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John Witherspoon Middle School's Profile

Mr. Burr, Principal
217 Walnut Lane
Princeton, NJ 08540

Tel: 609.806.4270
Fax: 609.806.4271
Guidance: 609.806.4272

The Princeton Public School District is made up of Princeton Borough and Princeton Township. It is one of nine school districts in Mercer County, New Jersey, in the west central part of the state. It is an area long recognized for its rich history and strong educational values. The home of Princeton University, the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Westminster College of Rider University, Princeton is a center for education and culture for the surrounding region.

John Witherspoon Middle School mirrors the life style of its community with its own tradition of academic and cultural achievement. As the only middle school in the public school system, it houses grades six, seven, and eight. With a student body of just under 750 and a staff of around 75, JWMS provides an environment for adolescents to bridge the educational adventure between elementary school and high school. Students at each grade level are assigned to a homeroom that is part of a house or academic teaching team. There are two houses, made up of five teachers and approximately 120 students, at each grade level. Each grade has its own school counselor. A full time child study team serves the school. The building has a principal and an assistant principal.

Our present building was constructed in 1966 and underwent major renovations and additions in 2003-2005. It consists of a large main building and six wings. The main building houses our main office, the health office, the Learning Commons with an auxiliary computer lab, a cafeteria, an auditorium, a suite for the child study team, and the Commons, which features a Michael Graves mural. The wings become “mini-schools” within the school. Sixth grade is housed in its own wing. The sixth grade counselor is housed within that wing. Two wings house our seventh and eighth grade programs. Both the seventh and eighth grade counselors are in the wings with the seventh and eighth grade houses. Each grade has new science classrooms that enhance delivery of instruction and lab work.  The fourth and fifth wings include specialized rooms for our exploratory subjects (i.e., Tech Prep, Computer Lab, Visual Art, STEM Robotics, Programming in 3D) and our performance classes (i.e., Drama, Orchestra, Band, and Chorus). The sixth wing houses our gymnasium, pool, and locker rooms. The campus, which includes playing fields and a playground, adjoins the campuses of Princeton High School and Westminster Choir College of Rider University.

A standard student daily schedule includes five academic subjects, two periods for non-academics, and a thirty-minute lunch period. The day begins with a five-minute homeroom period followed by 7 fifty-minute classes. A lunch period occurs in the middle of the day for each grade level. Courses are offered in English, mathematics, science, social studies, world languages, physical education, health, music, art, computers, technology, drama, STEM Robotics, Programming in 3D, basic skills, English as a second language, and special education.

Launching the Readers Workshop. Investigating Characters Across Series. Nonfiction Reading. Historical Fiction Book Clubs. Poetry and Developing Analytical Reading Practices.
Personal Narrative and Memoir. Realistic Fiction/Social Action Fiction. Informational Writing. Personal and Argumentative Essay. Literary Essay.
Launching the Readers Workshop with Experienced Readers. The depth of characterization- Close Analysis. Nonfiction Reading and Realistic Fiction. Historical Fiction/Social Action Book Clubs. Poetry and Analytical Reading- Interpretation.
Argument Essays. Research and Information Writing. Writing Literary Analysis About Themes and Characterization. Writing About Reading:  fiction and nonfiction. Creative Writing.
Literature-based with topics in grammar, writing, vocabulary, listening and speaking. Typical selections include: House on Mango Street, Of Beetles and Angels, Mythology, Romeo and Juliet, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, various poetry and short stories from an anthology. Writing narrative, information,
and argument essays. Holt's Handbook, 3rd course.

Pre-Algebra – pre-algebra course. Larson Pre-Algebra, Holt McDougal, 2012

Pre-Algebra Accelerated – accelerated course in pre-algebra. Larson
Pre-Algebra, Holt McDougal, 2012
Algebra I Part 1 – first half of Algebra I.  Larson Algebra I, Holt McDougal, 2012

Algebra I Accelerated – advanced course. Larson Algebra I, Holt McDougal, 2012
Algebra Core - full year Algebra course focusing on the core components.  Larson Algebra I, Holt McDougal, 2012

Algebra I Part 2 – second part of Algebra I. Larson Algebra I, Holt McDougal, 2012

Algebra II Accelerated – advanced course. Larson Algebra II, McDougal Littell, 2007
Social Studies
History and geography through a survey of ancient cultures: prehistory through the fall of Rome. Primary and Secondary sources, as well as My World History, Pearson, 2012 are used in the course.
History and geography through a survey of world cultures during the Middle Ages: roughly 400 through 1600.  Primary and Secondary sources, as well as My World History, Pearson, 2012 are used in the course.
A survey of the American government, political system, and historical events that shape a citizen’s role in a democracy.  A three-day trip to Washington, DC takes place.  Civics, Pearson/ Prentice Hall.

