What is “grade leveling” and will it work for Dover?
Grade leveling, also known as “The Princeton Plan”, is a way of setting up elementary schools by placing children of the same age/grade in the same buildings, rather than in a traditional K-5 configuration (which is the “Neighborhood School” model that Dover has always used).
“Over a half century ago, Princeton, New Jersey, developed a plan to create diversity in their school district by modifying the neighborhood school model into schools grouped by grade levels. With this plan, the elementary schools are organized by grade level, not by geographic location.” (http://www.islandtrees.org/PDFS/ELEMENTARY_REORG.PDF)
“The Princeton Plan does not use geographic lines to place students but instead puts kids of the same age together in one place; for example, kindergarten through second grade would be in one building, then grades three through five in another before they move on to middle school and high school.” (https://www.longislandadvance.net/4290/Possible-Princeton-Plan-plan-for-Pat-Med)
If grade leveling is implemented in Dover Schools, it is proposed that South Elementary would house PreK-1st, East would house 2nd-3rd, and Dover Ave. would house 4th-5th. If this plan comes to fruition, it will be permanent, and there will not be a change to back to our neighborhood schools in the future. This means that siblings and neighborhood friends are not likely to attend the same schools, and it will, in turn, cause a number of logistical problems for parents. The number of transitions that the kids will have to make from school to school is also concerning, as it will certainly impact their feelings of familiarity and security.
Some school districts have implemented this plan with success, but in a community like Dover, which takes great pride in its tradition of excellence, this is NOT the BEST option for our children. “One of the biggest complaints in districts adopting the ‘Princeton’ configuration is the loss of neighborhood schools. However, Island Trees would still be able to retain the neighborhood schools since both district schools are located on the same campus. This is very different from other ‘Princeton’ districts where students in the neighborhood are bused to the other side of town to attend schools.” (http://www.islandtrees.org/PDFS/ELEMENTARY_REORG.PDF)
“Realizing that no configuration will ‘fit’ all school districts, it is imperative to consider certain factors to determine the one that will work best for your school community ( . . . ) It is essential that school administrators and school boards seek community input when making decisions to change the grade configurations for their school district.” (https://webspm.com/articles/2006/03/01/grade-configurations.aspx)
“Other administrators should tread carefully if implementing the Princeton Plan will involve bussing students out of their home neighborhood, Murphy adds. ‘You want to make sure that you’re not breaking up your community and causing a fracture,’ he says. ‘It may not be worth the savings.'”(https://www.districtadministration.com/article/schools-regroup-success)