Getting Ready for the Next Generation Literacy Assessments in the Middle Grades

Over the past year, educators in Colorado have been fine tuning their curriculum and instruction to the new literacy standards published by the Common Core State Standards initiative (CCSS) which were adopted by our Colorado Department of Education. Content specialists have identified 6 Pedagogical Shifts demanded by the Common Core State Standards in Literacy.

6 Pedagogical Shifts

Click on the image to enlarge.

These six shifts generalize the overall differences between the old set of student learning expectations and the new learning expectations.  The chart above was captured from EngageNY, a New York State site dedicated to assisting educators with the transition to the Common Core and the new Educator Effectiveness agenda.

Viewing the Common Core in PARCC’s Eyes

States that have signed on with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) consortia now have another resource to align our collective schema. The PARCC Model Content Frameworks provide an exceptional overview of what middle level students need to know, understand, and be able to do.

Try this:

Open the grade level document of your choice in either 6th, 7th or 8th grade. While reading, and underline passages within the PARCC Model Content Frameworks that indicate evidence for one or more of the six pedagogical shifts. For example, while reading the 6th Grade Model Content Frameworks, I underlined this portion of text, “The balance of student writing at this level is 70 percent analytical (35 percent argument and 35 percent to explain/inform) and 30 percent narrative, with a mix of on-demand and review-and-revision writing assignments.”  I believe this statement is an example of Shift 1, balancing informational and literary texts.

What do you notice about the learning expectations in the grade level you examined? Did you identify areas where increased text complexity is expected? Did you see evidence of the importance of academic vocabulary? Did you notice how students will need to use text based evidence to support their thinking?

Infusing Best Practices from the Literacy Design Collaborative

Several districts across the nation have been integrating the strategies developed by the Literacy Design Collaborative.  These strategies are posted on an emerging resource curated by ASCD called EduCore.  The funding for this work is supported through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which is providing extensive training in select districts to support the educator effectiveness agenda.

Watch this Video on Rethinking Literacy

Click on the image to go to the EduCore site to watch this video

The LDC work is many faceted

The scope of the LDC work is the Module.  A module is a specific unit of learning designed around targeted Common Core standards.  A well designed module carefully scaffolds students so that they are able to independently and effectively perform an identifed task at the end of the module of instruction.  

The heart of the LDC Module is the Performance Task. Teachers of English Language Arts, Social Studies, Science and Other Technical Subjects are taught how to center their instruction around an outcome expectation called a Performance Task. The LDC has created a simple formula to assist teachers in designing strategically aligned performance tasks with the Common Core literacy standards, most especially in the areas of accessing multi-disciplinary text and producing various writings in the areas of argument, explanatory/informational, and narrative.  They have created a menu of Performance Task Templates that can be modified and used in multiple situations in all types of content areas.  Let’s look at the Argumentation Template Tasks to get an idea of what how the templates work. 

A Template Task for Argumentation

Click on the image to enlarge  The LDC Performance Template Tasks provide a structure so that teachers can effectively create their own tasks aligned to different student learning expectations. Notice the blanks, those were intentionally created to allow flexibility for teacher design.  These template can be used in multiple situations in different content areas. The templates are carefully aligned with the Common Core literacy standards, so they should not be modified.  However, the blanks are open for variation and design creativity. The LDC has designed:

  • 10 different Template Tasks  to support the Argumentation expectations 
  • 15 different Template Tasks to support Explanatory/Informational expectations
  • 4 Template Tasks to support the Narrative expectations.

There are also rubrics aligned with each of the three types of tasks: Argument, Explanatory/Informational, and Narrative.

To access all of the LDC Performance Template Tasks and Rubrics click here.
To watch videos to learn how to use the LDC Performance Template Tasks, click here.
To review sample teaching  Modules in Argumentation, click here.

Are you Ready for the Next Generation Assessments?

Likely, you are more ready than you thought.  But, to continue your preparation:

  1. Take some time to review the 6 Pedagogical Shifts and begin making the shift in your own teaching
  2. Review the LDC Template Tasks, and use them as a skeleton for your own student task development
  3. Seek out additional support from the multitude of sources online and experts in your own vicinity.

