The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics has named Piscataway Township Schools a “Bright Spot in Hispanic Education.” Piscataway was one of only 230 school districts nationwide to achieve this honor.
The announcement was made by Alejandra Ceja, Executive Director of the Initiative on September 15, 2015 at the launch of Hispanic Heritage Month and in honor of the Initiative’s 25th anniversary in Washington, D.C. “There has been notable progress in Hispanic educational achievement, and it is due to the efforts of these Bright Spots in Hispanic Education, programs and organizations working throughout the country to help Hispanic students reach their full potential,” said Ceja.
Piscataway’s program, which covers students from preschool through high school and includes outreach to parents as well as students, is included in the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics’ Bright Spots in Hispanic Education National Online Catalog. It can be found online at www.ed.gov/hispanicinitiative.
Piscataway sees outstanding results for Hispanic students at every stage of their academic careers – from preschool through high school. The early immersion program meets its stated goal to have children exit ESL by the end of first grade. The ESL Endorsed Teacher Program embeds over 60 teachers at the K-5 level, allowing ESL students to remain and grow academically in mainstream classrooms, and has become a model for The College of New Jersey’s Endorsed Teacher Program.
At the high school level, Piscataway goes far beyond state and federal mandates with outreach that includes after-school and Saturday programs to immerse students and their parents into the school community. While student programs focus on building academic vocabulary and other academic skills to keep students engaged and ready to learn in their daily classes, the district welcomes parents for classes in ESL, job application and interview skills, and shows parents how to best navigate the American school system and the college application process.
Hard measurements -- graduation rates, test scores, and AP participation and test scores are very positive and climbing higher. In just two years, Piscataway doubled its percentage of Hispanic students taking AP courses from 9% in 2013 to 18% in 2015. Hispanic students also saw a rise in AP overall scores from 3.38 to 3.81, with 56 percent of these students scoring in this qualifying range. In Spring 2015, three Piscataway high school students were named in the College Board National Hispanic Recognition Program for their outstanding PSAT results. Soft results – family immersion into the school community, cross-cultural friendships, and leadership roles for Hispanic students, are equally important.
“We are extremely pleased that the White House has recognized our efforts on behalf of our Hispanic student population,” said Piscataway Superintendent Teresa M. Rafferty. “I would like to commend our entire staff, particularly our ESL and ESL Endorsed Teachers, for their dedication to our students.”