Bowen and HMS Reorganize Student Day and Add Staff Team Approach

July 18, 2014
Keith Bowen

Keith Bowen

by Tom Tollefson

This school year, Memorial Middle School will have a new sheriff in town.  After serving as an administrator for 17 years, Sue Nadeau retired and Hudson native Keith Bowen steps up to the principal’s chair.  Bowen has served as an administrator at Memorial for 12 years and is now at the helm leading a few changes to the school.

Through the feedback Hudson Memorial School has received from its participation in the focused monitoring process and SWIFT grant, the school’s leadership team, in conjunction with the SAU, has reorganized the student day and schedule.

“The purpose of the reorganization is to establish a consistent daily schedule, create greater flexibility within the day’s schedule for the students and staff, generate greater opportunity within the schedule to provide more direct instruction in language arts and mathematics through a Response to Instruction approach, as well as, provide more time for teacher collaboration during the school day,” Bowen explained.

Starting in the fall, students and teachers will be grouped into teams.  The teams will be comprised of a mathematics teacher, two language arts teachers, a science teacher, and a social studies teacher.  Each grade level will be comprised of three teams with a total of eight teams school-wide.

As part of the team concept, the teachers within each team will then work together in adapting their lessons based on the data they have to meet the individual needs of their students.  Last year, the school was not organized in a team format for the teachers or students.  From an organizational and communications standpoint, some believe this format did not support an efficient means of meeting the needs of the students in a timely fashion.  Bowen believes the consistency of having a group of students assigned to a set of teachers will give the professional staff the time to routinely collaborate and address the needs of their students, make better use of the school’s time and resources, as well as, create a more student-centered environment that addresses the social, emotional, and educational needs of the middle school-aged student more effectively.

According to Bowen, “By reorganizing the students and staff into teams, we can meet the students’ needs in a more timely fashion and remediate or extend students learning through the data that we receive on a daily basis in the form of formative classroom assessment results and the star assessment results that we obtain on a periodic basis throughout the year.”

The science and social studies classes will continue to be diversely grouped within each team and the language arts and math classes will continue to be leveled within each team with modifications made to how the language arts levels are established.  Based on the Star Assessment and formative forms of classroom assessment, students who are achieving on grade level or higher will be placed in a Level 1 class, while students that are below grade level will be placed in a Level 2 class.  Bowen believes that engaging students at each of the two levels will give teachers more opportunities to focus on students’ needs and build the foundational skills necessary to be successful across the curriculum.

In order to provide the professional staff with extra time in their day to meet and expose students to more academic opportunities throughout their day, the students will receive an additional block for unified arts.  A unified arts class is a non-core class offering such as art, gym, health, family and consumer science, computers, technology education and music.  While the students attend an additional unified arts class each day, the teachers will meet to discuss the best ways to work together and address their students’ needs. Students previously had only one time block for unified arts, and now they will have one block in the morning and one in the afternoon.  This extra unified arts time will replace study hall.

Core classroom teachers will use the extra time for unified arts class time to meet with their academic teams.  During these meetings, the teams will discuss student data, address student concerns including Individualized Education Programs and other needs within the team, talk about their curriculum, and discuss the projects, homework, and content being taught in the classroom.  Teachers will make an effort to plan their homework assignments evenly so that students do not get overwhelmed with multiple projects and lengthy homework assignments all at once in all their core classes.  The goal of these meetings will be to work together to make sure they are all working in the same direction, with common goals, share ideas, and make decisions about how to best meet all the needs of their students.

To better facilitate the team concept and save time during classroom transitions, 28 teachers within the building have moved their classrooms.  The classroom moves were made in order to have all academic team members located within close proximity of each other.  By having their classrooms closer together, less time will be needed for students to move from classroom to classroom.

The schedule itself is another change.  In the past, Memorial has operated on a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule and a Tuesday/Thursday schedule.  This year, they will have a consistent schedule from Monday through Friday.  This schedule will also see the 30-minute time slot for Colt Time (a time for teachers to focus on addressing and teaching about age-appropriate social awareness issues such as bullying, drugs, and peer pressure) replaced with an Academic Focus Period.

“The purpose of the Academic Focus Period is to provide students with the time in their day to meet with their teachers in an effort to have their academic needs met more appropriately than we have done in the past,” Bowen explained.  “There are a plethora of things that could take place at this time.  During this time, students will be scheduled into their teacher’s classrooms at the beginning of the week based on their academic need.  That academic need could be remediation, or extension of core content material, time to complete their homework with their teacher, guidance, extension opportunities that teachers provide outside of the general curriculum, or time to utilize the Library Media Center or any one of our three computer labs to research, or type papers.”

According to Bowen, the overall most important focus for change at the middle school has been to “take a more student-centered approach toward meeting the academic, social, and emotional needs of the students in a manner that will generate the greatest amount of time and flexibility within their day on a consistent basis to allow for greater opportunity for individual success.”