Saint James School Curricula
Through our instructional programs, we strive to cultivate a learning environment inspired by the Gospel, and everything we do derives from the Catholic Church’s teachings, traditions, and values. We are always looking to refine and improve our curricula, and they are based on guidelines provided by both the Diocese of Metuchen and the New Jersey Department of Education. The New Jersey Student Learning Standards serve as a guide for our curricula, but we view them through the lens of our Catholic faith. Each grade level and subject area curriculum is divided into units with specific objectives, learning activities, assignments and assessments. Whenever possible, we try to show interdisciplinary connections between the subject areas, so students are better-prepared to apply their knowledge and skills in a variety of new and more challenging situations. We also try to integrate projects with our quarterly assignments and assessments and believe that project-based learning more accurately reflects how students will apply knowledge in their future education, personal lives and careers.
At Saint James School, an emphasis is placed on helping each student develop a strong academic foundation, but we are also concerned with their social, emotional and spiritual growth. Our core academic offerings include Math, Science, Language Arts, Social Studies, and Religion. Students learn Spanish from the primary grades through the time they start Middle School and then have the option of continuing with Spanish or switching to French as their world language. In addition, "specials" classes are offered in Art, Music, and Physical Education. Two of our current focus areas include our K-8 Writing Program and the further development of our STREAM program. For us, STREAM includes Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, as well as Religion and the Arts.
New Jersey Student Learning Standards
The New Jersey Student Learning Standards, formerly known as the N.J. Core Curriculum Content Standards, were first adopted by the State Board of Education in 1996. The Standards themselves do not serve as curricula, which instead are designed at the local or regional level. In an effort to establish some consistency across the State, the Standards provide guidelines on what students should know and be able to do upon completion of their K-12 education. The Standards are also designed to help teachers prepare students for college- and career-readiness. As a way to stay current with our changing world and economy, the Standards are reviewed and revised on roughly a five-year cycle.
Articulation and an Interdisciplinary Teaching Approach
Building on the success from last year, the 2016-17 Saint James School schedule was designed to give the middle school teachers one or more common planning periods each week for the purpose of horizontal and vertical articulation, collaboration and interdisciplinary lesson planning. Elementary teachers of the same grade level also have common preparation periods to facilitate horizontal articulation and the collaborative planning of activities and assessments. Since they teach all the core subject areas, elementary teachers have many opportunities to show interdisciplinary connections between those subjects. At both the elementary and middle school grades, we will continue helping students make meaningful connections between the subject areas through dual- and multi-discipline activities and projects.
Benchmarking of Standardized Test Results
Our students have historically done well on the Terra Nova assessments, compared both with other schools in the Diocese and nationally. We will continue to analyze student performance data and use those results to guide future instruction and curricula revisions. We will also create, administer, and analyze our own benchmark assessments, both in traditional and alternative formats. While we do not want to cause unnecessarily high levels of stress, parents should highlight the relevance of these standardized assessments to their children, and emphasize the importance of doing their best.
Use of Technology
We utilize a variety of different technologies to enhance and enrich our curricula. In addition to recently enhancing our infrastructure so that it can handle the simultaneous use of multiple devices, we’ve added new technology throughout the school, including interactive projectors and document cameras in our classrooms. In Grades 5 through 8, our students also have the opportunity to use Chromebooks for Internet access, Google Education Apps, and other online educational resources.