Consolidated Middle School
CONSOLIDATED MIDDLE SCHOOL CAMPUS
The 6-8 middle school campus envisioned by BHUSD is supported by decades of research on the needs of young adolescents - and rooted in middle school philosophy that will meet student’s academic, social and emotional needs. Students and teachers will be grouped into “interdisciplinary academic teams”, comprised of approximately 150 students and a teacher team for all classes. Classrooms for each team will be organized in a central community space, and students will spend much of their day in their pod of classrooms. This creates a feeling of a small school, but in a setting that offers the resources and opportunities of a large one. Students and teachers become well acquainted with each other; students feel safe, respected and supported, and are encouraged to explore interests and take intellectual risks.
Key Educational Improvements
- Reinvesting funds will create additional academic course levels to meet all of our students needs. Four levels would include Accelerated, Honors, Regular and Special Education.
- More sections of each grade level allows more flexible grouping of students, while maintaining current class size guidelines.
- A greater pool of students and added classrooms at each grade level ensures that all students are appropriately grouped with peers and teachers who can best help meet their learning needs.
- Elimination of “singleton sections” (single elective sections in each grade level) will provide better scheduling opportunities to meet the diverse needs and interests of all our students.
- Offering a variety of extracurricular opportunities to meet all student needs and interests.
- Increased teacher collaboration time and opportunities for professional development, leading to richer, deeper and more robust instruction for students.
Educational Benefits of a Single Middle School Campus
- Stronger learning communities with the feeling of a small school with robust resources and opportunities: Young adolescents between the ages of 11 and 15 undergo more rapid and profound personal changes than any other time in their lives. Bringing 6-8 students together onto one campus will help build strong learning communities characterized by a sense of connectedness. Students and teachers on the same team become like a family unit, and form close bonds.
- Common collaboration time for teachers allows for more robust experiences for students. When teacher teams are working together to plan and create interdisciplinary units, the learning becomes more vibrant, relevant and authentic. For example in an interdisciplinary scenario, the math teacher might introduce content and concepts like geometry and angles, that can be leveraged into a science classroom where students can apply those concepts in a lesson about simple machines. A seamless interdisciplinary experience gives more context into understanding abstract concepts. With the current size of our middle schools, teacher collaboration time is limited because some are required to teach more than one grade, creating scheduling conflicts that prevent the ability to participate in grade-level planning time.
- Flexible scheduling to best meet student needs: The teaming approach offers teachers the ability to be flexible with scheduling, based on students’ interests, readiness, and needs. For example, when a single interdisciplinary team of teachers works with a dedicated group of students, they could make decisions to extend or reduce class period time based on classroom needs.
- Optimal professional development opportunities. When all middle school staff are in one location, professional development sessions can be held on-site. When common collaboration time is built into staff schedules, teachers may participate in additional professional development, and more frequent, shorter PD sessions may be planned.
- Greater ability to be proactive in providing additional targeted academic and social support for students: Concentrated resources at a single school allows the team to be more adaptable to individual student needs. Teacher teams will have dedicated problem-solving time to discuss and address student strengths and challenges. Due to scheduling restraints of our current structure, the entire team is not always available to meet, discuss and address individual student needs.
Social & Extracurricular Benefits of a Single Middle School Campus
- Focused 6th grade transition program designed to ensure that incoming 6th graders will feel connected and able to explore new opportunities in a safe and nurturing environment. Age 11 is the beginning of young adolescence, when they begin exploring new interests and forging new relationships in the context of a safe and nurturing environment. A separate and distinct space allows the district to focus and deploy best transitional practices and counseling expertise. Many of our elementary principals, fifth-grade teachers and school counselors have observed that our small two-section elementary schools pose their own social challenges for sixth-graders. Having more children together in sixth grade allows for more flexible grouping and new social opportunities. A wider variety of students increases the chances that all students will find someone they can connect with. The “team” approach creates a structure where students remain with a much smaller cohort class during the day. This model offers an elementary-like experience within a middle school environment. The building will also be designed in a way that contributes to the feeling of a sheltered environment.
- Earlier opportunities to seek new social relationships and interests. Middle schoolers are at an age when they are developing their identity and sense of place in the world. They’re naturally looking for ways to connect and belong. They will have the opportunities to seek out new relationships and interests sooner than they would in our current configuration. Students who may not integrate well into one group will have a better chance to find peer groups and opportunities to feel connected. Instead of having to wait until high school to be able to find peers they connect with or explore new interests, they’ll have those opportunities in middle school. Overall, the “teaming” experience is shown to provide students with better opportunities to grow as collaborators and teammates. Students will experience being on a close-knit team, and have the flexibility to interact with a broader group of students during the course of their middle school experience. In the middle school environment that is envisioned, educators will be able to implement strategies to ensure student social and emotional needs are met.
- Broader array of enriching experiences to serve more students. With 4 small sized middle schools, there aren’t enough students to form interest-based clubs, such as botany, drama, origami and chess. At a consolidated middle school campus, there’s a better chance that students would find enough peers who share similar interests to form clubs. Many neighboring middle schools offer an extensive clubs for students to choose from. Our current music programs such as orchestra, band, and choir are also underserved, as there are just a handful of band and orchestra players in each class.