Middle School Program Review
In September 2017, District 64 launched a review of its middle school program linked to its 2020 Vision Strategic Plan. District 64 currently educates more than 1,500 students in grades 6-8 at Lincoln and Emerson middle schools. District 64 most recently reviewed its middle school program beginning in 2006; a previous study was initiated in 1993. “We have two great middle schools in District 64, but our continuous improvement mindset embodied in our Strategic Plan drives us to seek ways to grow,” Superintendent Laurie Heinz announced. “We want to ensure that our educational program includes opportunities that prepare students to be successful while in District 64 and when they head to high school and beyond,” she noted. Read news release here.
Activities of the committee are organized by school year below.
An update on the work of the Committee was presented to the Board of Education at the August 19, 2019 meeting.
In 2019-20, the committee will review staff feedback and determine whether this schedule is feasible relative to space, contractual obligations, curriculum, and staffing. If feasible, the committee will seek feedback from parents and students to determine next steps.
The Scheduling Subcommittee established in January 2018 worked with Dr. Michael Rettig from School Scheduling Associates. Dr. Rettig has served as a consultant on school scheduling issues in 43 states with over 1,000 schools nationally and internationally. As the Committee reviewed various schedules, we reflected on some of the themes that have emerged from our committee conversations and the ThoughtExchange, including a dedicated time for SEL/Advisory, extended ELA time, and maintaining the richness of our elective program.
During the 2018-19 school year, the Scheduling Subcommittee and larger committee met eight times to review variations of six scheduling options. The committee drafted a potential “concept schedule” and sought feedback from middle school staff in May 2019.
The Middle School Review Committee met in mid-October 2017 to tackle an important task that will help us frame future discussions: finalizing our Middle School Program mission statement.
Mission - The Middle School Community of District 64 will foster a safe, supportive and inclusive school environment that values diversity, social emotional learning, personal development, and acceptance of self and others. Educators, parents, and community members will work collaboratively to empower young adolescents through exploration, choice, and challenge. We will provide a rigorous and differentiated core and elective curriculum that includes real-world learning experiences and extracurricular opportunities. We will do this by building strong relationships with students that encourage growth and self advocacy in a student-centered environment.
The mission statement was derived from the committee’s previous discussion, where we outlined our belief statements and vision:
- Every child can learn and grow
- Students giving up is not an option - it is ok to “fail forward”
- School will feel safe, secure and caring so that everyone has equal opportunity to succeed
- We value every child
- Learning is a collaborative process
- Vision - District 64 Middle Schools will provide a safe and nurturing environment where everyone is inspired to learn, collaborate, and grow.
Student Focus Groups and Thoughtexchange on Middle School Mission
- In mid-October 2017, AMLE Consultant Dr. Ann McCarty met with student focus groups from all grade levels and both middle schools. Students shared feedback about what they most value about middle school, their connections to adults, and what they might like to see in the future. Nine themes emerged from this student dialogue. These themes were reported to the Board at the December 11, 2017 Board of Education Meeting. Read the Memorandum of Information here.
- Thoughtexchanges on middle school mission - From November 1-14, District 64 conducted Thoughtexchanges for parents/guardians, staff, and community members about how we are fulfilling our middle school mission and ideas for improvement. Results of our ThoughtExchange will help inform the Committee’s work and the administration’s spring recommendation to the Board of Education. During this two-week digital conversation, almost 1,000 participants contributed almost 1,400 thoughts and over 39,000 ratings. General themes include: appreciating teachers and staff, valuing and updating the elective curriculum, focusing on writing instruction, supporting social-emotional learning, improving the parent-school partnership, implementing consistent discipline policies, and streamlining District initiatives.
- The Middle School Review Committee established a Scheduling Subcommittee to further review scheduling ideas and generate multiple schedule options. This Subcommittee will work with Dr. Michael Rettig to generate a variety of schedules for consideration. Dr. Rettig has served as a consultant on school scheduling issues in 43 states with over 1,000 schools nationally and internationally. He has conducted hundreds of workshops and has authored or co-authored numerous articles and books on school scheduling and related topics. Once the subcommittee has brainstormed scheduling options, we will bring these options forward to parents and staff for feedback.
The full results from the 2017 Thoughtexchange are now available. Visit our Thoughtexchange website to read a summary report with key insights or review key themes and read all thoughts on a special website.
As the Strategic Plan points out, our students will face a world in which access to knowledge and integration of technology will continue to grow, evolve, and change at a rapid pace. To be ready for these unknown challenges, we must engage our students with a rich and rigorous curriculum and prepare them to be creative, innovative, agile, and resourceful problem-solvers.