The Springfield InnovateNJ Program, which actively engages parents as partners to help their children close achievement gaps, was named the winner of the School Leader Award for 2017.

The Springfield School District’s program identifies students within subgroups who are struggling to achieve, and engages families and parents to attend the program with their children. The Union County district’s program equips families with strategies and techniques to assist children in mastering academic standards.

The program, one of seven exemplary programs nominated for the School Leader Award this year, will be recognized at Workshop 2017.

Springfield’s program was started in 2014 by administrators analyzing data to identify members of certain subgroups, such as economically-disadvantaged students, who were in need of tutorial services to close gaps in achievement on standardized tests. The first cohort began tutorial sessions in February 2015 and was expanded over the last two years to include the ESL population district-wide.

With inter-family support a major component in effectiveness of the program, the program offered dinner for all attendees prior to tutorial sessions. During this time, parents, students, and teachers were able to have informal discussions to build stronger relationships. Parents began creating a peer support group to discuss items that were brought up week-to-week.

A parent survey afterward showed parents were very pleased with the program; as a result, many returned to subsequent sessions. A staff survey was also given to the teachers of the students attending Innovate NJ. The results showed participating students demonstrated high levels of growth in class participation and academic independence, in comparison to that of peers who did not participate.

Students have also taken a great deal of pride in showing their parents how to complete academic skills.

The School Leader Awards, which are presented each year, showcase creative programs from New Jersey schools. School Leader Award entries are judged on the level of innovation, how well the program addresses specific needs of the students, the relationship of the program to the state’s New Jersey Student Learning Standards and results.  Programs must be in place for two full years to qualify.

The winner will be recognized during a ceremony on Wednesday, Oct. 25 at NJSBA Workshop 2017 at the Atlantic City Convention Center.