Character Education Counts!

October 21-27 is National Character Counts Week

This is a fantastic time to increase our awareness of best practices for developing positive relationships and  promoting a positive school culture.

During our annual CAMLE Schools to Watch Conference, held on Saturday, November 3, Russell Middle School will be presenting a session on Unleashing Student Performance by Improving Attitude and EffortRussell Middle School was designated as a National School of Character in 2012.

According to the Character Education Partnership, comprehensive Character Education addresses many tough issues in education while developing a positive school climate. Schools that focus on character are able to transform their school cultures, reduce discipline referrals, increase academic achievement for all learners, develop global citizens, and improve job satisfaction and retention among teachers. Character education includes a broad range of educational approaches such as whole child education, service learning, social-emotional learning, and civic education. All share the goal of  helping young people become responsible, caring, and contributing citizens.

Learn more about Russell’s innovative approach to support character education at the CAMLE Conference.

Register online!

What Does it Take to Get 8th Graders to Successfully Complete Algebra I?

During the last several years, the staff at Wellington Middle School of the Poudre School District have been working to systemically articulate learning outcomes and put in place effective learning strategies to have one of the highest pass rates in 8th Grade Algebra I in our state.  They’ve met with their feeder elementary schools to accelerate and align learning expectations.  They’ve researched best instructional practices like standards-based grading, formative assessment and interactive learning to engage students, deepen their mathematical comprehension and learning so that all can successfully complete Algebra I.

As our nation continues its alignment to the new Common Core Math Standards, all students will be expected to be able to acquire the knowledge, skills and understandings to be able to demonstrate algebraic reasoning that was once aligned with high school learning expectations.

Wellington staff will host two different sessions at the upcoming Colorado School to Watch Conference at Stuart Middle School on November 3, 2012 in Commerce City, CO.

  • What Does it Take to Get 8th Graders to Successfully Complete Algebra I? 
  • Interactive Notebooks and Cross Curricular Teaming: It’s a Game Changer for Kids!

Come to the CAMLE Annual School to Watch Conference and learn more about how Wellington Middle is supporting their students to become academically excellent using developmentally responsive and socially equitable strategies.

Register Now!

Wellington Middle has a free and reduced population of 44%, and 9% English Language Learners.  Wellington students focus on achieving excellence are led in focused, standards-based learning that permeates their day. Students create their own learning goals, monitor their own progress throughout the school year, and perform student-led conferences. They actively use self-assessment strategies and are able analyze scoring rubrics to determine their own level of achievement.  A well designed core is enhanced by rich exploratory courses. A comprehensive approach to interventions has been effectively embedded for both academic and social/emotional support. Wellington is a nationally recognized AVID school, and the college readiness atmosphere, high level of thinking and rigor as well as learning expectations pervade the school community. The staff at Wellington is lead by principal Alicia Durand.

Teaching with Tablets and Technology – a Focus at the CAMLE Conference

Is everyone is talking tablets?  

When we get together at our monthly CAMLE Board meetings, it seems we all know a colleague or teacher who is either starting to use or has been using iPads in his classroom. That’s why we have a strong strand of iPad and other mobile device sessions at our upcoming 2012 CAMLE Colorado Schools to Watch Conference held at Stuart Middle School on Saturday, November 3 in Commerce City, Colorado.

Sessions on iPads in the Middle Grades

Among the 35 sessions each attendee will have to choose from throughout the day, several will focus on iPad technology use in the classroom:

  • 15 iOS Apps for Teachers & Leaders in 60 Minutes
  • Launching a 1:1 iPad Program in the Middle Grades
  • Excite, Ignite, & Engage in Science Class Using iPads

Others will integrate the use of technology to support student learning:

  • Using Social Network Sites for Always-On Professional Learning
  • Smart Phones In The Band Room?…Why Not!
  • Inspire, Mangage, Reward Students with YouTopia
  • The Access Center: Providing Dynamic Support in a Least Restrictive Environment
  • Ending Social Promotion with Prevention and Credit Recovery

Kids LOVE tablet technology!

