Extending learning beyond the classroom

Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Newark have a long history of providing students with academic programs that are rigorous and faith-centered. Each school continually evaluates its academic programs to

Paramus Catholic High School, Paramus, NJ Students from Dr. Mahon’s AP Biology class comparing discoveries on the Campus by their pond.

ensure students are meeting or exceeding academic standards in all subject areas. Results from annual standardized assessments show that student achievement is significantly above the national average. Since 2011, 24 of our schools have been recognized as National Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence by the United States Department of Education. The success of students as they move on in their academic careers attests to the strong foundation provided by the Catholic schools of the Archdiocese.

Educators in Catholic schools eagerly approach opportunities for their own ongoing professional development and the many ways they seek to extend student learning beyond the classroom. Through the generosity of a benefactor, teachers have been able to participate in the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History’s Teaching Literacy through History (TLTH) seminar series for the past six years. The TLTH program brings together teams of social studies and English language arts teachers for a series of full-day seminars. The seminars include a presentation by a noted historian on a specific topic in American history, followed by a workshop designed to help teachers develop strategies for using historical documents with students. As a result of this seminar program, several teachers have been given the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of American history by participating in one of the many weeklong summer seminars conducted by the Gilder Lehrman Institute.

The professional development provided as part of the Archdiocesan STEM Fair program and high school engineering program has focused on supporting teachers in using the engineering design process with their students. Both of these programs have empowered teachers to utilize a problem-based approach in their classrooms, challenging students to design solutions to real-world problems. This approach not only strengthens students’ content knowledge through application, but it has the added benefit of fostering student creativity, critical thinking and empathy.

In addition to extending their learning through professional development opportunities, teachers seek to extend student learning through various extracurricular endeavors. Students from schools throughout the archdiocese have demonstrated their mathematical aptitude in state and national math contests, gained recognition in Robotics, Legos and Future Cities competitions, and developed their public speaking skills through participation in forensics competitions. Participation in these events requires the commitment of teachers who serve as moderators for afterschool study, practice and building sessions. Opportunities for involvement in the performing arts abound through school plays, choral and instrumental performances, ballroom dancing lessons and mystery theater. Essay and poetry contests give students the opportunity to express their thoughts and opinions through writing. Students are encouraged to give service to others through various community outreach activities and programs. Artistic ability is showcased through art exhibits and poster design contests, and athletic skills are honed through involvement in interscholastic and intramural sports.

The academic programs in the schools of the Archdiocese of Newark are truly enhanced by the many ways in which teachers and students extend their learning beyond the classroom.

Written by Barbara Dolan, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment