Community and School Environment Scan Description of School and Community

Section 5: Methods of Instruction

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Section 5: Methods of Instruction
Since the signing of the TEACHNJ Act, the teachers at XHS are using Achieve NJ to set learning goals for students called SGOs (Student Growth Objectives). The teachers are then “evaluated, in part, on how well their students’ attain goals” (New Jersey Department of Education, 2014). Student Growth Objectives (SGOs) are specific and measureable, aligned to New Jersey’s curriculum standards, and are based on what students learn over the school year.
When teachers are evaluated, they are scored as follows:

  • Teachers that teach in tested grades and subjects: 30% of a teacher’s overall evaluation rating is based on Student Growth Percentile (SGP) data that is taken from HSPA or PARCC scores, 15% will be based on the Student Growth Objective (SGO) data from one to two measures that teachers set with the approval of their principals, and 55% will be based on classroom observations (New Jersey Department of Education, 2014).

  • Teachers of non-tested grades and subjects: 85% of a teacher’s overall evaluation rating is based on classroom observations and 15% will be based on “SGO data from two measures that teachers set with the approval of their principals” (Figure 6) (New Jersey Department of Education, 2014).

Figure 6: Teacher Evaluation Percentiles


(New Jersey Department of Education, 2014)

After observing lessons in the XHS, most of the teachers utilize a constructivist learning

style. Lesson plans are aligned to the New Jersey curriculum standards and teachers list specific goals and objectives for each grade level or course. The teachers at XHS also make sure that the objectives are addressed in the learning outcomes, activities, and assessments of their students. Teachers also adhere to the Individual Education plans (IEPs) and 504 Plans for students with identified learning disabilities.
Professional development sessions are held at least three times a year for teachers where discussions are made about enhancing their teach skills and improving areas of weaknesses on state standardized testing. Departmental meetings are held monthly so that teachers can collaborate with one another about meeting the needs of all students in the high school. In addition to the methods of instruction that take place in the classrooms, the X high school offers various types of instruction to accommodate students of all levels.
Special Education
The X high school has a small population of students that are considered to be special education students. Students that have been identified as needing additional services meet annually with a case manager to select courses for each school year. Students that have been identified by the Child Study Team that may be in “need of services may complete some of their course work in a resource center program and/or in an inclusion setting” (Program of Studies, 2014). Special education students are placed in a small classroom setting in order to receive personal support from a certified special education teacher.
Vocational and Technical – Shared Time
Students at XHS may attend Somerset County Vocational and Technical School on a shared-time program if they wish to learn a technical trade. The students will spend a portion of their school day at the high school and the technical school.

Independent Study
XHS provides an Independent Study program for those students that are motivated to learn on their own and students may receive credits for the work that they complete. A teacher will be assigned to assist a student in the development of a topic or an idea, and the program is designed to provide an opportunity to achieve one of the following objectives:

  • Individual learning experiences

  • Development of individual responsibility

  • Pupil-structured learning experience

  • Individual creativity

  • Career exploration

  • Development of inquiry skills

(Program of Studies, 2014).
Honors Programs
XHS offers enriched honor courses in English, French, Spanish, mathematics, science, social studies, and music. In order to be eligible for honors placement, incoming freshman must meet the following criteria: have a 90% average in a subject area and have a parent or guardian sign a permission agreement form.

Advanced Placement
Students that excel in the Honors Program are eligible to take AP classes as either a junior or senior as long as they maintain an 80% or higher average in an honors course.
Virtual High School
XHS offers a unique, online learning experience for students that are hard-working, self-reliant, and computer savvy through Educere Online Learning (Program of Studies, 2014). Students are granted admission by completing an application and must have administrative approval. Students may take a wide variety of courses such as foreign language courses, health, science, and computer courses.
Somerville Academy for Liberal Arts
The Somerville Academy for Liberal Arts (SALA) has partnered with XHS and Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC). SALA is an accelerated learning experience for high achieving students and it is a “four-year, full-time program” (Program of Studies, 2014).

XHS students that apply and are accepted to the program can earn an Associates of Arts degree in Liberal Arts during their high school years. The admission process is rigorous and students are selected if they meet the following criteria: they qualify to take honors courses in all subject areas courses when going into the 9th grade, they submit three teacher recommendations, and interview with the Raritan Valley Community College. Students must maintain a 3.0 to stay in the program.

