Somerset charter elementary school ranks 2nd in the state

The lobby of the Thomas Edison EnergySmart Charter School resembles the set of a Star Wars movie, only its the science project done by 5th graders who entered the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program held by NASA.

The project on the evaporation rates in space was among 25 student experiments selected from more than 2,500 from around the country that was carried aboard the SpaceX Falcon rocket with the CRS-8 Dragon Spacecraft for a 30-day stay in the International Space Station in April.

The school’s Science Olympiad program, which includes college-level courses, is one of the creative innovation programs that has the charter school ranked among the best in the state.

In addition to its challenging core curriculum, with an emphasis on integrating math, science, language arts and emerging technology, the school offers a Robotics programs, a model United Nations program and a math league program among other extra curricular activities.

Based on PARCC/NJASK scores, the school placed second out of 1,344 New Jersey public elementary schools in 2016. The school, which teaches kindergarten through 8th grade, opened its doors in 2012.

“We offer innovative and challenging programs to our students that nurture the individual student’s quest for knowledge,” said Rajasri Govindaraju, the school’s Curriculum and Special Education supervisor. “We expose students to various core activities that help expose their strengths.

“We try to meet the different learning styles of each student through audio and visual technology based on a teaching methodology. We also offer coaching to our students.”

There are state-of-the-art smartboards, high-speed internet and Chrome books in every classroom. Java Programming is part of the sixth, seventh and eighth-grade curriculum.

Gov. Chris Christie visited the school in May to applaud its accomplishments.

The school, which has a 12-to-1 student-teacher ratio, is headed by principal Oguz Yildiz, who earned a master’s degree in Education Leadership from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck. It’s located in a brand new building on Pierce Street that opened in September.

Students from Franklin, North Brunswick and South Brunswick are eligible to apply to the school via a weighed lottery, which increases the chances for low-income students. There is no testing or tuition. The next lottery in on Feb. 18, Yildiz said.

“Part of the school’s mission is to be socioeconomically diverse,” said Yildiz.

The state Department of Education has approved the school to expand to the 12th grade. Yildiz said the school will add a grade each year until its reaches its goal. The first graduating class is scheduled for 2021, he said. A college mentorship program is already in place.

Last year, 26 seventh graders who took Algebra 1 scored a 100 percent proficiency on PARCC, said Yildiz. All 42 sevent-graders scored 100 percent proficiency on the Language Arts, he said.

“We employ a unique approach to learning based on creativity with an emphasis on an innovative and EnergySmart curriculum that begins in kindergarten,” said Yildiz. “It seems to be working. We’re very proud of what we’re doing here.”

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