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Ramapo Ridge Middle School

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Mahwah, derived from the Lenni Lenape mawewi, is a place where people and paths meet. Ramapo Ridge Middle School and Mahwah High School are the "meeting places" where various neighborhoods converge as one community. Our mission is to ensure that rigorous and relevant curricula will pave the way for challenging and diverse opportunities for all students. Small learning communities will be the vehicle through which we pursue our mission by focusing on strong relationships, learning preferences, performance levels, and interests. Students, staff, parents, and community members will remain dedicated to supporting one another in achieving these essential goals.

As our mission statement explains, one of the areas on which we focused was our strong relationships with students in order to help them learn. In order to help provide a sense of family within the larger school community, our students and teachers are divided into teams on each grade level. Each team had approximately 100 students which is in line with the recommendations of the National Middle School Association. These small learning communities also help to provide regular communication between teachers and parents assist every student on the team with success. Complimenting this, the school counselors, child study team and administrators regularly met with the teams to provide further communication about student success.

Ramapo Ridge is a friendly and safe place that provides a challenging academic environment designed to address the ever-changing needs of young adolescents. Our staff is specifically selected to teach middle school students and dedicated to helping children learn and develop while recognizing the need to provide understanding and support to individual needs. We strive to focus upon helping students satisfy their need for close relationships with teachers and friends while helping students move toward greater independence. Exploration classes in such areas as art, technology, careers, financial literacy, service learning/character education, study skills, public presentation, solutions, etc. offer students opportunities to explore new areas and pursue interests.

Our goals are to always to open the school year was to begin with students and teachers building relationships with one another. The first few days of school comprise of students completing activities that create bonds with new teachers and friends. The start of the school year proved once again to make a positive impact on the learning to come. The school year begins with the theme of creating and maintaining a positive school climate. In addition to our positive relationships with our students, we have provided them with relevant and rigorous learning opportunities. Each team participated in various activities that enhanced the small learning community concept. From meetings within the team to the creation of even smaller learning groups of students from the team in each advisory group, each child did recognize that they were part of a small learning community. In addition to a feeling of belonging on the team, the teachers on each team knew their students well. The ability to share the same students, and have common planning time every day helped to meet the needs of our students.

Teachers regularly analyze various forms of student data within their professional learning communities. This includs data from previous  standardized testing, grades and assessments from the previous year and common assessments used within content areas. In addition to regular and ongoing classroom formative assessments, we implement common assessments in content areas across the grade levels. This proves to be an accomplishment for student learning and teacher growth. Within a professional leaning community, grade level content teachers collaborate with one another to create and implement a common assessments Working together to create the assessments ensures that the high expectations we have of all students were consistent across the grade level. Analyzing the assessments in their professional learning community results in assisting the teachers with identifying student strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, it allows the teachers to discuss instructional strategies they used when teaching specific content areas. Hence, teachers identify specific teaching strategies used in class for optimum student success.

Our Advisory program has become a solid part of our school identify. Each grade level maintains a common Advisory theme. Each grade level theme compliments the school wide focus of creating and maintaining a positive school climate nicely. Sixth graders study, school advocacy, seventh graders self advocacy, and eighth graders social advocacy. We are confident that our program will continue to not only serve the social, emotional, and intellectual needs of students, but also will result in improved student achievement and behavior and will enrich students' lives.

Throughout the course of the school year, our Professional Development opportunities provided teachers with new instructional strategies. Through instructional days, departments, independent study, and further study and discussion within our teacher professional learning communities, our teachers learned, practiced and analyzed new instructional strategies. Complementing our preparation for the new teacher evaluation system, we infused PD around planning and preparation, creating a positive classroom environment and engaging students in learning. These strategies were formally and informally observed in classrooms both through the traditional teacher observation process, and through teacher peer observations. Feedback provided at PD opportunities allowed teachers to grow and learn together.

All members of our entire school community work together to help our students be successful. As such, our teacher professional learning communities are charged with knowing their students well. As noted,our teams collect and analyze data together and make instructional decisions based on that data. As our department supervisor work with these learning communities, they use their expertise to help guide teachers in the appropriate instructional strategies that compliment their efforts.

Brian Cory

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