Middle School Matters Institute
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
The Middle School Matters Institute (MSMI), an Initiative of the George W. Bush Institute and the Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk, is collaborating with Heritage Intermediate School in Etiwanda School District (Fontana, California) to provide professional development to educators in two areas: 1) using early warning indicator data to keep students on the path to high school graduation, and 2) supporting reading comprehension across all content areas.
The yearlong support will include site visits with dropout prevention expert Johann Liljengren of Johns Hopkins University’s Talent Development Secondary and MSMI school support provider Veronica Miller. Liljengren will collaborate with staff and provide coaching on using early warning systems to collect data associated with a risk of high school dropout and how to provide appropriate supports to students who are veering off-track for high school graduation. Heritage Intermediate principal Laura Rowland was encouraged after the initial training with Liljengren.
“As a result, our teachers are having valuable data-centered conversations on a regular basis regarding the progress of their students as it pertains to their attendance, behavior and course grades,” she said.
Heritage staff will also focus on sustaining and refining the implementation of research-based reading comprehension practices campus wide.
“Working with our site coach, Veronica Miller, and the various researchers has been very impactful for our teachers. I work hand in hand with Veronica to plan for meaningful professional development that best meets the needs of our school site. This school year Veronica is continuing to train and coach our teachers on effective reading strategies.”
In addition to coaching and support from MSMI, Heritage teacher leaders will conduct peer coaching in the reading strategies.
This year’s work will expand upon Etiwanda School District’s Middle School Matters implementation plans from the past year. Heritage Intermediate School was selected as a demonstration site for the 2015-2016 school year and received intensive professional development and support to build its capacity in reading and mathematics instruction. Interestingly, a steep increase in student performance on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) was observed last year, with the number of students that met or exceeded standards at Heritage increasing 13 percentage points in English language arts and 8 percentage points in math. These increases were greater than the average increase among other intermediate schools in the district. Although a direct correlation cannot be drawn between the increase in test scores and the support provided by MSMI last year, many in the district attribute MSMI’s efforts as a notable factor.
“It has been an honor and privilege to work with both Etiwanda School District and the Heritage Intermediate educators,” said Christy Murray, director of the Middle School Matters Institute. “They are one of the very best at recognizing practices deeply rooted in research that are important to the middle grades and then crafting ways to support and encourage staff as they learn these new strategies.”
What does Rowland hope to accomplish this year?
“All in all, our partnership with MSMI is helping to improve our educational practices at Heritage Intermediate so that we can ensure all of our students are experiencing success during their middle school years.”