Because of tablets’ intuitive interface and touchscreen capabilities, iPads and other handheld devices are growing in popularity. Given the choice between reading e-books or print books, children prefer e-books, a new, exploratory field study shows. Children who read e-books also retain and comprehend just as much as when they read print books, the study also suggests.

We are looking forward to our Schools to Watch sharing their best practices for technology integration at our conference.

Register now!

Smart Phones in the Band Room? Why Not!

CAMLE Annual Schools to Watch Conference

Stuart Middle School ~ Commerce City
Saturday, November 3


Over 35 Sessions!  Here is Just One Sample!

Session Presenter: Wayne Hoey, Jenkins Middle School

Session Title:  Smart Phones In The Band Room?…Why Not!

Session Description: Is your school struggling with a policy prohibiting students the use of smart phones and iPods and at the same time feeling the push to incorporate technology in your classroom? Why can’t we teach students using the mediums most comfortable to this generation? Many of today’s electronic devices have apps to make life’s chores a little less complicated and a little more fun. Learn some of the ways to incorporate technology in the orchestra, choir, band, and general music classes. You will see the value of students (and teachers) who can use iPhones, iPods, iPads, MacBooks, and other smart devices. We will discover scores of apps like metronomes and digital musical instrument tuners. Then explore the myriad of websites to aid in learning and teaching music. The future is here, let’s embrace it!

Developing Student Mindsets and Agency

SPOTLIGHT ON Basalt Middle School (School to Watch 2012)

Creating a developmentally responsive middle school has a lot to do with developing student agency, or creating a school culture that encourages students to be active agents motivated to pursue their own learning.  Two components are essential to building student agency, particularly for at-risk students: ensuring that they have growth mindsets and effective learning strategies. Think of the growth mindset as the right hand of the motivated learner, and effective learning strategies as the left.  They go hand in hand. (Learn more about noncognitive skills)

The Three Mindsets

Three types of thinking, or mindsets, are critical if students are going to reach their academic potential.  The first is cultivating a mindset that values the purpose and importance of schoolwork Schools can grow this mindset by stressing the long-term importance of education, making lessons relevant, and ensuring that students not only know what they are learning from a given activity, but why it is important to learn it.  Project-based learning, authentic assessments, and student choice are all strategies to cultivate this mindset in students.

Our technology teacher was beginning instruction on graphing using excel spreadsheets.  After she led the students through the learning objective, she had them brainstorm all of the types of information that could be graphed to communicate about data clearly.  The class came up with several examples.  When she began instruction, she had them graph their improvement from a learning game she was using so that they had an immediate and relevant purpose. 

Another example comes from a writing teacher.  Her objective was to have students, “cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.”  Her students read three different articles about why students drop out of school.  Their assignment was to write a letter to me, the principal, about how we can prevent students from dropping out, citing information from the text in their letter.  The reading material was relevant to the students. They had an authentic audience.  In both cases, students were motivated to learn the objective because there was a clear purpose for their finished product.

The second mindset is rooted in work of John Dewey A developmentally responsive school culture ensures that students feel that they are a learner and a contributor.  Students who speak up in class, are actively engaged, and seek help when they need it display the trademarks of this mindset. Creating this climate is essential. 

An 8th grade teacher cultivated this mindset masterfully with a group of students learning about scientific notation.  At the beginning of class, the teacher first set the learning objective, and then proceeded to set an effort objective.  Students reviewed a list the class had created earlier in the year of what effective group work looked like.  On the list were ideas like:

  • Asking specific questions to the teacher when the whole group agreed it was a good question
  • Working together – no one is working outside of the group
  • Coming up with a wrong answer and sticking with it because we learn just as much from a wrong answer as we do from a correct answer

The teacher then explained to the class that he would award a point to a group when he saw them displaying traits of effective group work.  Each team’s goal was to get to ten points.  As he circulated throughout the class, he would praise good questions, students who were discussing mistakes and setbacks, and teams that had every group member engaged, and then award that team a point.  For the entire hour, every student was an engaged learner.

