Finding Success at the Middle School Level
Finding Success at the Middle School Level
In the larger scope of K–12 education, middle school sometimes gets the short end of the stick. Many of us may remember middle school as an awkward time that we would like to forget. The “lost years” don’t have the magic of the foundational elementary grades where students are just learning to read, nor do they have the allure of exciting career and college opportunities that high school offers. But, the middle school years are a time of critical growth and development for students—socially, emotionally, and academically. At Edmentum, we’re familiar with the impact that blended learning, intervention, credit recovery, and remediation in grades 6–8 can have on a district. Check out a few of these inspiring success stories straight from middle schools across the country.
When Christa McAuliffe Middle School’s leaders saw a dip in 8th grade science scores, they immediately looked into options to rectify the issue. They began using Study Island with 8th grade students, but school leaders knew that in order to provide comprehensive science support, they needed to go back to 6th and 7th grade to give students an earlier start and provide them with the full experience. Looking to increase overall student participation, the leaders held a Study Island Challenge to engage students to use the program. The school focused the challenge around the recommended use of Study Island for 20 minutes a day and set the goal at a rigorous five hours in just two weeks. The student results and excitement about studying were astounding.
From 2016 to 2018, Science FSA achievement scores increased from 61 percent of students receiving a “proficient” score of 3 or above to 74 percent. “It seems that Study Island made the difference,” said Principal Jeff Silverman. “It finally got us over the hurdle we were stuck at instead of declining. Our scores turned around.” Engagement and buy-in from teachers have made a difference in the school, and Principal Silverman is excited to see what the future holds: “Most of the teachers said they really felt Study Island was above and beyond the other programs we had been using. They love it; the kids like it. As a principal, what more do I need?”
One middle school in Indiana has created a blended learning option to appeal to those students who are homebound, those who have severe anxiety, and those who don’t thrive in the traditional classroom environment.
Northridge Middle School implemented a suite of Edmentum solutions—EdOptions Academy to provide courses not typically available in the curriculum, Courseware to provide options for students who learn better in online environments, and Study Island for remediation support and reinforcement in math.
“We have seen success with our gifted students who are able to be challenged in high school level courses,” said Pam Shenk, the blended learning guidance counselor. “They work at their own speed and aren't limited to the pacing of a traditional classroom. Our general education students are also successful because they are able to slow down the pacing of a unit, so they really understand the material.”
At the end of the 2017–18 school year, this blended learning initiative had provided over 150 high school credits to students and had added 25 students to the district who would have otherwise been homeschooled.
“We are able to provide one calm environment where students can take any number of courses with the support of a classroom and digital teacher,” said blended learning teacher Lauren Bailey. “The flexibility to work from home when anxiety is too high is also powerful and alleviates stress from families without accumulating excessive absences.”
In a town with a high farming population that changes from season to season, Gila Vista Junior High School in Yuma, Arizona, was looking for a flexible solution that helps students grow in their learning and fill knowledge gaps created by moving frequently with their families. The school began using Courseware in whole-class and small-group classroom settings where individual prescriptions are prepared for each student to guide self-directed study. The program is also used extensively in a remediation elective course, at home for more self-directed practice, and during the summer and extended school day programs.
Gila Vista students have responded quite well to the implementation of Courseware. After the 2013 testing cycle, the school began the year with only 55 percent of students meeting state standards and increased to 77 percent meeting the standards at the end of the school year. Educators have also taken notice that students tend to work harder with Courseware than with traditional pen-and-paper methods of instruction. Many students reported that they’d be much more willing to attempt 40 math problems on Courseware versus pen and paper and that they felt the built-in tutorials helped them better understand math concepts.
Wrightstown Middle School (WMS) is located in rural Wisconsin with a school population of nearly 400 students. The school has 20 percent of its students involved in its response to intervention (RTI) programs for reading and math. Teachers sought out program for those students to have extra practice to get them up to Common Core ELA and math standards. They also wanted a program that tracks strengths and weaknesses, identifies individual student progress, and provides them with instant feedback. The team was introduced to Study Island in 2009, and WMS has seen incredible growth ever since.
Study Island is used on a daily basis in the school’s RTI resource room to reinforce what is taught in class. WMS also uses a student’s NWEA™ Measures of Academic Progress (MAP®) Growth™ assessment results to create an individualized learning path within Study Island. WMS teachers have seen measurable success, and students’ standardized test scores have steadily increased. From the 2009–10 school year to the 2013–14 school year, students who were proficient or advanced in reading climbed 14 percent. Between those same school years, students who were proficient or advanced in math soared 16.8 percent.
“It is a great benefit to have a tool like Study Island, which allows us to dive deeper into the language arts strands,” Principal Lee Mierow said. “We look forward to using Study Island as a post-test data-collection resource.”
Middle schoolers are a unique group of students who have a diverse set of needs, skills, and areas to improve upon. Success can be found (and made) by this dynamic group of learners, and it’s rewarding for us to be involved in that process. Looking for online programs to help your school or district improve outcomes for all students? Check out Edmentum's suite of K–12 evidence-based assessments and digital curriculum, and see why over 8,000 districts in the nation partner with us.