Highlights of Exemplary Practices Aligned with the 18 Characteristics of Successful Middle Schools
Characteristic #1: Educators respect and value young adolescents; Characteristic #2: The school environment is welcoming, inclusive, and affirming for all.
Fostering a Learner-Centered Environment
River Bend Middle School is a learner-centered environment designed to meet the needs of a diverse student body. Individual differences are valued through the appreciation and acceptance of each person's unique strengths. River Bend Middle School promotes high expectations in a challenging, safe, and supportive environment. Staff members use best practices to promote and involve students in the learning process. Student and staff accomplishments are encouraged and celebrated. Students' best interests are considered when making decisions. The River Bend school community is based on core values that include learning, diversity, teamwork, high expectations, and community. These core values are key components in guiding students to become active citizens in a global society. This is achieved by ensuring an atmosphere in which risk-taking is encouraged in a way that is built on mutual respect, teamwork, consensus, and open dialogue. River Bend Middle School strives to create a welcoming atmosphere for students, staff, families, and community members, which engenders a sense of belonging and a joy of learning.
Characteristic #9: Curriculum is challenging, exploratory, integrative, and diverse; Characteristic #11: Instruction fosters learning that is active purposeful, and democratic.
At River Bend Middle School, our mission is to “empower all students to make meaningful contributions to the world.” When engaged in deeper learning, students develop the traits of a Profile of a Graduate: a knowledgeable critical thinker, communicator, collaborator, creator, and contributor, thus fulfilling our mission. The implementation of integrated project-based learning experiences (PBL), performance assessments (PA), and personalized learning (PL) results in increased deeper learning and student engagement. Deeper Learning prepares our students to adapt to change, innovate, create solutions, and make contributions in the real world. The heart of this process is engaging students in solving authentic, challenging problems.
Culturally Responsive Practices
At River Bend Middle School, we provide and support culturally responsive practices to meet the social and emotional needs of all students. Culturally responsive practices bridge the gap between learning and the lived culture by focusing on authentic relationships, student experiences, and pedagogy to strengthen student engagement and build a culture that values both individuality and inclusivity. Cultural responsiveness embodies learning through a multi-faceted approach that considers leadership, teachers, students, the learning environment, and the community as foundational factors for academic achievement and social empowerment. Advisory activities are designed to foster relationships and a stronger sense of belonging and community among students and staff. Monthly themes drive various activities to support social-emotional learning, PBIS, character education, etc. At River Bend, we use the Second Step program which is a holistic approach to building supportive communities for every child through social-emotional learning.
Characteristic #18: Organizational structures foster purposeful learning and meaningful relationships
Teaming and the Master Schedule
Our master schedule reflects a commitment to high performing Collaborative Learning Teams (CLTs) and Interdisciplinary Teams (ITs). English, math, science, and social studies teachers are aligned to grade-level CLTs. CLTs have common planning in the master schedule and are expected to meet formally each week. CLT meetings include discussions on topics related to curriculum, instruction, and assessment. Teachers work collaboratively in a backwards design approach that culminates in the creation of common assessments that are drawn from the essential knowledge as outlined by the Virginia Department of Education’s blueprints. Questions that CLTs consider when planning for student learning include: (1) What am I learning today? (2) Why am I learning this? (3) How will I know that I have learned it? Additionally, Interdisciplinary Teaming is at the heart of every effective and responsible middle school program. Students are scheduled into an Interdisciplinary Team that provides a structure for added accountability, collaboration, communication, and connections with small groups within a large grade level. ITs have common planning in the master schedule and meet formally each week. IT meetings include discussions on topics related to students, curriculum, and professional development.