The third mindset is the belief that effort is the essential component to reaching academic potential Grit and persistence is the pathway to learning, not genetics, luck, or others.  This belief is the essence of the growth mindset, and it’s attributes are best explained by Carol Dweck in her book, Mindset.   Appropriate feedback and recognition are essential to develop this trait in students.  We know that student achievement goes up when we connect effort to success.  Praising the process, and not the product, is extremely important.  Messages such as “you’re smart,” “you’re a genius at math,” or, “You’re an amazing artist,” all undermine the growth mindset.  Instead, we need to praise the effort and process that led to what made that student “smart,” “exemplary,” or “amazing.”

Teach Students How to Learn

It is all well and good if a student possesses these mindsets, but they cannot be fully capitalized upon if the student does not possess the appropriate learning strategies.  Not only do they have to want to learn, but they have to know how to learn.  Teaching effective learning strategies to students is rooted in the goal setting cycle, where students are taught how to set goals, how to track their learning, how to study to achieve those goals, and how to reflect upon their learning and adjust their goals accordingly.

I worked with at teacher the other day to create a learning plan for her class.  At the top of the page they wrote their “challenge,” which was to master a specific set of skills.  Then, they brainstormed a variety of study techniques and strategies that they could use to meet that goal, and students crafted an action plan to overcome their challenge.

Meta-cognition activities are essential to this process after the assessment.  Students need to have opportunities to reflect on their study habits and see the connection of their studying to their learning. Knowing this, the teacher had students graph their effort alongside their achievement, and either move onto a new challenge or create a reassessment plan to adjust their original study techniques.This process essentially provides an excellent venue for reflection on work habits to take place. 

The graph in the picture below is from another class that used homework completion as an effort gauge.  From the graph, you can see that students who did almost all of their homework average 4 points on the assessment, and as homework completion dropped, so did achievement.  As students discussed the graph, the teacher emphasized that the students who earned great grades aren’t simply smart; they worked harder.

Teaching is an incredibly complex profession  

When considering the developmental responsiveness aspect of schools, it is clear that teachers need to be able to capitalize on the application of educational psychology in addition to being masters of teaching content.  Creating a culture of excellence means cultivating the three mindsets, and equipping students with the right strategies to succeed. 

by Jeremy Voss, Principal of Basalt Middle School

Learn more about Basalt Middle School
2012 Colorado Trailblazer Schools to Watch

Part of the Roaring Fork School District, Basalt Middle School enrolls 409 students in grades 5-8.   45% of their students qualify for free/reduced lunch, 57% of their population is Hispanic, and 16% of the population are identified English Language Learners. Basalt was noted by the Colorado Department of Education as a 2012  Distinguished School Award winner for having the top 8%  student growth scores according to performance on the state assessments.   Students and staff at Basalt attribute their success to a focus on each child’s growth mindset, high expectations for learning and achieving, and a strong caring staff.  Each and every child is provided metacognitive opportunities to reflect on his/her learning growth and tactics and supported effectively to meet the challenging demands of our globally competitive society. Rigorous teaching and learning and articulated interventions that ensure that every child receives timely, descriptive feedback that mediates their learning to new and every soaring heights. Jeremy Voss leads the staff at Basalt Middle School.

Replicable Middle Level Practices shared at CASE Conference

Alicia Durand, Principal of Wellington Middle School (left), shares best practices at the 43rd Annual CASE Conference

Learning walk look-fors, standards-based lesson tools, bell schedules, high-yield instructional strategies checklists, and a host of other practical ideas to support best universal core instruction were shared by six Colorado Trailblazer Schools to Watch at the 43rd Annual CASE Conference for Colorado education leaders.

Showcasing their ideas and strategies were:

  • Alicia Durand, Principal at Wellington Middle
  • Ben Bauman and Rod Link, Principal & Assistant Principal at Fort Morgan Middle
  • David Russell, Principal at Gypsum Creek Middle
  • Julie Williams, Principal at Russell Middle
  • Rob Utter, Principal at Holmes Middle
  • Steve Wolf, Principal at Powell Middle

Using a rapid-fire, speed-dating-like approach, the principals shared their replicable practices in a laser-focused talk on the universal core practices they felt had the greatest impact on their school’s success. The fifty-one education leaders attending the session were initially divided into smaller groups to promote intimate learning and conversation. Each group circled up with a School to Watch principal for approximately 10 minutes and then rotated to a different group. Sixty minutes later, the attendees’ toolkits were filled with new ideas and approaches they could use to refine the practices in their school communities.

