Sept. 26, 2016: What does
an exemplary middle school look like?
The presenter for this meeting
was Dr. Jim Butterworth, the committee's facilitator. The topics
below represent the general themes of his presentation on the
elements of a successful middle school. The full presentation is
The format of committee
meetings for the year will be as follows.
From September through
January, the presentations will begin with delivery of
information, followed by open dialogue. This will ensure all
committee members are equally informed.
From February through May,
the committee will begin to formulate decisions based off this
The committee has the potential
for positive change on a scale larger than one building
This work is about more
than simply creating an interim middle school space.
Middle schools are just as
critical as elementary and high schools. Students undergo rapid
social, emotional and physical changes. This is a factor which
is often overlooked but should be considered during the
development of a middle school.
Grades should be configured
based on philosophies, not space constraints.
Middle school is important as
both a physical space and a time in a child's life.
Parents often focus on the
beginning and end of their children's' education. Parental
involvement often drops off during the middle-school years.
Students are rapidly
undergoing physical, emotional and social changes in middle
"The seeds of dropout are
sown in middle school," meaning success in high school is
directly shaped by the preparation children receive in middle
school. In order to fix problems in the high school, the must be
addressed at the middle-school level.
Because of this, middle
schools are "the last best hope to prevent dropouts."
It is far more important to
prepare students by teaching them how to learn, not simply
what to learn. In order to accomplish this, the following
elements of a middle school must be considered:
Curriculum: this is what
Instructions: this is how
High expectations: the
committee discussed the meaning of this term at length, noting
that it applies to behavior as well as academic performance and
includes students' expectations for themselves. The level of
expectations for students is directly related to the level of
support that they receive. An ideal middle school would have
high levels of both.
Again, for a middle school to
be successful, it is important that students are taught how
to act and think
This empowers them to hold
themselves to higher expectations.
Goal setting and
self-reflection are also critical, as there is a difference
between simply graduating high school and actually being
prepared for success
It is also important that goals
are carried out with "comprehensive fidelity," meaning they are set
realistically and practiced faithfully
If too many goals are set,
none will be accomplished.
The next meeting will take
place on Oct. 17 from 6-8 p.m. at the Harriet Gibbons Student
Services center, located at 75 Watervliet Avenue. The topics for
next month's presentations will be enrollment and demographics.