Haven Middle School Redesign
At the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, we embarked upon our journey to redesign our school. As a school, we decided we wanted our students to be more organized and engaged in their learning. Also, we felt the need to focus on soft skills and offer a selective time for mentoring.
The staff broke up into 2 groups, researching ways to address these needs. One group covered Student Success Skills and Personalized Learning while the other group focused on Community Partnerships and Real World Applications. During this process, we identified ‘Why’ we wanted to change and ‘How Might We’ positively affect our Why. Our Why is… To continue to evolve Haven Middle School by helping kids be responsible and independent learners, and to aid preparation for high school and beyond. Our How Might We statements are… HMW improve engagement and motivation, HMW improve real world opportunities and experiences, and HMW schedule personalized learning time to meet student needs.
We analyzed our data from previous years and saw a need for change, too. The staff emailed, visited, and skyped with various schools, to seek out items that could potentially help. We have been transparent with all stakeholders throughout the year, and we’re excited about the changes we instituted.
One change is the implementation of Summit Learning. It is a new instructional approach that embodies personalized learning, mentoring, and project based learning; while strengthening habits of success. One habit of success involves Self Direction. We scheduled a daily block of time for students to self direct their learning; which allows students to personalize their learning more than what the teacher offers. During this time, teachers help teach and facilitate other habits of success such as Curiosity, Resilience, Growth Mindset, Relationship Skills, and Self Management. Employers are saying these habits of success, aka employability skills, are just as important, if not more important, than academic knowledge. Furthermore, Summit Learning offers a more rigorous curriculum than what we’ve been using in the past.
In Projects, students apply and expand on the Content Knowledge that they learn in the Focus Areas. They learn and are assessed on the Cognitive Skills, which are aligned to Common Core State Standards and were chosen to help students compete in the 21st century job market. The Cognitive Skills include such skills as “Critiquing the Reasoning of Others,” Justifying and Constructing an Explanation,” and “Modeling.” The application and assessment of Cognitive Skills in Projects helps students master lifelong skills that can be applied in multiple contexts over the course of a lifetime, rather than just simply memorizing facts for the sake of passing an exam.
Mentoring is one-to-one connection between a student and an assigned adult in the school. The pair uses a rigorous and customized set of tools to set goals, determine strategies, reflect on successes and setbacks. The content of these mentoring conversations is generalized so that students can see how habits are supporting and hindering academic, extracurricular and personal success and any places where support is needed.
Along with the new instructional approach, we scheduled a break time in the day. Based on feedback from students, we added a ‘recess’ during the middle of the day. The students have options during this time. They can play in some sort of an activity, sit and visit, walk around, or relax. Currently, we have a focus group that is planning activities for their peers to do.
Another item we added is a social emotional screener and curriculum called ACT Tessera. The screener offers a personalized proficiency and growth report. Based on the results, we can target areas of improvement in Grit, Teamwork, Curiosity, Resilience, and Leadership. Again, these categories are stressed from employers when they look to hire and retain employees.
One thing we are currently working on is choice electives. We have a focus group that is discussing how we can implement student created electives. Right now this is in the beginning of the planning stages, but the notion would be to have students teaching other students things they are passionate about.