Welcome to BRMS!
Many schools consider themselves Schools to Watch because of their standardized test scores. At Black River Middle School, we consider our consistent, excellent standardized test scores a result of what makes us a School to Watch. We consider our mission to educate the whole student, to help them grow emotionally and socially as they master increasing academic demands, preparing to apply 21st Century Skills in future schooling and employment. The 4 domains championed by STW provide the focus for our mission. We have used feedback from our 2 previous STW designations to help us plan and move forward in helping each student achieve their personal goals & aspirations.
BRMS operates within a eight-period schedule. The schedule allows us to champion STEM courses in all grade levels. In addition, the Next Generation Science Standards have been fully implemented in our five science classes, and STEMscope is available for each science teacher. In 6th grade a second social studies class called Global Connections provides time to investigate the graph and map reading skills that cross all academic curricula. We have also added an Information & Technology Related Arts course to the 8th grade schedule, while all 6-8 students receive a marking period of STEM with hands-on applications and activities. For example, eighth grade STEM integrates social studies as students program robots to travel across different westward expansions on maps that they draw and color themselves.
Technology is integrated in all subjects. BRMS has had a 1-1 Chromebook initiative for the past 3 years. Until this fall, students have used their individual Chromebooks only in school. However, they are now able to take them home, allowing the Google platform to be accessed in school and at home. In order to support teachers’ integration of technology across all classes, two teachers serve as technology coaches who are available to teach, co-teach, and guide all teachers in implementing technology throughout the day. Teachers are guided by the SAMR Model so that students can learn and create with technology in ways once thought unimaginable.
BRMS uses Edmentum Assessments, an RTI online program that allows teachers to assess the academic strengths and weaknesses of our students. Targeted instruction is then utilized to enhance success in math, reading, and writing.
Professional development time is spent sharing technology and application ideas, and the tech coaches support their implementation. Our Principal and Supervisor of Instruction provide professional learning time for sharing practical ideas to increase student engagement, including leading an online book chat featuring Antonetti and Garver’s 17,000 Classroom Visits Can’t Be Wrong.
After a hiatus of several years, regular education Summer School is once again provided for students requiring extra help in Math and ILA, along with our daily Enrichment Period which continues to provide additional time during the day for students to receive individual help from peers and teachers. Moreover, math and ILA teachers are available after school for 1-1 tutoring.
BRMS feels very strongly that all students should be able to participate in all of the arts, including the band and chorus programs, without having to sacrifice any other subjects. Our students are enriched each year with marking periods of art, performing arts, computer applications, and STEM classes.
Our Advisory Program is held twice a month to give our students the opportunity to have their voices heard. Advisory provides time and lessons to help students make connections with cross-grade-level peers and a staff member. It allows opportunity for Guidance initiatives as well as the One School One Book program. One great outcome was a new BRMS Guide for New Students that was written, edited, and illustrated by our students through our Advisory Program last year.
We have increased our club offerings to include a Ski Club, Meteorology Club, and our awesome PAL Project which pairs regular and special ed students for PE activities and games. Our Special Ed Department’s CAN DO program for parents helps them to understand their students’ unique needs and ways to support their growth. We have also increased our opportunities for gifted students who, in addition to traditional offerings, now routinely participate in You Be the Chemist, BASF Name that Element, Forensics, and Scholastic Writing programs. These programs are funded through the generous support of the Board of Education, the Educational Foundation of the Chesters, and the Chester P.T.O.
To increase cooperative learning opportunities, the 6th grade has created a Greek Day with interdisciplinary work across content areas much like the 7th grade Biome Zoo and Diversity Day activities. The DARE police education program has changed to LEAD, where local police officers can build relationships with students. In 7th grade language arts classes, police officers collaborate with students during The Outsiders unit. We have increased our use of Personalized Student Learning Plans, using NJ CAN to assist students with learning to set goals. Additionally, 8th grade health and physical education students participate in an interdisciplinary unit about the Olympic/World Sports/Games.
BRMS is a community of caring people. We have established partnerships with many schools, organizations, and programs to help us all to understand the importance of sharing our knowledge, resources, and hearts. For example, we are working with Newark’s Camden Street School. We have initiated shared writing activities, and our Advisory program and after-school Service Club have provided decorations for holiday parties and coats, hats and mittens for the winter. The Backpacks Beyond Borders initiative has fostered a relationship between BRMS and international students in need, as well.
In order to increase 1-1 time for students, all staff members spend 25 minutes a week going into another classroom of their choice to help individualization of student contact time as the classroom teacher needs. The students enjoy seeing their teachers in different classrooms while benefiting from their teachers’ unique perspectives. Furthermore, the teachers support each other’s efforts while gaining an additional amount of collegiality and respect for their talents.
