Highlights of Exemplary Practices Aligned with the 18 Characteristics of Successful Middle Schools
Characteristic #18: Organizational structures foster purposeful learning and meaningful relationship.
Professional Learning Communities - PLCs
With two periods of protected common planning, teachers use a standards mastery framework approach to backwards map from standards and learning targets to assessments and hands-on projects. They use frameworks to align work to school focus areas and use data to hone in on students’ needs. PLCs meet weekly with the support of an instructional literacy coach, an International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program coordinator, and administrators.
Interdisciplinary Team Model
Students benefit from a team-based relationship with their teachers who leverage knowledge of students to challenge and nurture them. Teams plan at least one interdisciplinary unit each semester. They meet at twice monthly during common planning to monitor students progress and to plan interventions. They have the support of a graduation coach, counselors, and administrators.
Characteristic #17: Professional learning for all staff is relevant, long term, and job embedded.
Teachers and staff advocate for their professional learning in a needs assessments aligned to school focus areas. Professional learning is job-embedded following the high-quality professional learning design of ample time to learn, to plan, to implement, and to reflect. We look for and lift up in-house experts to lead content delivery. Professional learning is led by an instructional coach and committee of teachers.
Characteristic #3: Every student’s academic and personal development is guided by an adult advocate.
Students spend 27 minutes twice a week with a trusted teacher working on success skills: self-management, social competence, collaborative problem solving, reflective learning strategies, sense of belonging, and self awareness. Students and staff give voice to the advisory during Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, IB service learning drives, and our Relationships and Routines Fridays – a School Governance Council effort to celebrate the uniqueness and diversity of our school.
Characteristic # 2: The school environment is welcoming, inclusive, and affirming for all.
ROAR PBIS Program
Through consistent expectations defined by responsibility, organization, attitude, and respect – “ROAR,” PBIS gives a systemic focus on celebrating positive behaviors and lifting students up for role model behavior; it provides a restorative process to engage students in reflection and corrective action for unwanted behaviors.
Characteristic # 11: Instruction fosters learning that is active, purposeful, and democratic.
Using varied strategies, choice in demonstrating learning, and flexible pacing in an expected weekly small-group instructional model, teachers plan personalized instruction to meet students’ needs. Teachers work in small groups with students to use intervention and acceleration strategies to differentiate instruction for diverse learners, while other students collaborate in partners or groups, work individually on digital content at a flexible pace, or go through a station rotation of activities.
Characteristic #9: Curriculum is challenging, exploratory, integrative, and diverse.
School-wide strategies as a certified AVID school are in place to improve every student’s writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization, and reading skills. Through intentional inclusion of strategies in these areas in all teachers’ lessons weekly and many school-wide efforts such as a school-wide organizational binder, these strategies enliven each teachers’ curriculum and help ensure students are ready for the rigors of an honors or advanced placement class by high school.
Student-led Clubs and Activities
A variety of clubs that are both teacher offered and student requested allow students to advocate for their interests in before or after school meetings. Our athletics and music opportunities are vast and funded through a parent-run Foundation so that the cost of these programs is removed as a barrier for all students. We have over 50% of our student population in music and offer sports year-round.
Characteristic #16: Leaders demonstrate courage and collaboration.
The instructional leadership team honors and asks for teacher and staff voices with grade level, content, and staff representatives on the team. The School Governance Council of parents, community, and teachers manages the strategic plan and budget, and our PTA and Foundation support the staff and students with needed funding and volunteer armies.