We are excited to say that Merit Preparatory will now be expanding its high school to serve students grades 9-12. With this expansion, we are adding a second principal to our team to lead the middle school, as Principal Ron Harvey will be moving to direct the growing high school. Currently, Merit Prep Middle School serves 254 students grades 5-8, and the high school serves 234 students grades 9-10.
Merit Prep has come a long way since its launch in 2012. Poor performance put the school on academic probation, and its charter renewal was in jeopardy. Now, our growth in enrollment numbers and need for expansion demonstrates one of many signs that Merit Prep is, not only turning itself around, but on the rise. In 2016, the New Jersey Department of Education granted us a five-year charter renewal and suggested that we expand our middle and high school to grades 5-8 and 9-12, having previously served grades 6-9. We couldn’t have made these accomplishments without the concerted efforts of our dedicated parents, teachers, staff and leadership.
As a Matchbook Learning school, Merit Prep meets students and teachers where they are, using an award-winning blended learning turnaround model that is competency-based, student-centered and focuses on professional development and the school’s technology ecosystem, culture and community. The model is the first of its kind in the nation to be offered to schools with the highest poverty rates and needs; here in Newark, NJ, Merit Prep is reinventing school as we know it. According to the State, we are the only true competency-based school model in Newark and possibly in all of New Jersey.
Our hallmark is providing a personalized, future-oriented educational experience via our technology platform Spark. We don’t believe in a cookie-cutter, one size fits all model as every child learns differently and at a different pace. If one student requires more time than most to master a subject, they get more time; if another is learning faster than the rest of the class, they can advance.
Merit Prep teachers use this tool to develop personal learning plans for every student, assessing what they need to learn and what’s the appropriate level they need to learn it at. It also allows our teachers to work side-by-side with individuals or small groups that might be at different stages in their learning paths.
Our next middle school principal will be a proven school turnaround leader who is highly coachable and willing to learn how to lead a new innovative model and methodology. They will also have experience working with urban schools in communities with high poverty rates, ethnically diverse student populations and turnaround situations like what we face here in Newark, NJ.
In the coming years, we anticipate that Merit Prep will do more than grow and improve its enrollment numbers and test scores. We intend the school to be a proving ground for what is possible in the field of personalized learning. Right now, the country is seeking a sustainable, scalable turnaround school solution, and we believe the excellent personalized learning happening at Merit Prep will one day help shape our nation’s public education trajectory.