• Category 1

    Selected in 2017

  • Grades: pre k - 8
    School Setting: urban
    Town Population: 2,577
    Student Enrollment: 300
    Student Demographics:

    Black/African American: 46%
    White/Caucasian: 45%
    Hispanic: 9%
    Hawaiian/Pacific Islander: 0%
    Asian: 0%
    Native American: 0%
    Other: 0%

    Teacher/Student Ratio: 1:20
    % Reduced Lunch: 100%
    % ELL Learners: 5%
    Founded: 1966
  • PRINCIPAL:
    Elizabeth Giacobbe
  • CONTACT:
    601 Bentley Avenue
    Beverly, NJ 08010
    609-387-2200
    egiacobbe@beverlycityschool.org
Beverly City School
Beverly, NJ
“We recognize that it is not programs, but people that make the difference."
Describe the most successful activity your school has initiated to strengthen ties to your community.
This year we hosted an Open House for families in lieu of a traditional “Back to School Night”. Back to School Night was an adult only event yet parents brought their children and the evening became quite chaotic and less informative than we initially intended. At the Open House, we opened the school the day before the first day and all were welcome. The children had an opportunity to meet their new teachers, see their classrooms, cafeteria, etc. We provided food in the cafeteria to simulate our expectations during meals, as all of our students receive free breakfast and lunch. We had a donation of backpacks that were given to any student who needed one. Not only did 75% of our families participate, but parents expressed how visiting the building before school began eased their minds about the transition. In addition, our first day of school was incredibly smooth because students felt comfortable.
Describe your school culture and explain changes you’ve taken to improve it.
Beverly City is a small district that serves approximately 300 students in Pre-Kindergarten through 8th grade. 70% of those students fall below the poverty level and 100% of students are eligible to receive free breakfast and lunch. When the current administration started in 2011, ALL students were sitting in one classroom all day taught by one teacher, including middle schoolers. One of the first changes that we made was to departmentalize the middle school and staff it with highly qualified teachers. The biggest change we made to improve our culture, was after our scores started to show great signs of improvement, we invested a lot of money to re-brand our entire district. Once we recognized the insides were changing, we wanted to ensure what people saw from the “outside” looked good. We implemented a school-wide initiative where our students are referred to as scholars and college is expected and students “Enter as Learners and Exit as Leaders”.
Describe how data is used to improve student achievement and inform decision making.
In the past, teachers did not have access to student achievement data. We immediately began assessing students on their levels using various assessments. We taught our teachers to interpret data, which was an essential investment of time. Teachers would be responsible for reflecting on the data multiple times during the year. We talked a lot about students who may have been below proficiency, but were showing growth, and how to measure that growth. Our Title I teachers looked at specific areas of weakness to pull small groups. Recently, we have begun to merge all data onto one site that teachers can access and use to plan their lessons. Together, we have analyzed the gaps in performance, and used this data to revise our math curricular framework to better map our year to match the timing of our state tests. The payoff has been huge, as student proficiency rates have almost doubled in each grade level.
Describe the program or initiative that has had the greatest positive effect on student achievement, including closing achievement or opportunity gaps, if applicable.
Beverly City School District is staffed by the best and brightest, but it was not always that way. When we began in the district, some staff were disengaged, and so it was our responsibility to hold teachers accountable. The strong teachers truly shined, and we celebrated their dedication. Those who were not willing to meet our expectations decided to leave, or forced our hands. A pivotal moment in our school’s history was winning a tenure case against an ineffective educator. This strengthened the morale in the building, because those who were devoting their lives as teachers realized that we were not going to accept less from their colleagues. This helped to create a team atmosphere that grew into a family. In our case, it is the people, not the programs which have transformed our school into a warm environment with a strong focus on academic excellence.
Explain how Title I funds are used to support your improvement efforts.
In 2011, Beverly City was under a state appointed fiscal monitor due to the misappropriations of state and federal grants, including the Title I funds. The former administration wrote grants and named expenditures. However, monitors found that the team was spending the money on frivolous purchases like field trips and gaming systems. In 2011, the current administration completed several corrective action plans, rewrote the grants and got out of fiscal monitoring. Since then all of the Title I funds are used to pay for salaries and benefits of the Title I staff that are embedded into each classroom to co-teach. They differentiate the instruction in order to provide targeted assistance to students based on the real-time data provided through baseline and benchmark assessments.
Describe your philosophy of school change or improvement.
Much of the school change implemented in the seven years I have served as Principal/Superintendent has followed Kotter’s framework. For change to happen, it helps if the whole school understands the sense of urgency around the need for change. The sense of urgency came from being labelled a focus school by the NJDOE. Quickly after we received the classification, meetings were held with all stakeholders to develop a plan of action. I had a vision for the change and this group that became the guiding coalition that developed the plan and were responsible for implementing it. The vision and the plan that followed was met with some resistance, but when naysayers recognized it was sustainable and not going away, they either got on board or got off the bus. Finally, it is important to celebrate the change. Not only has Beverly City been de-classified as a focus district, we are now a “Lighthouse District” in the state of New Jersey and nationally recognized Title I School of Distinction.
Identify the critical professional development activities you use to improve teaching and student learning.

