School Configurations

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Input Sought. Members of the Instructional Division Leadership TeamCluster Principal LeadersSchools Pursuing Excellence PrincipalsTeachers' Chat participants. Goals. Schools and programs are high quality and comprehensiveEngage studentsSupport rigor, relevance and relationships to enhance student learningEffective use of limited resources .

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School Configurations

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1. School Configurations Recommendations from the Instructional Services Division April 2008

2. Input Sought Members of the Instructional Division Leadership Team Cluster Principal Leaders Schools Pursuing Excellence Principals Teachers’ Chat participants

3. Goals Schools and programs are high quality and comprehensive Engage students Support rigor, relevance and relationships to enhance student learning Effective use of limited resources

4. Key Questions When is the best time to leave elementary school and go to middle school? What are the advantages/disadvantages of the current grade configurations? Will oldest students function as positive or negative role models? Can academic and social needs of each grade level be met in developmentally appropriate manners at a school site? Which grades should be grouped together in one school? What costs are incurred with multiple configurations?

5. Research Each community and school district considers different factors when making grade span decisions and no one grade configuration is right for all. The most important factors contributing to high levels of student academic achievement are not related to grade span but are directly linked to campus leadership, the quality of the teaching staff, campus expectations, staff development, and quality of instructional programs and supplemental services. Simply changing the school configuration is not enough to increase achievement. Researchers agree that generally the quality of the school and the instruction was more important than the grade configuration in viewing academic progress of students. Attention must be given to the size of each grade level, the academic rigor of instruction from qualified teachers, the addressing of pre-adolescents’ needs for developing independence and exploring new ideas, and the development of meaningful connections between adults and students. The following play a greater role in determining academic success than did grade configuration: Instruction vs. configuration Educational level of teachers Experience of teachers Expenditure per student Education and occupation of parents Instructional vs. configuration Length of the school year Quality of instructional materialsAttention must be given to the size of each grade level, the academic rigor of instruction from qualified teachers, the addressing of pre-adolescents’ needs for developing independence and exploring new ideas, and the development of meaningful connections between adults and students. The following play a greater role in determining academic success than did grade configuration: Instruction vs. configuration Educational level of teachers Experience of teachers Expenditure per student Education and occupation of parents Instructional vs. configuration Length of the school year Quality of instructional materials

6. Research (cont’d) “Research has not provided definitive answers to the myriad possible questions about grade span, but the questions have never gone away. They are questions which arise whenever school reform, increasing or declining enrollment, or financial considerations bring about a reorganization of existing schools, the building of new schools, or consolidation of districts” The research on the “best” grade configuration is inconclusive.” Paglin and Fager

7. In other words…. No particular sequence of grade spans is perfect or in itself guarantees student achievement and social adjustment. With thought and effort, effective practices can be implemented in a variety of grade configurations. Schools in the U.S. are organized in different ways: K-3, K-4, K-5, K-6, K-8, K-9, K-12, others are organized as middle schools, junior high schools and senior high schools. Others consist of just one grade level such as kindergarten center or a ninth grade center. These single grade center schools can develop programs specific to the needs of that age group Transitions can be stressful for students No existing blueprint for the ”best” approachSchools in the U.S. are organized in different ways: K-3, K-4, K-5, K-6, K-8, K-9, K-12, others are organized as middle schools, junior high schools and senior high schools. Others consist of just one grade level such as kindergarten center or a ninth grade center. These single grade center schools can develop programs specific to the needs of that age group Transitions can be stressful for students No existing blueprint for the ”best” approach

8. Realities of Current Configurations Curriculum support Staff Development Combination classes K-8 schools smaller at grades 6-8 than traditional middle schools – cannot offer as many electives with current staffing formulas Coaching, networking support for teachers K-8s typically smaller than middle schools, offer students more community and familiarity, and some studies show they are safer environments K-8s are smaller than traditional middle schools, they don’t offer as many electives Opponents argue that k-8s don’t adequately prepare students for the difficulty of high school in terms of getting accustomed to older, bigger students and schedules K-8 cost for bathrooms and gym – places for changing for gymK-8s typically smaller than middle schools, offer students more community and familiarity, and some studies show they are safer environments K-8s are smaller than traditional middle schools, they don’t offer as many electives Opponents argue that k-8s don’t adequately prepare students for the difficulty of high school in terms of getting accustomed to older, bigger students and schedules K-8 cost for bathrooms and gym – places for changing for gym

9. Realities of Current Configurations Multi-faceted guidance and support structures needed for middle school students not currently available at K-8s. Differing availability of special programs Fewer sections/classrooms per grade can increase personnel costs or result in combination classes New configurations in some cases were a sign of general dissatisfaction with the results of the traditional middle school format of grades 6-8. Staffing challenges for K-8s and schools with 6th grades If the 6-8 portion of a K-8 school is too small, there is the lack of ablity to offer a wide range of elective options.If the 6-8 portion of a K-8 school is too small, there is the lack of ablity to offer a wide range of elective options.

