Frequently Asked Questions

GENERAL

Q: Why was this plan, All Schools Rise: Phase Two of the Camden Commitment, created?

A: This plan was created to build on the progress that has been made since the first Camden Commitment in January 2014 and to share with the entire community how we plan to accomplish our goal of every child in Camden having access to an excellent education.

Q: How was this document created?

A: Like the original Camden Commitment, this document was created with extensive input from the community. Hundreds of students, educators, parents, and residents gave feedback through our online survey and dozens provided in-person feedback at five community meetings. Those ideas and suggestions informed the creation of All Schools Rise. We’ve included specific quotes from community members throughout the full version of All Schools Rise.

Q: When will the School District accomplish the steps outlined in All Schools Rise?

A: All Schools Rise is a short-term plan, focusing on what we’ll achieve in the 21 months from September 2015 to June 2017. The short-term focus is intentional – the students, parents, and staff in our schools don’t have a decade to wait for improvement.

Q: How will the School District be held accountable for progress?

A: As we did with the original Camden Commitment, the School District will release public progress reports every three months with updates about what gains have been made for each promise. You can review the original Camden Commitment progress reports.

QUESTIONS ON ALL SCHOOLS RISE

Q: On Promise 1, how are you going to create more positive classroom environments?

A: Positive classroom environments are part of an overall school culture. Principals received training on setting a positive school culture during workshops over the summer, and they will receive weekly coaching to ensure follow-through. In addition, the District released the Guide to Student Rights and Responsibilities, which discourages punitive actions like out-of-school suspensions and encourages proactive steps like positive reinforcement. Additionally, we are adopting the Second Step early learning program for our preschool and kindergarten classrooms, designed to increase school readiness and social success. Last but not least, the District is looking to expand the Positive Behavior Supports in Schools (PBSIS) pilot that currently operates in five District Schools.

Q: Promise 1, are you only focusing on the earliest grades for more positive classroom environments, or is this across all grades?

A: The District is focused on more positive classroom environments across all grades. It is important that students begin their school experience with a positive school culture and that that culture continues as the student gets older.

Q: On Promise 2, what is the Schools Development Authority (SDA)?

A: The SDA is a state agency that provides funding for school construction projects, either new construction or significant renovations. The SDA prioritizes projects across the state based on their needs; at least $50 million from the SDA has been committed to significantly renovating Camden High, and the District will continue to advocate for additional funding for other school buildings in need of improvement.

Q: On Promise 2, will the community have the opportunity to give feedback on renaissance school partners’ plans for building improvements?

A: Yes. All three renaissance school partners have committed to holding an open process to get community feedback on their plans for new or significantly renovated buildings.

Q: On Promise 3, what is data-driven instruction? Will my child be asked to take additional tests to collect data on their performance/growth?

A: Students will not be asked to take additional tests in order to collect data on their performance. In fact, in the 2015-16 school year students are taking several fewer hours of tests than in 2014-15.

Data-driven instruction involves teachers regularly reviewing evidence (for example, classwork, homework, quizzes, etc.) of what skills and knowledge students are learning and what skills and knowledge they’re having trouble with—teachers then can adjust their instruction in order to help all students master the information.

Q: On Promise 3, why would the District move forward with expanding renaissance schools?

A: The School Information Card provides a better understanding of how well schools are serving their students; if a school is struggling, we will consider all of our options, including partnering with a proven non-profit educational organization that leads renaissance schools in Camden. Ultimately, the District is focused on making sure that every public school—whether it’s a District school or a charter school or a renaissance school—can deliver an excellent education to all of its students.

Q: On Promise 3, how will changes to the grading policy impact my child’s grades?

A: We are at the earliest stages of revisiting the grading policy—remember, the steps in All Schools Rise run through June 2017. Any proposed changes to the grading policy will be made public in advance, and any possible impact to your child’s grades will be thoroughly communicated.

Q: On Promise 3, what does a trauma-informed care approach have to do with absenteeism?

A: A trauma-informed care approach prioritizes listening, which is important for understanding the reasons behind a student’s lack of attendance. In the pilot program, the School District will engage with a small number of students and families and learn more about what factors impact their attendance. A trauma-informed care approach will help untangle the different complications that might be impacting a student’s attendance and work to address those issues.

Q: On Promise 3, what is “differentiated coaching for school leaders”?

A: Coaching should not be a one-size-fits-all activity. After all, principals have different strengths and different areas for growth. Therefore, the School District will provide coaching that is specific to each school leader so he or she can continue to grow and improve school achievement.

Q: On Promise 3, how are you planning to expand the vocational programs, and what new programs will be added?

A: For 2015-16, the School District is committed to making the most of the existing vocational pathways—students need to be able to complete the sequence of vocational classes to earn a certificate that can be used for career readiness.

In 2016-17, the School District is exploring offering additional vocational options focused on the fastest-growing careers and local industries.

Q: On Promise 4, what do you mean by a “family-friendly enrollment system”?

A: Right now, parents need to navigate 17 different applications and deadlines—from October through May—in order to find the right public school for their child. All public schools follow the same rules.

The School District launched a series of community meetings to hear feedback on how we can untangle and ultimately streamline this process so parents can access the best school for their child through a simple and fair process.

Q: On Promise 4, how can I receive text messages with updates?

A: The School District is just beginning to make this service available to families. To sign up to receive text messages from the School District about schedule changes and other important information, please text yes to 68453. 

Schools will be trained in the coming months on sending text messages directly to families.

Q: On Promise 5, how can I reach the Central Office if I have a question?

A: You can visit the School District at 201 N. Front Street, you can call 856-966-2000, ext. 38100, or you can email families@camden.k12.nj.us

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