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Hillsdale Schools Focusing on Individual Learning

School officials hope their new language arts and math curricula will improve student performance.

Hillsdale students are receiving more individualized teaching this year, and school officials are hoping the change will help struggling students catch up with their more successful peers.

Hillsdale school administrators presented their changes to the borough's district during a board of education meeting Monday. So far, Hillsdale teachers have already begun a new writers' workshop method for language arts and updated the district's math curriculum to bring the schools in line with New Jersey's new common core standards.

"It's not just the curriculum, it's how we're modeling the lessons for our students," Superintendent Richard Spirito said.

The new writers' workshop involves a short lesson, followed by writing time during which the teacher meets with students individually or in small groups to explain what needs improvement and why, rather than just marking the papers and returning them, according to Ann Blanche Smith School Principal Angela Iskenderian. Students are also given a reading assessment at the beginning of the year to determine what level of book they should be reading.

"We're individualizing instruction," Iskenderian said. "We're working with each student where he or she is."

George G. White School was named among more than 100 "focus" schools in the state last year because of a gap in student achievement. Spirito said he believed the school, which already has an average 82 percent proficiency rate on the NJASK test, could quickly close the gap and shake off the "focus" label.

Hillsdale will also be working with the Pascack Valley Regional District and the three other town districts to work on a new social studies curriculum through the new Regional Curriculum Office. The new curriculum is scheduled to be in place for the 2013-14 school year.

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Jim Leggate at Jim.Leggate@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

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