Archive for the ‘Middle school essentials’ Category

The Boulder Valley School District needs more money. So, what’s new? This time the district’s Middle Level Task Force says middle school essentials cannot be fully implemented without another $4 million to $5 million. That begs the question: What exactly would we get and do we want it?

The task force said the money would pay middle school teachers to teach five classes and have two planning periods. Normally, teachers teach six classes and have one planning period. The extra planning period would allow interdisciplinary team teachers to work together better, and class size would decrease.

Additionally, the money could support all middle school essentials, including interdisciplinary team teaching, exploratory classes and the advisory program.
I don’t fault middle school teachers for wanting to make their lives easier with these extra funds. I do, however, question the value of middle school essentials and whether district parents and the community want them.

Back in the mid-1990s before the school board voted for middle school essentials and the 6th-through-8th grade reconfiguration to be implemented district-wide, I took a careful look at Broomfield Heights Middle School, which was considered a model middle school. I had children attending there.

I discovered interdisciplinary teams or pods help students who thrive by receiving most instruction in the same four rooms by the same teachers with generally the same classmates. I also discovered pods can be troublesome when students want to take a more advanced math class and their pods don’t have them.

By design, exploratory classes offer more breadth than depth. But, the focus still should have been academics. Instead, BHMS offered classes in yoyo-ing, Paula Abdul dancing, knitting, cake decorating and other offerings from craft stores and recreation centers.

Foreign languages took a hit as well. BHMS offered only Level 1-A for a full year and Level 1-B for another full year. Junior highs can offer Levels 1, 2 and 3, as I learned from my own experiences as a student.

At first, I thought the teacher-student advisory program was like homeroom in junior high schools where administrative announcements would be given, attendance taken and the like. I learned otherwise.

The advisory program, usually the first 20 minutes of the day, gave teachers the opportunity to poke their noses into their students’ personal practices and attitudes on numerous topics. School counselors provided the materials, and parents weren’t told about even as much as the topics until I brought it up. The school gave the advisory time preferential treatment, too, with announcements being made during first-period classes.

Middle-school level philosophy was never funded correctly, said Tina Mueh, a teacher at Centennial Middle School, in the Camera’s April 23 story, “Middle schools ask BVSD for more money.”

I agree. However, it wasn’t adopted correctly either.

Newcomers and young parents need to know middle schools were forced upon students in the BVSD against throngs of parents’ pleas with stacks of signed petitions. Parents stood in the school board meeting with shock on their faces when the board announced its intentions to move forward with middle schools.

The issues were academic excellence, grade configuration and the essentials. Middle schools did not win community support on their own merits, so the superintendent invented the smokescreen of overcrowding in the elementary schools. Now, years after the fact, there are scars and plenty of parents mad at the district for academically short-changing their children’s education.

If these parents have it all wrong and middle school essentials are worth the money, I urge the district to help parents see their value. Then, maybe the money will be a bit easier to find.

Source: Published May 4, 2008, under “Follow the money” Daily Camera

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