10. Differing Configuration “Costs” Human Resources Textbooks Curriculum and Instruction Physical Education Counseling Libraries Staff Development Facilities Program Evaluation and Assessment Security Human Resources teacher movement within a building is more limited in K-8 Small K-8s are almost forced to use multi-subject teachers vs. single subject who have subject matter expertise which you want in 6-8 as well as 9-12 Textbooks In order to be consistent we are ordering the same texts for 6th grade across the school district – necessitated costs because these are small shipments and barcoding – frequently go to the bottom of the pile. Curriculum and Instruction Physical Education – only our students in 6-8s dress out for PE Counseling – our K-6 s do not have counseling services for 6th graders they would receive because funding is connected to the 7th and 8th graders. NCAS has a .5 counselor which is over the requirement and Webster for the first time has a .2 because they now have a 7th and an 8th. Libraries – The research requirements for 6th, 7th and 8th grades necessitate additional resources both in bound copies of materials and computer access not normally required of K-5 sites. The person assigned to a K-6 and K-8s is a library coordinator while to 6-8 and 9-12 – certificated librarians are assigned. Electives – few electives are available for K-8s because of the smallness of their size. Staff development Middle school teachers need to be addressed at two different times – morning for schools like Marshall and Blair and afternoons for schools like K-8s, K-6s and 6-8s Collaboration between campuses for staff development can require substitutes for some of these necessary trainings. Sending out announcements means – almost all schools get those aimed at middle school interests Teachers at K-6s are isolated from other middle school teachers and frequently are the only one at their campus teaching the middle school standards Facilities Gyms Libraries Program Evaluation and Assessment K-6s and 7-12 and 6-12 are frequently reacting to testing assessments developed by 6-8s rather than being an intricate part of developing Security Focused on our 6-12,7-12, 6-8 less on our K-8 campuses Human Resources teacher movement within a building is more limited in K-8 Small K-8s are almost forced to use multi-subject teachers vs. single subject who have subject matter expertise which you want in 6-8 as well as 9-12 Textbooks In order to be consistent we are ordering the same texts for 6th grade across the school district – necessitated costs because these are small shipments and barcoding – frequently go to the bottom of the pile. Curriculum and Instruction Physical Education – only our students in 6-8s dress out for PE Counseling – our K-6 s do not have counseling services for 6th graders they would receive because funding is connected to the 7th and 8th graders. NCAS has a .5 counselor which is over the requirement and Webster for the first time has a .2 because they now have a 7th and an 8th. Libraries – The research requirements for 6th, 7th and 8th grades necessitate additional resources both in bound copies of materials and computer access not normally required of K-5 sites. The person assigned to a K-6 and K-8s is a library coordinator while to 6-8 and 9-12 – certificated librarians are assigned. Electives – few electives are available for K-8s because of the smallness of their size. Staff development Middle school teachers need to be addressed at two different times – morning for schools like Marshall and Blair and afternoons for schools like K-8s, K-6s and 6-8s Collaboration between campuses for staff development can require substitutes for some of these necessary trainings. Sending out announcements means – almost all schools get those aimed at middle school interests Teachers at K-6s are isolated from other middle school teachers and frequently are the only one at their campus teaching the middle school standards Facilities Gyms Libraries Program Evaluation and Assessment K-6s and 7-12 and 6-12 are frequently reacting to testing assessments developed by 6-8s rather than being an intricate part of developing Security Focused on our 6-12,7-12, 6-8 less on our K-8 campuses

11. Factors to consider Paglin and Fager Student Travel (cost and length) Increase/decrease of parent involvement Number of students at each grade level (class groupings and courses offered) Effect of school setting on achievement Effect on whether neighborhood schools close or remain open Number of school transitions for students Opportunities for interaction between age groups Influence of older students on younger students Building design is it suitable for only a few or for several grade levels

12. Their conclusion… Designing a school system to use a particular span of grades in individual schools will not in itself guarantee that students will learn well and be well adjusted Race and diversity has been a factor in some school configuration decisions.

