On Saturday, September 15, Discovery Charter School hosted the fourth STC Newark Roundtable, the first of the 2012-2013 school year. Sixteen participants attended, representing eight charter, independent, and district schools, as well as the Newark Trust for Education, the David Lynch Foundation, and the United Way of Essex and West Hudson.

An overarching theme of collecting and using data linked discussions throughout the morning.

Tanisha McHarris from the Newark Trust for Education presented their work on local philanthropic data. She introduced a valuable online tool that will track foundation investments in Newark’s district and charter schools. This promises to be an innovative opportunity for schools, community members, and foundation leaders to gain a clearer picture of the funding landscape. School leaders in particular hoped this will facilitate their own fundraising strategies.

The roundtable then turned to student data and assessments. Irene Hall of Discovery Charter School proposed an exciting collaboration to pilot The Learning Record, one method of alternative assessment. The Record aims to create a fuller account of student learning through a systematic process of observations and evaluations. At least three STC schools will jointly participate with select students and teachers, who will meet regularly throughout this process.

Marnie McCoy of the Community Charter School of Paterson also shared her school’s use of data, emphasizing that data must be “accurate, accessible, and applied.” Students and teachers alike must be adept in analyzing their own data. For example, students at CCSP develop their own rubrics to understand data in their terms. The school recently received a Race to the Top grant to conduct a longitudinal study on their use of data.

Finally, participants shared a number of dynamic programs they have launched for students. Great Oaks Charter School introduced the Leader in Me character and leadership initiative to its students, after learning about the program during a previous roundtable. Irene Hall of Discovery discussed Kids in Business, her entrepreneurial program in which students create products, sell them, and donate proceeds to a selected charity. St. Benedict’s Preparatory School proposed expanding its partnership with the Naval Academy, which partners midshipmen with faculty and students for summer projects. Finally, the David Lynch Foundation presented the Quiet Time Program, a meditation-based program looking to expand into Newark schools.

School leaders left the roundtable with concrete collaborations and palpable energy. The morning set the tone for what promises to be a productive school year as we forge an even stronger network to serve Newark.