Naviance Succeed
The XHS Guidance Department utilizes a website called Family Connection, which allows students to make decisions about their courses and college choices. Family Connection allows parents to be informed in the college planning and decision process (Program of Studies, 2014).
Section 6: Methods of Assessment
Assessments are central to SGOs, because they demonstrate how much growth or how much students have learned over the school year. At the beginning of the school year, teachers use an initial pre-test to help them assess where each student is at, and then teachers give their students a post-test at the end of the school year.

Also, teachers use a variety of assessments depending on their subject and grade level that they teach. For instance, the teachers at XHS use traditional assessments, portfolio assessments, and performance assessments (Table 22). Many of the teachers also use writing prompts graded by rubrics, homework assignments, discussion questions, authentic assessments, and exit slips for format (SGET, personal communication, February 19, 2014). In addition, students are also assessed by the classroom grades that they receive on projects, tests, and quizzes.

Table 22: Assessments used for SGO Purposes

Traditional Assessments

Portfolio Assessments

Performance Assessments

  • National/State tests (e.g., Advanced Placement exams, DIBELS, EOC Biology)

  • District, School and departmental tests (e.g. final exams

  • Teaching Strategies Gold (pre-K, K)

  • Writing and reflection samples (LAL)

  • Laboratory research notebook (sciences)

  • Portfolio of student work (visual and performing arts, etc.)

  • Student project-based assessments (all subjects)

  • Lab Practicum (sciences)

  • Sight reading (music)

  • Dramatic performance (drama)

  • Skills demonstration (physical education)

  • Persuasive speech (public speaking)

(New Jersey Department of Education, 2014)

Parents are able to access their child’s grade and attendance through the parent portal called PowerSchool which is available on the XHS website. In addition, progress reports and report cards are generated and mailed out four times during the school year (“PowerSchool,” 2014). At the high school level, teacher conferences are not scheduled, but parents may call the guidance office at any time to schedule a conference with a teacher.

Section 7: Extra-Curricular Activities and Program for Special Groups
Beyond the basic curriculum requirements, the XHS offers over 30 clubs and extra-curricular activities (Table 23). Most of the club activities are open to all students, however, there are a couple of the activities that students will need to try out for or meet certain requirements.
Table 23: Extra-Curricular Activities and Clubs



Academic Team

This club offers students the opportunity to compete against other high schools in Somerset County. The matches consist of questions regarding the regular high school curriculum.

Amnesty International

Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people working together to protect the human rights of others. The XHS chapter participates in various campaigns to promote student awareness of human rights violations.

Art Club

The Art Club is an opportunity for students who have an interest in the visual arts to gather in a social environment. Students engage in art production activities themselves, but also use their talents in service to the community.

Barbershop Quartet

Two quartets are auditioned in the fall of each year; a men’s quartet and a women’s quartet. They prepare barbershop and pop style literature for school concerts and community events.

Book Club

The XHS Book Club meets monthly to summarize, discuss, and learn from the book that they have been assigned to read.

By Kids for Kids

By Kids for Kids is a charitable club created by XHS students who wish to improve the lives of children by taking part in fundraising activities that benefit individuals, local, national, and international charities.

Chamber Choir

The Chamber Choir is an ensemble that rehearses after school once a week. This group performs at community events and school concerts.


Anime Club

This club focuses on producing and exhibiting motion pictures in the form of a short story or epic. The club’s activities include learning different techniques of filmmaking.

Class Officers

The goal of the officers is to participate in activities and fundraisers. The four class officers must be elected to his or her position and must receive a majority of the votes cast.

Cultural Awareness


The purpose of this club is to promote tolerance and respect for our culture, religious, and ethnic differences. Membership is open to all students.

Drama Club

The Drama Club is open to all students who participate in the annual Spring musical. This includes the actors, musicians, technicians, designers, artists, and set constructors. Involvement in the Drama Club may lead to membership in the Thespian Society.

The F.R.E.E. Club (Environmental )

The Friends Rescuing our Endangered Environment Club promote awareness in the school and community of pressing global and local environmental concerns.

French Club

The purpose of the French Club is to foster an interest in the language and the culture of France and other Francophone countries, both in school and in the community at large.

Genesis Club

The Genesis Club is a Bible book club for any student within the school environment who would like to extend their knowledge about the Bible as they would for any historical text.

Interact Club

The goal of this club is to foster leadership, collaboration, community service, and international understanding between students and the community. The Interact Club is supported by the Rotary Clubs of Somerville and Branchburg.