13. Middle School Supporters Say “…there is no magic in a particular bricks and mortar configuration…it’s easy to get distracted by a ‘middle school’ vs. ‘other school’ debate…we should focus our attention on middle-grade students and their learning…rather than simply reshuffling students and schools, we must support our educators and school leaders so they can implement proven practices to advance the learning of middle grades students, regardless of a school’s grade configuration.” Debby Kasak, National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform

14. Recommendation – K-5 Advantages Grade level communication of curriculum alignment is easier to facilitate 5th graders have greater opportunity for leadership in elementary schools Disadvantages Availability of space for more K-5 students could impact movement from some of our smaller schools To staff without a split K-5 schools need 400-450 students Many that offered input felt the inability to serve 6th grade appropriately at elementary sitesTo staff without a split K-5 schools need 400-450 students Many that offered input felt the inability to serve 6th grade appropriately at elementary sites

15. Recommendation – 6-8 Advantages A 3 year middle grade time frame allows the opportunity for strong, positive relationships to be built among students, teachers, counselors and administrators The 3 grade combination provides more stability to the overall program, more time exists for the development of programs, promote teacher/pupil relationships More diversified curriculum is available Transition to high school can be built into the school structure Supports the research findings which show that the youngster today enters adolescence much earlier than 50 years ago The students’ ages more nearly parallel the period of human growth and development between childhood and adolescence – ages 11 through 13 = grades 6 through 8 Pupils are grouped who are more alike than either elementary or secondary students Disadvantages Some students in grade 6 are physically immature Social pressure comes from 7th and 8th grade can be difficult for 6th graders to handle Having to adjust to so many teachers may be difficult for some students Clear plan for feeder school pattern clustering the schools that feed into the middle school – closer to the neighborhood school desire Limit the size of the middle schools Grades 7-8 is too short, must be at least 6-8 and several mentioned the idea of 6-9. Parents are afraid of middle schools – perception Key training for teachers regarding the developmental needs of middle-schoolers Organizational structures that support meaningful relationships and learning Need to create an “opportunity instead of challenge” mindset Rigorous academic challenge during the middle level years can pay big dividends in high school and beyond Support q 6-8 middle school because of the more gradual transition from self-contained classrooms to departmental organizations Gateman and Creek report that 6th grade was the most appropriate entry level for the middle school. Gateman and Creek further report that 6th graders more closely resemble 7th graders than 5th graders in areas of personal adjustment and sense of personal freedom K-8 students are not currently dressing out for PE because of lack of facilities. Curriculum not the same across schools for 6th grade 6th grade in elementary and K-8s are frequently mentioned as the lost classClear plan for feeder school pattern clustering the schools that feed into the middle school – closer to the neighborhood school desire Limit the size of the middle schools Grades 7-8 is too short, must be at least 6-8 and several mentioned the idea of 6-9. Parents are afraid of middle schools – perception Key training for teachers regarding the developmental needs of middle-schoolers Organizational structures that support meaningful relationships and learning Need to create an “opportunity instead of challenge” mindset Rigorous academic challenge during the middle level years can pay big dividends in high school and beyond Support q 6-8 middle school because of the more gradual transition from self-contained classrooms to departmental organizations Gateman and Creek report that 6th grade was the most appropriate entry level for the middle school. Gateman and Creek further report that 6th graders more closely resemble 7th graders than 5th graders in areas of personal adjustment and sense of personal freedom K-8 students are not currently dressing out for PE because of lack of facilities. Curriculum not the same across schools for 6th grade 6th grade in elementary and K-8s are frequently mentioned as the lost class

16. Recommendation – 9-12 Advantages Staff will be able to meet across campuses because of similar start and end times – more collaboration Focus can be narrowed Disadvantages Some current schools have other configurations may have fewer students impacting the availability of staffing for expansive classes Current schools with broader configurations may draw students at levels 9-12 because of additional space availability

17. Choice Size of grade level cohort Consistency of curriculum across all grade levels regardless of configuration Increase the standards that all grade levels need to meet – do not decrease Additional grades differing from recommended configurations require additional resources Expectations must remain consistent for students at all campuses. Key question: Is there room for other configurations and what impact will these configurations have on existing schools? What impact will configurations have on existing district service providers? Structure alone is not sufficient to guarantee a successful school. History of configuration changes – base long term plan on data No easy answers – as you increase the complexities of grade configurations you increase resource needs to provide services Connected with the concept of neighborhood schools Parents will be upset if no choice for 6th grade (elementary campuses vs. middle schools You can put the middle school sign over the door. You can put the grade configuration in place, but that doesn’t make it a middle school. Dr. McEwin. When you look at educating, it’s not necessarily the grade configuration, it’s what you’re doing in the classroom that is developmentally appropriate. Structure alone is not sufficient to guarantee a successful school. History of configuration changes – base long term plan on data No easy answers – as you increase the complexities of grade configurations you increase resource needs to provide services Connected with the concept of neighborhood schools Parents will be upset if no choice for 6th grade (elementary campuses vs. middle schools You can put the middle school sign over the door. You can put the grade configuration in place, but that doesn’t make it a middle school. Dr. McEwin. When you look at educating, it’s not necessarily the grade configuration, it’s what you’re doing in the classroom that is developmentally appropriate.

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