throughout the school. This year the iPads are being housed in the classroom to allow for more seamless integration of instructional technology into the learning process. Our Information Technology Center houses a full cart of Chromebooks to facilitate research and foster participation in collaborative problem solving. Students and faculty use Google Apps for Education in a variety of ways to support and enhance the teaching and learning process. All students have full email capabilities and participate in an evolving instructional technology curriculum that develops computer skills, digital citizenship, and integrates technology into our everyday curriculum.
Standards-Based Progress Reports
We are excited to announce the transition to a standards-based report card for the 2016-2017 school year. A standards-based report card highlights the most important skills students should learn in each subject at a particular grade level. In our elementary school learning environment, students will receive marks that report student progress toward meeting content and performance standards three times a year. A standards-based report card allows parents to see how their child is progressing toward a particular standard and gives teachers a better tool for documenting a learner’s progress.
Proficiency levels will be determined by multiple assessments, student work samples, and teacher observations. All of the information will be used to determine how the student is progressing toward the end-of-year standards.
Character Education, Co-curricular, and Extra-curricular activities
Dater School values the education of the whole child, and students are involved in art, music, world languages, Information Technology, and physical education on a regular basis. We provide support, as necessary, through enrichment, speech, basic skills instruction, a special needs program, and ESL. Our Academic Support Program (formerly called Basic Skills) provides extra support for students needing assistance in the areas of mathematics, reading and writing. Our enrichment program offers activities to students on a pullout, whole class and interest basis. Students also benefit from a strong social-emotional curriculum and character education program centered on the RULER approach and the 6 Pillars of Character, respectively. The RULER curriculum and the pillars are taught during weekly lessons by the homeroom teacher and monthly lessons conducted by the school’s guidance counselor. They are also reinforced and celebrated at our monthly Spirit Day assemblies. The amount of extra-curricular activities available to Dater students is truly astounding. To name of few, students can participate in intramural Sports, the school musical, the safety patrol, various clubs, LEAD (formerly DARE), and Dater Dateline (our very own television show formerly called Ramsey Alive).
Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO)
One of Dater’s greatest assets is the tremendous level of support provided for our students by the PTO (Parent-Teacher Organization) and the extended community. The PTO generously seeks to enrich the lives of students both in and out of the classroom. Allowing parents to share in their children’s educational experience is an enriching and positive part of a child’s academic growth. We, at Dater School, fully support this belief.