Last week I spent a morning at the Jersey City Global Charter School, a unique K-6 school serving 385 pupils. I left with a sense of hope for the future.
JCGCS employs an innovative program throughout the students’ learning experience. Called MicroSociety, the program engages students from the youngest grades to the oldest in the governmental and commercial aspects of the real adult world.
Students run for public office (each grade has a governor—sworn in by a local assemblyman); manage businesses, including a travel agency, a café, and a global bank; and even weigh in when the school’s leadership has to decide whether or not to close for a snow day!
Being charged with such responsibilities makes a difference in the way students see themselves. I spoke to both young and older students, and each one looked me in the eye and explained what they were doing without laughing, bashfulness, or fidgeting. Some adults can’t do that!
MicroSociety Gets Big Results
MicroSociety is the first period of each day, and its concepts are reinforced throughout the day. Students use real-world vocabulary in managing their businesses or jobs. Yes, some students apply for jobs and write résumés and go on interviews—job postings are on the hallway walls; they work in marketing, research, sales, budget proposals, analyzing profit margins and losses. All the students have bank accounts within MicroSociety.
I spoke with a few second graders, Marco, Matthew, and Thanasi; and two older pupils, Jaida and Sara, and all love their school.
Thanasi, an assistant manager and chief of staff, told me he liked the way MicroSociety allows him to “experience the real world.” Jaida, an entrepreneur who also works in the Department of Economic Growth, said she loved that MicroSociety gave her a taste of what a real job’s responsibilities are. Sara said she had the opportunity to see how a real job is run. One of her two jobs is managing a global travel agency. The experience gives her “a vision of what you want to do when you grow up.”
No Racial Isolation Here
Although charter schools have been criticized for being segregated, JCGCS students represent 28 different nationalities. I saw a rainbow of children in all the grades—there’s no racial isolation here. The principal, Lemuer Perez, told me that parents have asked the school to add on grades both at the pre-K level and going into middle school. The school has requested that the state extend its charter to allow for the new grades.
The instructional model is different, too: Here, teachers are more facilitators than lecturers standing at the front of the room. Special needs children are completely mainstreamed. One boy I met was legally blind, but he too had jobs and had run for political office; none of the other kids seemed fazed by him.
The school’s test scores are higher than those of other schools in Jersey City, Nadira Jack, JCGCS chief school administrator, told me: 93% in reading proficiency and 87% in math proficiency.