There are many programs that have been tried in middle schools for the sake of supporting students' academic and emotional success. While some programs have failed, and others have succeeded, it's a combination of programs, along with the loving, caring attitude of the administrators, faculty, and staff at the middle school that will work in harmony with each other that achieves the most success.
This article presents an overview of programs and practices at Peet Junior High that have been successful in helping my son, who is in his third and last year at Peet Junior High (grades 7-9).
Spring orientation begins with a small group of teachers and counselors visiting the class of sixth graders who will be new seventh graders in the middle school in the coming fall. They give the students a brief overview of the middle school along with a question-answer period. This is followed up with a visit to the middle school, which is housed in a different building, and sixth graders are given a tour of the building along with meeting all the seventh-grade teachers, principals, and staff.
The program known as Building Options and Opportunities for Students (BOOST) was a federally funded program aimed at late elementary, middle, and high school students who demonstrated academic success, but came from disadvantaged neighborhoods where they did not have the opportunity to fully develop their abilities. The overall goal was to help participating students gain admission into competitive middle and high schools.
The current BOOST program at Peet Junior High has a completely different focus and agenda. It is a district sponsored program for incoming seventh graders. It occurs the week prior to the school starting in the fall, and it lasts for four, half days during which students, who have volunteered and registered for the program, experience what a mini-day in middle school will be like. They meet their classmates, teachers, counselors, and school administrators. They learn some fundamentals about the curriculum, how to organize their school work, and become familiar with classroom expectations. In addition, students learn the layout of the school building including where their lockers are and how to work their padlocks.
The program called Every Child Has the Opportunity to Excel and Succeed (ECHOES), was a federally funded after school tutoring program aimed at helping students who needed extra help understanding and completing work in academic subject areas as well as for students who needed a safe and secure environment during the afterschool hours. The program typically ran for three hours after school with the first one and a half hour being devoted to students who needed academic help being taught by certified teachers, and the remaining time devoted to enrichment activities.
Presently, at Peet Junior High, ECHOES continues to have the same organizational structure and purpose, however, it's no longer funded by the federal government, but instead by the school district. Students who wish to join ECHOES complete an online registration form. The program runs for two hours after school with the first hour devoted to academic support for students who need it, and the remaining hour offers enrichment such as certain clubs and computer games. A bus is provided to take students home if they live within the district and city limits.
ECHOES at Peet Junior High is a drop-in program. Although students initially register, their participation is flexible. They can come when they want to and leave when they want to with prior arrangements between the program coordinator and parents.
Tiger Time at Peet Junior High (named after the school mascot, The Cedar Falls Tigers) is a building-wide type of study hall that occurs at the same time each day in every student's schedule. But rather than the type of study hall in which students stay put in one room, students can be requested by a teacher through an online system for the sake of academic help or work in an extracurricular area, attend an advisory meeting, a club meeting, a special interest meeting, or a committee meeting.
The students at Peet are divided between two guidance counselors. The counselors are highly engaged with the students both individually as needed, and through teaching whole-class advisory topics such as the following: CFO (Caring for Others), ABC (Anti-bullying Committee) Organization of School Work, LEAD (Young Women's Leadership), New Student-Adapting to Change, Student Council, College Readiness, Internet Safety, and Careers and School Planning. In addition, counselors work with students to develop their yearly class schedules.
Large Group and Small Group Study Hall
At Peet Junior High, if students have a study hall in their schedule it is typically a large group study hall during which students are free to work on school work, reading, or free time on their laptop computers. However, if they need extra help in a subject area, they have the option to attend a small, teacher-facilitated group focused on a subject area such as math.
Detention can take several forms at Peet Junior High. Mostly it is used as negative consequences for students who have not followed school rules, policies, behavior expectations, or academic expectations. Time in detention can range from 15 minutes to an hour before or after school, however, if students receive grades of Ds and Fs at midterm, detention could mean that they lose some of their free-time choices such as free-time in the cafeteria before school begins in the mornings and free-time choices of what to do during large group study hall, instead, they would need to attend a small academic-focused group. This usually lasts for a period of about a week. During detention, students make up missing work or retake tests.
Feedback Regarding Grades
Through an online system called PowerSchool, teachers at Peet post and update students' grades frequently. Students as well as parents have access to this online grading system, so they are constantly being informed. With this information, students can take the initiative to contact teachers to see what they need to do to improve their grades. Parents can also contact teachers for the sake of making appointments to discuss their student's needs.
Remedial Summer Programs
Peet Junior High offers two remedial summer programs, Read 180 and Math 180, both are computer-based programs developed by Scholastic Corporation. At Peet, students are selected and invited to attend these programs based on their low standardized test scores in math and reading. The programs aim to reinforce reading or math skills and strategies through practice-based student engagement. For example, in Math, students are involved in a mix of real life activities and hands-on activities meant to build a foundation of understanding and confidence. The concepts include rational numbers, integers, measurement, and proportions. In the reading program, each session begins and ends with whole group, teacher-directed instruction. Between the whole group meetings, students break into three small groups that rotate through three instructional stations using technology and online coaching, as well as individual instruction.
The school district pays for the cost of these summer programs and there is no cost to the participants. Both programs have two, one and half hour sessions, Mondays through Thursdays in mornings for one week. Both programs are offered concurrently.
The programs at Peet Junior High work in concert with each other to maximize the best academic and emotional support for students. Leaving one out could have possible negative consequences by weakening the effectiveness of the others. School programs in themselves do not insure desired results. It is the commitment, diligence, consistency, and attitude of the school employees that are the key ingredients that determine the success of the programs (see Weih, 2017).
Weih, T. G. (September 2017). Peet Junior High: The secret of a great school. Saching.com.
Copyright © 2017 Timothy G. Weih, Ph.D.
University of Northern Iowa, USA
About Author / Additional Info:
Timothy G. Weih is an associate professor of education at the University of Northern Iowa, USA, and teaches elementary teaching methods courses.