Jazz Ensemble

The Jazz Ensemble is the premier instrumental performance ensemble at XHS. This group is available by audition only.

Key Club

The Key Club is a local, district, and international service organization that is open to all students. It is sponsored by the local Kiwanis Club, and the objective of the club is the development of initiative, leadership ability, and good citizenship practices.

Marching Band/Color Guard/Drum Line

The Marching Band performs at all football games, local parades, and regional competitions. Anyone that plays an instrument can be part of the Marching Band. There are tryouts for the Drum Line and Color Guard each year.

Mock Trial Competition

Mock Trial is a national extracurricular activity sponsored by State Bar Associations whose purpose is to bring law to life for students through active preparation and participation in competitions.

Model United Nations

The Model United Nations program gives high school students the opportunity to take part in a three-day conference of debating and simulations with students from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland.

The National Honor Society

The XHS chapter of the National Honor Society is a service organization. Membership is open to juniors and seniors who have fulfilled the criteria required by the national guidelines which include: scholarship, leadership, character, and service.

Peer Leadership

This program is designed to assist freshman in adjusting to their new high school environment. Freshmen receive support from a select group of senior students who undergo intensive training from the Princeton Center for Leadership Training.

Photography Club

The Photography Club is offered to students who would like to further their interest and technique in picture taking.

Ping Pong Club

This is a club sport that is open to students that like the sport of ping pong.

Pioneer Yearbook

The goal of the yearbook staff is to chronicle the events and activities that occur throughout the school year. Students design layouts, photo spreads, and the cover design for the XHS yearbook.


S.A.D.D. is an organization dedicated to addressing the issues of underage drinking, drug use, and other destructive decisions that people may make.

Save Our World

The aim of this club is to create an awareness of social, political, and economic struggles of third-world countries. Students raise money to aid a chosen region or country each year.

Ski and Snowboard Club

The Ski and Snowboard club is open to all students, and it provides them with the opportunity to ski and snowboard at a local mountain resort.

Spanish Club

The Spanish Club fosters an interest in Hispanic culture, language, and people, both in school and in the community at large.

Student Council

The aim of the XHS Student Council is to act as the effective contact between the administration, faculty, and students. The council strives to foster the best interests of the school, and students must be elected to serve on the Student Council.

The Muse Literary and Art Club

The Muse is a forum for students to publish their creative writings and artwork each year.

Theatre Arts

The Theatre Arts group is composed of students that work on the sets for the Spring musical. They construct the props and the scenery for the play.

Thespian Society-Troupe 659

The Thespian Society is an international high school dramatics fraternity. Students who participate in the school musical may earn membership to this organization. The troupe members compete in state theatrical competitions.

Valkyrie Newspaper

The Valkyrie is the student-operated newspaper of XHS. Its goals are to provide information for the student body. All students are eligible to participate on the newspaper staff.

XHS Robotics Team

The Robotics Team allows students an opportunity to interact with professional engineers, scientists, and skilled tradesmen. The students design and build a large, complex robot, which is taken into competitions on regional and national levels against other teams.

(XHS Official Website, 2014)
In addition to club offerings, there are other programs for special groups. For instance, there a tutoring program that is held in the high school library every day. Teachers are available for tutoring 7:00 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. and from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., and every day there is a different schedule of specific content areas available to students (Table 24).

Students as XHS are also offered other support services which include Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, English as a Second Language (ESL), Basic Skills, Resource Room, and Home Instruction if needed (XHS Official Website, 2014).

Table 24: Tutoring Program Schedule






7:00 - 7:30 am

7:00 - 7:30 am

7:00 - 7:30 am

7:00 - 7:30 am

7:00 - 7:30 am

Social Studies



College Prep



2:30 - 3:30 pm

2:30 - 3:30 pm

2:30 - 3:30 pm

2:30 - 3:30 pm

2:30 - 3:30 pm



Social Studies







(XHS Official Website, 2014)

The XHS athletic program offers a wide variety of varsity, junior varsity, and freshman team sports (Table 25). In order to be eligible for any of these sports, students must tryout and must also have the following forms completed: Physical Examination, Parent Permission Form, Concussion Fact Sheet and Acknowledgement, Training Rules and Regulations, Steroid Consent, Impact Notification, Guide to Impact Testing, and a Sudden Cardiac Death Sign-off (District policies, 2013).

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