Middle School Site Plan Report
Summit Trails and Maple View middle schools developed a unified strategy which was presented jointly. Given that, statements below generally apply to both schools in equal measure:
Summit Trails principal Sean Cassidy announced that a major focus at both MVMS and STMS is training teachers to understand what a “Level 4” student (i.e. one who scores a 4 on the SBAC assessments) looks like and how to help those students grow. Furthermore, teachers are learning the standards for the next grade-level so they can understand how best to help students grow in context of the following year’s standards.
Cassidy pointed out that “if [a child] does a multiplication table perfectly with 100% accuracy within the right amount of time, that’s not necessarily a high achievement. It’s mastery of a level 2 standard.”
“It’s about giving students on the high end the chance to apply a given standard to real-life situations at a Level 4 level of knowledge.”
McGrath also stated that “Levels 3 and 4 should be the ones making far more than a year of growth. These are our high performing kids.”
For the upcoming year, each middle school has devoted at least seven Friday in-services to review these standards and share insights and recommendations on how to help the Level 4 students. Several of the meetings at each school were facilitated by Humanities Instructional Coach Bridget Vannice—one of the Tahoma employees PATH sponsored to attend the WAETAG conference in October!
Another key development at STMS comes from the teachers themselves. Cassidy referenced a grassroots effort introduced by the science teachers to adopt a next-gen teaching format they’re calling ‘phenomenon-based learning’. The concept behind it is that for each segment, the science teachers find a real-life natural phenomenon and use it as a reference point for their material. They then include relevant engineering challenges and approach the phenomenon from a variety of angles.
Cassidy relayed to the board that not only do the teachers love the new format, but they have found it to be very inspiring for their students. It has proven successful enough thus far that other core-subject teachers have begun looking for ways to incorporate the method into their own subjects.
On the topic of culture & climate, Principal McGrath pointed out that students of middle schools age are now reaching the developmental stage where they no longer want to talk with their parents about school and in doing so, have cut themselves off from a major resource. As it relates to academic achievement, McGrath pointed out that middle school students typically struggle with executive and organizational skills.
“Because they’re not working with parents, it is an imperative duty of middle schools to provide support for students.”
McGrath pointed out that MVMS currently does this through classroom experience. Teachers will purposely let the students get behind on their work, watch their grades decline, and learn to make the mental connection between delivering work product and grades. At that point the teachers step in to provide support and help them return to a successful state. The process is allowed to repeat, as needed, for each student.