Middle School

Middle School Vision

  • Interdisciplinary Teaming: organizational structure of teachers
  • Advisory Programs: students assigned to a teacher, or administrator
  • Varied Instruction: accomodating individual differences
  • Exploratory Programs: capitalize on the curiosity of adolescents
  • Transition Programs: creating a smooth change of schools

Successful Notre Dame Academy Teachers:

  • have teaching in the middle years as their primary career goal. They want to teach young adolescents.
  • clearly understand the uniqueness of the developmental and learning stages of early adolescents. Specifically, teachers must understand the needs and motivating factors of 11 - 15 year olds.
  • understand that students at this age need an integrated approach to learning.
  • focus on student learning not just content delivery.
  • understand the importance of peer and cooperative learning.
  • can demonstrate an understanding of importance of active learning and teaching to multiple intelligences. They acquire, create and utilize a wide variety of resources to improve the learning experiences of young adolescents.
  • understand *interdisciplinary and integrated curriculum.
    • *Integrated curriculum revolves around a main theme and may consist of simply a combination of two to three subject disciplines. Combining curriculum areas in English and Social Studies or Mathematics and Science which have common threads in the already established school curriculum are demonstrative of integrated curriculum units.)
  • have a broad, interdisciplinary knowledge of the subjects in the middle level curriculum methodologies that emphasize interdisciplinary unit planning with colleagues.
  • understand the role of advocate, adult role model and advisor for adolescents.
  • work closely with families to form partnerships to help young adolescents be successful at school.

Components of an Exemplary Middle School:

  • Interdisciplinary teaming refers to the organizational structure of a core of teachers assigned to the same group of students. A variety of configurations have been successful ranging from 2 - 5 team members in two, three or four subject areas. Teaming provides the structure to support two essential aspects of middle level education: (1) a positive psychosocial environment that allows flexibility and variety (Keefe et al., 1983), and heterogeneous grouping of students (Mac Iver & Epstein, 1993) and (2) a structure to plan and deliver a curriculum that balances academic and humane factors (NMSA, 1995).
    • Because teachers share the same students and have a common planning period, they are able to respond more quickly to the needs of individual students though collaboration, meeting jointly with parents, and designing thematic units which foster the transfer of ideas among disciplines and increase relevance.
  • Advisory programs consist of a small group of students (usually 20 or fewer) assigned to a teacher, administrator, or other staff member for a regularly scheduled meeting to discuss topics of concern to students. The purpose of this program is the development of close, trusting relationships between students and adults and to increase engagement with learning and feelings of positive self-esteem and belonging. Social and academic support activities include "discussing problems with individual students, giving career information and guidance, developing student self-confidence and leadership, and discussing academic issues, personal or family problems, social relationships, peer groups, health issues, moral or ethical issues and multicultural issues/intergroup relations" (Mac Iver, 1990, p. 459). Teacher advisories also help create more positive school climates, develop students' self-concepts, and prevent dropouts (George & Shewey, 1994; Mac Iver, 1990)
  • Varied instruction includes:
    1. Integrating learning experiences, addressing students' own questions and focusing upon real life issues relevant to the student;
    2. Actively engaging students in problem-solving and accommodating individual differences;
    3. Seeking to develop good people, caring for others, democratic values, and moral sensitivity (NMSA, 1995).
    4. Emphasizing collaboration, cooperation, and community;

Some of the more common programs include multi-age grouping over longer periods of time, cross-age tutoring, cooperative learning, hands-on and student-centered activities; use of block time and flexible scheduling; and positive evaluations. Learning tasks are developmentally appropriate and adapted to individual differences.

  • Exploratory Program: Capitalize on the innate curiosity of young adolescents, exposing them to a range of academic, vocational, and recreational subjects for career options, community service, enrichment, and enjoyment.
    • Exploratory topics include foreign languages, intramural sports, health, clubs, student government, home economics, technological arts, independent study projects, music, art, speech, drama, careers, consumer education, creative writing, and several other special areas.
  • Transition programs focus on creating a smooth change of schools for the young adolescent. Eighty-eight percent of public school students begin the middle grades in a new school, a transition which may overwhelm the coping skills of some students and "have pathogenic effects on their psychological adjustment, self-esteem, and motivation to learn" (Mac Iver, 1990). Visits to the middle school by fifth graders were used in 90% of the 6-8 schools (McEwin, Dickinson, & Jenkins, 1995).
    • A common approach is for elementary school students to visit the middle level school they will be attending, while administrators of the elementary and middle level schools meet to discuss programs and the middle school counselors to discuss ways to help students make a smooth transition from elementary to middle school and from middle school to high school.

Best Practices Characterized by Developmentally Responsive Middle Schools Embrace and Include:

  • a shared vision
  • educators committed to young adolescents
  • a positive school climate
  • an adult advocate for every student
  • family and community partnerships
  • high expectations for all

Notre Dame Academy will provide:

  • a curriculum that is challenging, integrative, and exploratory
  • varied teaching/learning approaches
  • assessment and evaluation that promote learning
  • flexible organizational structures
  • programs and policies that foster health, safety, and wellness
  • comprehensive guidance and support services