Dear Staff and Families of MSD of Lawrence Township Middle Schools,
On Monday, April 8, the MSD of Lawrence Township Board of Education approved the recent recommendations presented by the Middle School Study Committee. The committee consisted of over 50 teachers, administrators, school board members, and parents. The final recommendations were the result of the committee's yearlong comprehensive program review that included committee meetings, a school improvement School to Watch self-study survey, study trips to other middle schools, and participation in state and national middle school conferences. Through the School to Watch self-study, the committee focused on four key domains: Academic Excellence, Developmental Responsiveness, Social Equity, and Organizational Structures and Processes.
The first approved recommendation involves creating interdisciplinary teams that will make our two large middle schools feel smaller for students and families and better meet the needs of young adolescents. A team of five teachers (English, math, science, social studies, exceptional learner) will share the same students. Through strong relationship-building, these students and teachers will form a team identity and develop team unity. Because the classrooms of the team's teachers will be in close proximity of each other, students will experience a more structured middle school schedule. Importantly, the team of teachers will coordinate and streamline communication with families allowing for a smoother transition through the middle level grades.
The second approved recommendation establishes a study team to explore alternatives to the current (7) period daily schedule. The current middle school schedule of 7 classes each day creates many transitions throughout the day. The goal of the study team is to identify a schedule that maintains 7 classes, blocked over more than one day, that will increase the depth of academic rigor while decreasing the number of transitions. The study team plans to pilot schedules during the Spring and Fall of 2019 to determine pros and cons of implementation.
The third approved recommendation involves further implementing the distributive leadership model at both middle schools to improve instruction. Building on the success of this school improvement model at the elementary level, master middle school teachers in English, science and social studies will be selected and trained to provide innovative instruction to students for part of the day and coach colleagues in those instructional strategies for the other part of the day. Belzer and Fall Creek Valley will continue to be leaders in middle school academic performance as a result of this school improvement model.
With student achievement always at the forefront, we will also monitor student discipline rates, attendance rates, social-emotional learning, rigor diagnostics, and our school culture survey to determine the effectiveness of this middle school reform and make adjustments as necessary. We are confident that these significant changes to Belzer and Fall Creek Valley will equip Lawrence students with the skills that they need to be successful in middle school and beyond.
Dr. Shawn A. Smith, Superintendent of Schools