Pinelands Regional Meets 2018-2019 Goals

Slashed Student Absences, Set Up Jobs for Grads Program
By RICK MELLERUP | Jul 09, 2019
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Little Egg Harbor — The Pinelands Regional School District had two major goals for the 2018-2019 school year. One was to reduce chronic absenteeism. The second was to create new programs to increase engagement of all students within the district.

It would appear the district was successful on both counts.

Pinelands had a serious absenteeism problem in 2017-2018. The total number of absences, including excused absences, was 21,561. Students were permitted to be absent 20 times before losing credit; 18 times was considered chronically absent. A whopping 25.4 percent of high school students were chronically absent during the year, while 18.1 percent were chronically absent from the junior high.

Well, the situation improved considerably in the 2018-2019 school year. The total number of absences as of June 19 was 14,844 – a decrease of 6,717 absences. The chronic absence rate fell to 7.6 percent in the high school and to 6.9 percent in the junior high school.

As for developing new programs, the district will go into the 2019-2020 school year loaded for bear. It will offer two new programs, one for students at the lower edge of achievement and the other for exceptional students.

The district has joined New Jersey’s Jobs for America’s Graduates program. The original JAG model was launched in Delaware in 1979 as a “school-to-work transition program” designed to keep at-risk students in school through graduation and to help transition them into the workplace in quality jobs. By 2014 there were 32 state JAG organizations.

There are six program applications but all have 10 things in common. First of all, JAG research has proven over three decades that the program has greatest impact for participants that have the greatest barriers to graduation, employment and/or pursuit of a post-secondary education. So an advisory committee must be set up, comprised of faculty, administrators and counselors, to assist a JAG specialist in selecting students for the program roster.

Next, a JAG specialist provides individual and group instruction to 35 to 45 students using the competency-based JAG national curriculum.

Adult mentoring is a huge part. So is guidance and counseling.

Leadership development is an important aspect of JAG. All JAG students participate in a motivational, student-led group, the JAG Career Association, to build on skills gained in the classroom and to develop leadership and team skills to improve employability and advancement. State JAGs each hold annual state career development conferences where students have the opportunity to demonstrate their employability and leadership skills and be recognized for their achievements. They also utilize job and postsecondary education placement services.

JAG programs are linked to school and community-based services. Pinelands already has an excellent school-based youth services program.

JAG doesn’t end upon graduation. It provides a year of post-graduation follow-up and support services.

JAG has a strict accountability system.

Finally, national JAG staff and consultants provide state and local program affiliates with an array of technical assistance and professional development opportunities.

Pinelands will become the third JAG program in New Jersey, joining JAG-NJ Camden and JAG-NJ Newark.

At the other end of the spectrum, Pinelands will start offering two “learning academies” in the 2019-2020 school year. Both will have cohorts of 10 to 15 selected members. Both will also offer dual enrollment classes in conjunction with Ocean County College and Stockton University, offering students the opportunity to earn college credits while in high school. Academy students will have the chance to earn a semester’s worth, or more, of transferable college credits. The district will pay for the dual enrollment classes.

Students in the biomedical academy will be taking classes in biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, microbiology and psychology as well as advanced math classes.

Those enrolled in the humanities and law academy will be studying world history, U.S. history, psychology, macroeconomics, language and composition, sociology and family law, literature and composition, European history, law and the legislative process, and careers in public service.

In response to high student demand, advanced placement psychology will also be offered to the student body at large.

So, the Pinelands Regional School District Board of Education and the district administrators checked its 2018-2019 goals off the list. Next up are the district’s 2019-2020 goals, which will be discussed at the board’s retreat this month.

— Rick Mellerup

rickmellerup@thesandpaper.net

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