Ames Middle School is excited to announce that students in all grade levels will be served in academic teams for the 2015-16 school year. Our staff has been working toward making the team approach a reality for the past several years.
Previously, our sixth grade students were served in one of four teams with three core teachers sharing approximately 80 students. Now, in seventh and eighth grades, a core group of four teachers for math, literacy, social studies, and science will share approximately 130 students. There will be two seventh grade teams, two eighth grade teams, and one team of teachers will split their time between seventh and eighth grade students. Students from all teams will comprise classes such as PE, health, band, chorus, art, and music studies.
Why have we made this scheduling/structural shift?
Our goal is to create smaller learning communities in a rather large school of almost 1000 students. In this environment, students and teachers have shared experiences and expectations. Teachers will share students, which makes collaboration and differentiation more meaningful and accessible. Together with our Early Indicators of Success meetings, daily planning time with content area teachers, and our tutorials, we are confident that we will be meeting student needs at a much richer level. Sharing 130 students instead of more than 300 enables teachers to intervene quickly when there is a concern, create plans for all subject areas, and extend learning authentically when students have already demonstrated mastery.
Do teams mean that my child will have the same 25 classmates all day long?
No, your child will attend the four core academic classes with a variety of students on the 130-member team. Classes beyond core subjects will comprise students from every grade level team, and of course lunch is a time with every grade level peer.
What is the research base behind this move?
For the past several years our district has been studying the work of Richard and Rebecca DuFour and the importance of quality Professional Learning Communities. The DuFours along with Austin Buffum, Mike Mattos, Robert Eaker, Gayle Karhanek, Timothy Kanold, and Chris Weber all write extensively about the need for teachers to form functioning groups surrounding shared students in which formative assessments are given, data is examined regularly and responsive action is taken quickly. Mike Schmoker echoes that sentiment when he calls for team-based continuous improvement and revamping the traditional professional development practices. Additionally, Robert Marzano calls for changes in communication, culture, and affirmation in terms of knowing our students to effect a positive change in student achievement. Lastly, John Hattie’s meta-analysis of student achievement factors lists providing formative evaluation and teacher-student relationship as the first and seventh most effective behaviors controlled by teachers as measured by effect size. Both of these factors are a direct implication of teachers working in teams with smaller numbers of students when paired with our current work in Developmental Designs and essential standards acquisition.