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109 Restructures Middle School Program

Administrators, teachers give Board a progress report on changes comment to Caruso and Shepard Middle Schools.

A more intimate relationship between teachers and students at Shepard and Caruso Middle Schools is a primary goal of the new scheduling format sixth, seventh and eighth grade students in Deerfield Public Schools District 109.

Children will be divided into teams at each school with four teachers giving instruction in core subjects, according to a report given by administrators and teachers at Monday’s Board of Education meeting.

Earlier: 109 Board Hikes Tax Levy

“We will have the same academic rigor but more student focus,” Shepard Principal Michael Shapiro said. “The same team (of teachers) will focus on the same group of kids.” The team of four teachers will be able to meet regularly to exchange ideas about each student’s needs.

Monday’s presentation will be given again for parents and other community members at 7 p.m. today at Caruso. There will be an opportunity for people to ask questions.

Shapiro and Caruso Principal Brian Bullis assured the Board the teams would be balanced with both including children at all ends of the academic spectrum. The program will begin with the 2013-14 school year. Teams will likely be changed when children move to the next grade.

With teachers teaching one team, they will have the opportunity to notice more about individual traits with all four instructors getting a better handle on the children.

“Behavior problems will lessen,” Caruso teacher Jennifer Gold said. She is one of the people contributing to the new plan. “Small teams can focus on social emotional needs. Everyone has their eyes on the same things. They will get to know all the students better.”

The four core subjects—math, science, language arts and social studies—will be taught for an hour a day. The other disciplines, dubbed encore classes by Shapiro, will continue to be offered for 40 minutes. They include world language, art, music and physical education.

The one hour instruction for each core class is not set in stone every day. When one subject requires extra time, the teachers on the team can work together to tailor student needs.

“There can be more balance,” Gold said. “They are not bound by a bell. If they need a little more time for social studies they can take it.”

The program is still a work in progress, according to Shapiro. “There are still some big rocks we need to move,” he said. One of those is getting students to ignore a bell signaling the start of the next period if they have a longer science lab that day.

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John Russillo November 15, 2012 at 02:06 PM
I liked what I saw and for me it just shows what we can do in this district when we let our teachers and building administrators collaborate. I would like to see them empower the building staff on the implementation of STEM also and we need to do that quickly. I'm looking forward to next year in the middle schools because I think this change will have a real impact on learning.
Mara Meyer November 15, 2012 at 02:13 PM
John, many of the elements are already integrated in the science program. What is not integrated is the math program. What the district needs to do is rethink the spiralling math curriculum at the elementary and coordinate with the middle school. They also need to look at the curriculm for science at the elementary. Ah, but that will require a knowledgable Director of curriculum for the District!
Harvey November 16, 2012 at 03:25 AM
Having an hour for these core classes is great, however if you have English teachers teaching math then there is a waste of your 20 additional minutes. FIX the problem by bringing in EXCELLENT math teachers.
John Russillo November 16, 2012 at 12:59 PM
That's not what's meant by team teaching. Teachers will continue to teach their subjects. Team teaching means that each of the 4 core subject teachers will have a greater chance to coordinate their lessons.
Ruth Spiro November 16, 2012 at 07:32 PM
All I can say is that hopefully this will alleviate the homework PROBLEM at the middle school level. Teachers working more closely together should be able to coordinate tests and major projects so they don't all fall on the same day. Excessive homework isn't "getting them ready" for high school, it's burning them out before they even get there.

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