Before, teachers attended workshops that did not fit with the district’s vision, and the concepts addressed were never followed through because the teachers lacked the ongoing support needed to maintain an initiative. Because of this, we began seeking out professionals who could come into the district and serve as coaches throughout the year, and help our teachers learn best practices and implement research-based programs. All teachers are supported in Reader’s and Writer’s Workshops with staff developers who have trained with Lucy Calkins. All teachers received math fluency training with New Jersey state appointed math coaches. Teachers work with professors from Rider University to implement the Next Generation Science Standards and immersing literacy instruction in Social Studies, Physical Education, Media, and the Arts. In addition, teachers attend monthly Teacher Academy meetings based on their grade level’s identified needs.
Describe specific programs in place to ensure that families are involved in the success of your school and students.
To make them aware of the excellent work our teachers and students are doing, we invite families to Board of Education meetings to acknowledge students who show growth in their standardized test scores, students who act as upstanders, and students who are showing strong leadership qualities along with strong academic performance. We then began to build upon these recognition events by hosting a Millionaire's Party for our Kindergarten students who learned a million things during their Kindergarten year. In addition, we began recognizing parents for bringing their students on time to school with magnets, and coupons to local food establishments. Doing so, really improved the public’s opinion of the school, and has helped parents become more involved in their child’s education because they feel welcome and a part of our winning team.
What is the single most important factor in the success of your school that others could replicate?
We recognize that it is not programs, but people that make the difference. The single most important factor that others could replicate is holding people accountable from the top down. In order to show the great growth, specifically in English Language Arts, we stressed that every teacher had to be a reading teacher. This included the math teachers, science teachers, music teachers, and PE. The teachers had to select one student growth objective in the area of reading comprehension, which would be included as part of their final evaluation score. These scores were also linked to my merit goals. I have worked as the principal/superintendent for seven years in the district. I often share the metaphor that I am the bus driver and my Director of Curriculum is the navigator and after seven years, which included tenure charges, non-renewals, retirements, etc., we have the right people on our bus and are us forward.
What are your school’s top two goals for the next year?
While we are thrilled with the growth we have seen thus far, we are certainly not resting on our laurels and plan to continue to work to improve our English Language Arts and Mathematics scores. As we have done in the past with reading, every teacher is a math teacher thus we are all responsible and accountable. Two other major goals that we are focusing on this year are improving our chronic absenteeism rate and instilling a growth mindset in our scholars.
Stats
  • Category 1

    Selected in 2017

  • Grades: pre k - 8
    School Setting: urban
    Town Population: 2,577
    Student Enrollment: 300
    Student Demographics:

    Black/African American: 46%
    White/Caucasian: 45%
    Hispanic: 9%
    Hawaiian/Pacific Islander: 0%
    Asian: 0%
    Native American: 0%
    Other: 0%

    Teacher/Student Ratio: 1:20
    % Reduced Lunch: 100%
    % ELL Learners: 5%
    Founded: 1966
  • PRINCIPAL:
    Elizabeth Giacobbe
  • CONTACT:
    601 Bentley Avenue
    Beverly, NJ 08010
    609-387-2200
    egiacobbe@beverlycityschool.org