Participants engage with Ben Bauman (far right) and Rod Link from Fort Morgan Middle School

“Last year I was sitting right where you are today, learning from other Colorado Schools to Watch,” explained Ben Bauman, principal of Fort Morgan Middle School.  But on this day, Ben and Rod Link, Assistant Principal, shared strategies that have resulted in optimized learning with their students.

The duo explained how they used the Self-Rating Rubric to analyze best practices in their school community  and used the tool as a platform for inquiry and continuous improvement. Finding many of the criteria in place, their school was inspired to apply for the School to Watch designation.

“Our school thrives on feedback,” shared Alicia Durand, principal at Wellington Middle School. The incorporation the School to Watch Self-Rating Rubric was just another tool to promote staff reflection and inquiry. At Wellington Middle, rubrics are routinely used by students and staff.  Alicia shared Wellington’s approach to standards-driven learning whereby every member of the school community can articulate their personal learning targets, where they are in relation to the target, and the steps they were taking to improve their performance. Durand regularly invites teachers to participate in her classroom Learning Walks, where school-created rubric is used to cultivate collegial conversations about the core instructional practices evident during that observation.

Both Wellington and Fort Morgan Middle Schools were named Colorado Trailblazer Schools to Watch in March, 2012.  They were honored this summer in Washington, DC at the National School to Watch Conference with 98 other first-year Schools to Watch from across the country. Holmes Middle School was also honored in Washington, DC this past June. Their 3-time designation represents an incredible accomplishment, as they have demonstrated 9 years of sustained achievement and positive trajectory of success.

Holmes’ Principal Rob Utter (far left) distributes a packet of tools and strategies that can be used by other middle level leaders.

Principal Rob Utter shared structures for ensuring standards-driven lesson design and alignment with high-yield instructional strategies. The students and staff at Holmes have focused on data-driven instructional design for over 10 years. Using data trackers and progress monitoring tools students always know which learning outcomes have been mastered and which ones still need to be mastered. Supporting teachers with the tools to effectively incorporate the components of the standards-based teaching/learning cycle has been a focus of this school’s leadership team. Already a state model of best practice for Response to Intervention implementation, a focus on core instruction has become the school’s learning target for improvement.

Two 2011 Schools to Watch also participated in the learning rotation.  Steve Wolf, principal of Powell Middle School and David Russell, principal of Gypsum Creek Middle School offered participants insight into their school’s formula for success.

This past year, Powell decided to hold expectations high for ensuring that every minute of the day was powerfully leveraged for learning success.  As a school community they transformed their “old-school” homeroom time into a power-packed CORE PLUS period to maximize student learning.

Formative assessment practices are seamlessly embedded into the life-blood of the Gypsum Creek Middle School learning community. Using the backbone of a rigorously designed curriculum, Gypsum Creek teachers meet regularly to review common assessment data and the results of their instruction. Master teachers meet with their peers regularly to observe their classrooms and provide feedback.

Julie Williams, principal of twice designated Russell Middle School (2007, 2010) shared best practices related to the incorporation of character education expectations.  Character education raises the bar for student engagement and ownership in their learning. Character education also provides an explicit understanding of the behvaiors required to interact in a civil society. Russell Middle School was named a National School of Character in 2012.

These six schools, along with other Colorado Schools to Watch will be presenting their best practices at the 2012 Colorado School to Watch Conference on Saturday, November 3 at Stuart Middle School in Commerce City, Colorado.

National Forum Honors 2012 Schools to Watch

Though it was a warm, humid evening in our nation’s capital city, an electric atmosphere enveloped the honorees at the National Forum’s Annual School to Watch Gala Celebration Dinner held at the Marriott Crystal Gateway hotel. 103 middle grades schools were designated and recognized at the National School to Watch Conference this June, 2012.