A multi-text/multi-resources program including inquiry based lessons with lab work utilizing Claims, Evidence and Reasoning as the core of scientific investigations. These investigations will include the following topics: Ecology, Evolution, Human Anatomy & Physiology, basic Genetics & Heredity, and Microbiology. Quantitative (metric) and qualitative measurement techniques are integrated throughout the curriculum. Students participate in an outdoor applied environmental experience each spring.
The focus of 7th grade science is on Earth and space science including principles of astronomy, weather and climate, geology, and oceanography. Through a variety of investigations, inquiry-based labs, readings, and use of various other resources, students explore natural phenomena to make sense of the world around them. Students collect and analyze information to provide evidence that supports reasoning leading to claims and explanations.
The eighth grade physical science course is designed to engage learners in the practices, crosscutting concepts and core ideas regarding studies on matter and energy. Students will engage readily in lab-based inquiry and exploration, and will utilize research skills to explain observations and draw conclusions. Project-based engineering tasks like designing wind turbine blades or constructing electric cars encourage students to explore the advantages and limitations of their designs.
World Languages
Students begin to study French or continue Spanish studies from elementary school. These are all in an immersion language setting that emphasizes the modes of communication with language taught in context and organized by thematic units. The curricula are organized thematically.
Students continue with French or Spanish studies in an immersion setting that emphasizes the modes of communication with language taught in context and organized by thematic units. In 7th grade students may add Mandarin to their French or Spanish studies. The curricula are organized thematically.
Students continue with French or Spanish studies in an immersion setting that emphasizes the modes of communication with language taught in context and organized by thematic units. The targeted goal for exiting is at the Novice High level for French and the Intermediate Low level for Spanish. Students may also continue with their Mandarin studies. The classes are conducted in the target language.

Report cards are issued four times a year:  November, February, April, and June. The November report card is generally in conjunction with a parent-teacher conference. While parent conferences may be requested at any time during the school year, the November conferences are held for every child throughout the school. Students receive letter grades on their report cards. The grades might equate to the following numerical scale or narrative comments. We do not develop GPAs or rank our students.

Letter Grade
Narrative Comment

A / A-

90 - 100

Excellent or superior work; shows the highest distinction.

B+ / B / B-

80 - 89

Above average; shows achievement of fine quality.

C+ / C / C-

70 – 79

Average; indicates satisfactory work.

D+ / D / D-

60 – 69

Poor; indicates unsatisfactory work in one or more aspects .


59 or lower

Failure; unacceptable work, participation, understanding.


Pass; used when one of the above grades is not appropriate.

The student body of JWMS reflects the diversity of the community. Our school population is comprised of students who were born in Princeton as well as students who move here during their school careers. Families move here from other locations in the United States and over forty countries throughout the world. We are fortunate to experience this unique student body due to visiting scholars at the Institute for Advanced Study and visiting professors at Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary who bring their families to live in Princeton.

Each spring, our students take the NJ-ASK. This is a test mandated by the New Jersey Department of Education. It measures student performance in reading, writing, mathematics, and science. The mean for student performance is well above average.

While chorus, band, and orchestra are part of our regular school day; there are also many extracurricular activities at JWMS. Clubs include Art Club, Board Game Club, Do Something Club, Drama Club, Geography Bee Club, Little Tiger Store, Mathletes, Newspaper Club, PPS Girls Club, Robotics Club, Science Bowl, Stage & Lighting Crew, and Yearbook.  Team sports include boys & girls soccer, field hockey, co-ed cross country, co-ed tennis, girls & boys basketball, swim team, wrestling, baseball, softball, co-ed track, and boys & girls lacrosse.