Middle schools aim to become more flexibleBy fall 2009, junior highs won’t be mini-high schools anymore.
By: Judy Spooner, Woodbury Bulletin
By fall 2009, junior highs won’t be mini-high schools anymore.
That fall, when sixth-graders join the middle-school ranks, and ninth-graders head for the high schools, teaching methods will change significantly.
Students will be grouped in “houses,” they will have fewer elective choices and more required courses and there will be a greater focus on building relationships between the students and adults in the schools.
Students will be grouped by grade level in houses of 150 to 180 students with a group of instructors who will teach core subjects including language arts, math, science and social studies.
Teachers in houses will meet regularly for planning and sharing information about student progress.
In the past, most junior high teachers did not know how students were doing in other classes. In the middle-school model, teachers will be in a position to understand the whole student.
Bells will ring, but not all students will march to another class. Teachers can team up, according to the recommendations of a planning team that has met for two years, which were presented to the school board at a workshop June 5.
For example, a science teacher might need more than one class hour for a student project. A social studies teacher might relinquish the time, to be made up later. Social studies could also be integrated into the science project.
Flexibility allows room for teachers to collaborate and use “relevant and active teaching and learning approaches,” according the recommendations.
The district’s planning team studied other middle schools in the metropolitan area and found successful ones are moving away from a model where students are glued to their seats with teachers talking to a more active student-teacher learning experience.
More students will work in small groups, for example.
Not all classes will be limited to one grade level. Students who progress more rapidly in math than their peers will go on to more rigorous math classes, according to the recommendations.
The recommendations include replacing homeroom time with advisories every other day.
During advisory time, teachers will meet with students for career planning and individual help.
On the days students are not in advisories, they will be in music or physical education.
Electives will be limited in middle schools. Students can choose vocal or band music instruction and a world language.
Encore classes, or those that are not core classes, will be required. All students will take art, business, family and consumer science, health and technical education.
By upping the exposure to world language and cultures, the recommendation aims to prepare students for a global society.
In addition to rigorous academics, middle-school students need to form good relationships with teachers and support staff members.
Current education research concludes students who develop a strong relationship with one adult in middle school are more successful in high school, recommendations said.