Middle School October Update

Another academic year is underway at Northeast Middle School, and students and staff are again hard at work. A variety of new (and returning) programs and systems are in place this year. Here are a few of the highlights.

Ramped up Reading
The Northeast Reads program has a significant presence at Northeast Middle School this year. Northeast Reads is a community-wide program that encourages Northeast community members and students to read. The program’s website (http://northeastreads.com) provides information about reading and writing opportunities such as book and writing clubs. Other new reading initiatives at NEMS include a Little Free Library, YOLO, which stand for You Only Live once (so read), which challenges students to read 18 books this school year, and language arts assignments that require students to read for two or more hours each week with a goal of reading one million words or more during the school year. NEMS also staffs five teachers who focus on reading instruction.

Push In Model
This year many NEMS classrooms often have more than one teacher. Special education resource teachers, math and language arts department leaders, and English learner support staff are pushing in to classrooms to provide instruction and support. Some schools have shown improved student learning outcomes after implementing the push-in model.

City of Lakes AmeriCorps
There are four City of Lakes AmeriCorps members at Northeast Middle School. Each member works with nine to 10 intermediate level English Learners. Their goals are to improve academic English proficiency through intensive tutoring sessions and to form strong relationships to increase engagement and social skills. They do this by serving kids in a variety of core content and reading classes, by pushing into the classroom, and through one-to-one and small group sessions. In addition to day school support, AmeriCorps members lead after school classes for EL Homework Help and other enrichment courses.

After School Program
After school programs at NEMS are more robust this year. Two types of classes are available to students: academic and enrichment. Academic classes include supplemental support in math, science, reading, social studies and writing. Enrichment classes include courses such as cooking and fitness. Many students take academic courses two days per week and enrichment courses two days per week for a balanced learning approach.

For the past 20 years, St. Olaf College has sponsored the TRiO Educational Talent Search program at NEMS. The program’s goal is to increase the likelihood that students complete high school and enter post-secondary programs. This year, TRiO facilitators will be leading tours of six college campuses. One activity 6th grade students are engaging in is a mentor program in which they exchange letters back and forth between mentors from St. Olaf. Fun fact: several of this year’s mentors previously attended NEMS.

Focused Instruction
Focused Instruction is an approach to teaching and learning that emphasizes clarity. Teachers become clearer about what they are teaching and students become clearer about what they are learning. Tools are available to guide teachers in lesson plan development and learning assessment. Teachers using focused instruction (currently all 6th grade math, science, social studies and language arts teachers) receive additional training on how to deliver instruction effectively. The plan for the future is that all core subject teachers at all three grade levels will use this method.

CLASS Program Returns
This year, Northeast Middle School began servicing students through the Coordinated Learning for Academic and Social Success (CLASS) program for the first time in several years. CLASS is a special education program designed to meet the individual needs of students who benefit from intensive basic academic skills instruction. NEMS welcomes back Carol Buzzelli (a former NEMS CLASS teacher) and Wayne Smith to facilitate its two CLASS rooms.

Block Scheduling
Last year, NEMS students attended the same seven classes each day. This year, students attend four classes each day. They rotate between A-day and B-day schedules, resulting in 80-minute classes which students attend every other day (with the exception of math which they attend for 80 minutes each day). Some teachers feel longer class periods allow them to provide richer learning experiences, including hands-on instruction, class projects and cooperative learning tasks. The new block schedule also gives all students the opportunity to take all eight subjects required by the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program.

International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program
NEMS has been an authorized International Baccalaureate (IB) school since 2008. The IB philosophy requires all students to take language arts, a world language, humanities, science, math, art, physical education, and technology courses. IB instruction focuses on asking students to understand connections between content and the real world while becoming critical, reflective thinkers. Learning takes place through five lenses: community and service, human ingenuity, environments, approaches to learning, and health and social education.

Project Success
The Project Success program is back at NEMS this year. Project success is a youth development organization focused on helping students develop life skills through activities such as goal-setting, theater experiences, college tours and artistic experiences and one-on-one counseling. Project Success staff members visit all language arts classes on a monthly basis, and will continue to do so throughout their middle and high school years.