All students may now take their school-owned Chromebooks home so the students may take full advantage of this piece of technology. This opportunity also assures that all students can work on Study Island reinforcement activities at home. Tech coaches are available throughout the day so that not only teachers, but also students can be supported in their daily integration of technology.
English as a Second Language students and others who struggle can take modified Spanish and French programs that allow them to spend part of their World Language classes in an Acceleration Program which previews ILA and math class work to provide the students with foundational instruction of key challenging concepts. The Acceleration Program additionally helps all students who need some special support.
BRMS’s mission is to be an inclusive community for all learners. The Guidance Department has implemented the UMatter program, which is helping the whole school to celebrate each individual’s importance. Our yearly Drama Club presentations include students of various levels of experience, expertise, and abilities, as evidenced by the large number of students involved. The World Language teachers provide after-school clubs that are unique, yet similar to their languages since native speakers are included for culturally-diverse experiences. The annual Career Day enlists accomplished professionals representing a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. Our students are inspired by these professionals who share their backgrounds, career paths, duties, and challenges. Students are encouraged to choose the speakers they wish to hear.
Finding and creating opportunities for our stakeholders is of paramount importance. We actively seek to engage these stakeholders and thereby enhance the learning options and experiences for all our students. For example, for our Global Connections we have parents make a presentation about Indian culture. The Chester Township Police department visits classes regularly to discuss current events that involve police officers and the law. Additionally, our advisory groups make gifts and cards for senior citizens. We have also had a 2015 Veteran’s Day program for all students, featuring a number of local veterans including former students now serving in the Navy. We are especially honored that Chester’s own local 9/11 hero Will Jimeno has been tailoring his yearly presentations to move beyond the actual rescue story to one of the importance of being a true role model and hero. Chester Police officers teach 7th grade students about their use of DNA in crime fighting, a real-life application of the science they study in class.
Outreach Programs at Black River Middle School help students to connect their learning in school with the community. The annual Senior Citizen Holiday Dance that is co-sponsored by our BRMS Service Club and Peer Leaders serves as a local community outreach for active participants. Some of our extra-curricular clubs partner with local organizations to promote Service Leadership. These partnerships include collaborating with St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center to assist the Center to help needy animals. Students volunteer at the Community Soup Kitchen and for the Walk for Hunger. For the "Pillows for Seniors" project, students create pillows for the Chester Area Senior Housing Center.
Organizational Structures and Processes:
All students now have personal Chromebooks to use every day in all subjects. BRMS currently has many Google certified teachers, providing best practices in technology . Our Principal and Supervisor of Instruction have widened the scope of their communications, regularly and effectively sharing expectations and ideas. Time is given at faculty meetings for reflection and staff-led mini-PD workshops. Any reasonable professional development opportunities are both supported and encouraged so the staff has the autonomy to focus their learning on activities they feel best address their needs. New learnings and reflections acquired from opportunities including Peer Coaching, Pineapple Initiative, PLC formation, and professional development are shared at grade-level team and full staff meetings.
Subject, grade level, and full staff meetings are also used to research ideas that best serve the needs of our students. For example, PARCC data is analyzed and program decisions are made to implement ideas and practices to facilitate student growth. The Guidance Department has modified our 504 program so that yearly evaluations are implemented with the input of the teachers as they analyze the learning and social patterns of each student. We are also proud that our new staff now has an in-building mentor to assist them as they make the transition into our community and school. We are continuing our partnership with the School Development Council at Rutgers University.
BRMS takes great pride in leveraging the power of social media to engage stakeholders in the virtual world. For example, parents/guardians have the opportunity to follow the BRMS Twitter and Facebook feeds to stay current with school highlights and events. Our website has been revamped to address more efficiently communicate with students, parents/guardians, and the community at large. Moreover, on their websites as well as PowerSchool and Google Classroom, all teachers are encouraged to post information relevant to their classes.
We are most grateful for the strong, continued support that we receive from our Board of Education, the Chester Education Foundation, and our Parent Teacher Organization. Teachers who are willing to create new clubs can look to these three sources for funding. We are very proud of our community that supports innovative activities so that students can explore their passions and sample new endeavors.
Black River Middle School is a community of learners who strive to build relationships to increase personal and academic growth. The staff embraces 21st century skills and exhibits a passion for learning new technology. This proactive approach continues to enhance the educational experiences offered throughout the school. One of our teachers has even been featured on a Google classroom infomercial used to promote the platform to schools internationally while two other teachers are members of the Fordham University Digital Literacies Collaborative created by community member and professor Dr. Kristen Turner. We firmly believe that for students to grow and have the most meaningful and productive school experience, they must be able to gain a solid foundation in all subject areas, explore a variety of learning options, and engage information in creative ways. Furthermore, their instructors must be active participants in the learning process. By doing so, our students are being prepared with realistic expectations, balanced curricular options, and recognition of their individual and unique voices and needs.