Highlights of Exemplary Practices Aligned with the 18 Characteristics of Successful Middle Schools
Characteristic #11: Instruction fosters learning that is active, purposeful, and democratic.
South View Middle School has a developed a Flex Time within their advisory structure that provides students with opportunities to enrich their learning as well as work toward specific learning targets. Three pathways form the structure of this time: support, extension, enrichment. Formative assessments help students learn where they stand against their learning targets. All teachers offer a flex session that is an extension of their class every day. Identified students move through seminars that are tailored for specific needs while others use this time to progress independently or in collaborative groups. Students are an important part of the equation in determining their learning targets, thus enabling them to reflect on work they have done and determine where they need to concentrate their efforts moving forward. The school has developed tiered support systems to promote student growth. This is accomplished by sponsored lunch groups with the school social worker, team taught flex times with therapy dogs, as well as elective courses featuring peer learning support for both academic and SEL skills development.
Characteristic #12: Varied and ongoing assessments advance learning as well as measure it.
South View Middle School engages in formative as well as summative assessments to determine progress and develop learning goals. This work includes student evaluation within the structure of the Flex initiative, as well as teachers who monitor progress both formally and informally. Over time assessment focus has shifted from summative measures to a more robust use of formative assessments that measure each student’s learning throughout a unit of study. South View also established a system of personalization where teacher teams use evidence of student learning to identify students who need additional time and support to become proficient. This provides data points to modify instructional practices and strategies to better meet student needs. In addition to classroom assessment, the school uses a data cycle process to critically self-reflect on teaching behaviors. This informs personal, professional and PLC growth. They have been collecting qualitative and quantitative data and have analyzed it to determine goals to ensure the curriculum is challenging, exploratory, integrative, and diverse (In alignment with The Successful Middle School: This We Believe Characteristic #9).
Characteristic #15: Leaders are committed to and knowledgeable about young adolescents, equitable practices, and educational research.
Leadership at South View Middle School is well versed in the characteristics of young adolescents. They have used this knowledge as a basis for setting goals and developing initiatives that align with those characteristics. The Flex Time initiative is one example of this, as well as examples of student choice in various aspects of learning and exploration in the school.
They have embraced the Essential Attributes and Characteristics of Successful Middle Schools: This We Believe to further that knowledge. The entire faculty participated in the SMS Assessment and are using the findings to target specific characteristics for future work.
Characteristic # 17: Professional learning for all staff is relevant, long term, and job embedded.
South View Middle School utilizes AMLE professional development resources to provide learning opportunities for staff aligned to specific goals within the school. The leadership team regularly attends AMLE events and other professional learning centered on young adolescents, equitable practices, and educational research. Their findings are then shared with the larger faculty and form a basis for future initiatives. PLC’s serve as an essential professional development initiative as they seek to increase their knowledge base and develop strategies that will enhance their effectiveness in the classroom. They use formative assessments to determine instructional responses based on disaggregated data. All staff have been trained on Restorative Practices, and they are engaged regularly in planned circle activities, weekly professional learning, and opportunities to observe other teachers on learning walks.
Characteristic #18: Organizational structures foster purposeful learning and meaningful relationships.
South View Middle School has various structures in place to deepen learning while attending to the SEL needs of their students. These include an Advisory Program that meets several times a week, providing opportunities to meet individually with students to have coaching conversations with them. They also help students prepare for learner led conferences, and they use the school advisory presentation to lead circles. Flex time has become an essential component of South View Middle School and has enabled students to support their learning through additional time to master content as well as opportunities to enrich and extend that learning. A team structure ensures small learning communities for students, and a rich exploratory program and variety of student activities serve to provide successful experiences and a sense of belonging for all students.