Last year, Rosa was chosen as one of 12 schools to be part of the Caring Schools Inclusion Project (CSIP), a new initiative being implemented by the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) and the New Jersey Center of Character Education (NJCCE) at Rutgers University to increase the quality and success of students with disabilities in the general education program. This project is funded through an award that the NJDOE has received from the United States Department of Education under the Partnerships in Character Education grant, a program of the No Child Left Behind Act. This project will run for four years with 4 schools implementing the program each of the first 3 years. Rosa and Carusi are 2 of the first 4 schools that are receiving training and are implementing the project this year.
The CSIP initiative is examining the effectiveness of implementing an evidence based character education school-wide intervention, Community of Caring, to create a school culture that provides opportunities for growth and development for all children. Community of Caring http://www.communityofcaring.org / was founded in 1982 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver and has been adopted by almost 1,200 schools nationwide and in Canada. Their website includes the words, building character, any school, every child, all day long and includes the following description of program -
“Community of Caring is built around five core values that empower young people to be responsible and caring members of a community: activities and initiatives in Community of Caring schools. In Community of Caring schools caring, respect, responsibility, trust and family are taught and lived.”
Community of Caring schools weave these values into every aspect of school life and the existing curriculum through a framework and components that include: Community Service, Student Leadership/Forums and Social Inclusion.
This past summer, three representatives from Rosa, Mrs. Jennifer Parks, Mrs. Stephanie Brooks and Mrs. Nina Kemps attended the Community of Caring national conference and came back very enthused and filled with ideas on how this program can enrich the strong character education program that we have in place. Representatives from Community of Caring conducted our inservice day in November and led us through the process of identifying our strengths and concerns. These documents were the basis for developing our Action Plan for the year. Many of the aspects of our program from past years will be continued. Others will be modified as a result of this training. In addition, we are implementing several new initiatives.
Our Raptor’s Claw program is continuing, but instead of a “pizza party” for students that have been recognized for modeling exemplary character, the teacher will fill out a postcard highlighting the behavior witnessed. An administrator will recognize the student for receiving the Raptor’s Claw, and the newly designed postcard will be mailed home. Several of our extra-curricular advisors will be exploring how to teach students leadership skills and will learn more about student forums and classroom meetings. Several of our sixth grade teachers will be designing a “best buddy” system for our incoming students next fall. We will be making these core values along with citizenship very visible throughout our school.
Citizenship is a core focus of the Cherry Hill Character Education Initiative. As part of the CSIP, student and staff are completing surveys in the fall and spring. The teachers are completing monthly checklists related to Community of Caring. These documents will provide the data for the research aspect of the project.
We are happy to be part of this project. As Mr. Canzanese has stated, “This gives us a holistic approach to our character education initiative, and holistic education is a cornerstone of our IB MYP program.”