This was an opportunity for our three new Colorado Trailblazer Schools to Watch to be nationally recognized and honored.  On Thursday evening, June 21, Basalt Middle School, Fort Morgan Middle School and Wellington Middle School were designated as first time Schools to Watch.  On Saturday, June 23, Holmes Middle School was honored for their second redesignation, which translates to a trajectory of success evidenced for 9 years.

Basalt Middle School

Traveling from Basalt, which is part of the Roaring Fork School District located in Glenwood Springs, Principal Jeremy Voss and Assistant Principal Ty Hayden presented at the conference on Carol Dweck’s work, the growth mindset and how the research has transformed practice in their school. Her book, Mindset, reveals implications for how we raise our children—specifically for how we encourage them, challenge them, and voice our praise.

These non-cognitive components of education are embedded in the National Forum’s criteria of excellence which include Academic Excellence, Developmental Responsiveness, Social Equity and strong Organizational Processes and Structures.  Since transforming their system to develop of growth mindsets in their community, Basalt Middle School has become one of Colorado’s top 8% of schools performing in high academic achievement growth.

Wellington Middle School

Wellington Middle School, part of the Poudre School District,was represented by  Assistant Principal Jennifer Bradshaw and Principal Alicia Durand  who were recently in Washington DC due to the fact that their school was also recognized by the US Department of Education as a Green Ribbon School Winner. Wellington Middle School is located in northeast Colorado and serves students within the community of Wellington, located outside of Fort Collins and up to the state of Wyoming.  Dr. Durand and Ms. Bradshaw presented at the National Schools to Watch Conference as well.  Their efforts to strengthen student directed learning has merited their community with a record of outstanding achievement and high levels of growth.  Wellington has the highest growth of all schools in their district.

Wellington Principal Alicia Durand presenting at the National Schools to Watch Conference

This has been part of a process to strengthen vertical articulation with their feeder elementary schools, incorporate goal-setting and metacognitive learning strategies into student toolkits, and conscientious application of rigor and high standards in all content areas. During their presentation they shared how they were able to create a system to maximize the learning potential within their students so that each and every child could successfully complete Algebra I in 8th grade.

Fort Morgan Middle School

Fort Morgan Middle School, located within the Morgan County School District on the eastern Front Range was also able to travel to Washington to accept their designation honor.  On hand to accept the award were Assistant Principal Rod Link, music director Cynthia Christensen, Principal Ben Bauman, Literacy teacher Shelli Langford, and Unified Arts teacher Amy Bauer.

Realizing a emerging trajectory of success in an increasingly diverse population, Fort Morgan has created a dynamic learning environment focused on positive community building and strong academic structures. Like the Basalt and Wellington, Fort Morgan is invited to present at the upcoming state Colorado Schools to Watch Conference on November 3, 2012. They have a wide range of replicable practices that can be implemented by other middle schools looking to increase student achievement that include embedded interventions, attention to academic vocabulary instruction, leadership programming for every child, positive behavior supports, and standards based education practices.

Eagle award for Redesignation II

Staff from Holmes Middle School, of Colorado Springs District 11, were unable to accept their award in Washington DC this year. First designated in 2006, again in 2009, and a third time in 2012. Holmes has been recognized as a leader in implementing Response to Intervention programming and structures. Their students consistent out-perform other students with similar demographics as evidenced by the Colorado Assessment Program. They maintain that their success is entirely replicable and other schools can takeaway their systems of high expectations, standards based education, pyramid of interventions, attention to data analysis and differentiated instructional strategies to use in their own middle schools.

Fort Morgan Honored for “School to Watch” Designation

Fort Morgan Middle School is a 2012 Colorado Trailblazer School to Watch. “Our team knew from reviewing their trajectory of student achievement that Fort Morgan had the results to qualify for a School to Watch designation.  However, it wasn’t until our school site team visited their school in person that we knew for a fact they had built a dynamic school culture, empowering students to learn at increasing rates,” explained Diane Lauer, State Coordinator for the Colorado School to Watch program.

