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Grade Configuration Steering Committee Meeting Summary

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 available here.

  • 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 information.

  • 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 school.

    • "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 students learn

    • Instructions: this is how students learn

    • 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.



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