Every year, the Colorado Association of Middle Level Education (CAMLE) reviews state applications for the prestigious School to Watch honor. CAMLE, a state affiliate of the national Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE), partners with the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform a consortia of foundations, research institutions, and other non-profits dedicated to optimizing educational outcomes for young adolescents.  The National Forum’s signature initiative is the National Schools to Watch program which has been identifying model middle grades schools for over a decade. Over 250 schools have been identified across the national as Schools to Watch.

The National Forum holds high expectations for schools that are named Schools to Watch.  They must demonstrate consistently implemented best practices within the four domains: Academic Excellence, Developmental Responsiveness, Social Equity and Organizational Structures and Processes. Schools interested in becoming Schools to Watch must be willing to open their doors and work with other educators sharing their replicable practices.  This is the core purpose of the Schools to Watch program, to identify and validate success, so that others can learn and grow in similar fashion.

In addition to being recognized at their own school, Schools to Watch are recognized in Washington, DC at the National Schools to Watch Conference and at the statewide Colorado Schools to Watch Conference.  Fort Morgan’s national recognition will take place center stage at a dinner gala held in their honor, along with the the other 80 schools identified this year from various states throughout our county.

CAMLE is proud to honor Fort Morgan Middle School in recognition of the exemplary practices they have in place:

Academic Excellence

  • Teachers know students as individuals, and are able to meet individual needs efficiently and effectively.
  • Highly engaged students
  • Consistent use of reading comprehension strategies across Language Arts classrooms
  • Strong facilitation of productive talk in many classrooms, use of small groups
  • Embedded vocabulary instruction integrated effectively
  • Strong teacher integration of SMART boards
  • Impressive instruction in language arts and math classrooms
  • Parent Connect program enhances communication between parents, students and the school staff regarding grades, attendance, lunch, etc.
  • Students have opportunities to revise work until they “get it”
  • Improvement in CSAP reading, writing and math over the last three years
  • Teachers meet regularly during common plan time to discuss the learning needs of their students
  • College Connections –field trip to colleges for students

Developmental Responsiveness

  • High levels of staff enthusiasm – positive culture throughout the building!
  • Kids “know” that their teachers care about them, parents concur.
  • Kids really like their teachers, parents concur.
  • Kids report that their teachers will take extra time to help them, after school, before school, at lunch in addition to in class help – parents concur.
  • Staff has strong ownership in their school – they can and do make things happen!
  • Students have a wide range of activities and electives to explore their passions.
  • A variety of leadership opportunities exist for a wide variety of students – a leadership class for all students, as well as traditional leadership opportunities like NJHS
  • Student led parent teachers conferences create student ownership and deep learning – parents report
  • Strong use of Parent Portal – grades are kept up to date and used by families and students
  • Impressive home-grown math interventions
  • Unique and varied unified arts programs available for students
  • Strong music program
  • Lots of opportunities for students to get extra help
  • Clear behavioral expectations, strong teacher visibility, and effectively implemented discipline procedures are reducing number of suspensions

Social Equity

  • Welcoming culture pervades the school building – parents concur.
  • Strong sense of school pride – students love their school and are glad to be there.
  • Kids feel respected by their teachers.
  • Haves and Have Less not easily apparent.  Students blend in well together.
  • Varied charitable and community service works done by students.
  • Strong results for Make a Wish Foundation – Great job!
  • The school is adapting to changing student needs, and is working to welcome diverse student communities, adapting curriculum, instructional strategies, and assessment strategies.
  • Students feel their ideas are listened to, i.e. bathrooms.
  • Non-structured environments are orderly and safe
  • Students and parents believe administration knows everyone
  • Discipline referrals are proportionally representative of student groups
  • A wide variety of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities are available

Organizational Support Structures – 3.7

  • Scheduling allows for individual and team planning as well as creative design to maximize learning for students
  • Time embedded for data-analysis, and tools available for conversation, analysis and planning as well as problem-solving related to student behavioral needs is available
  • The school is driven by finding answers to their challenges, they do not give up, they are positive minded and will strive to find out what to do so that every child is successful!
  • Strong, responsive leadership works effectively to communicate with all stakeholders, and provide coherence and sense to the schools plans, actions, procedures in the areas of operations and instruction.