Middle school education lays the foundation for what happens in high school and therefore affects how prepared our students are for life beyond high school. I am very excited that the new budget has a plan for a K-12 Guidance Supervisor in Metuchen. With the addition of this position, I think we will see stronger communication between all of the schools' guidance counselors and enhanced articulation as the students transition. This year, career exploration has been one of the goals at Edgar Middle School and I would like to see us build on that. I think that we also need to impress upon each family the importance of course selection. If the students want to take AP and honors courses in high school, past performance will pave the way. It will be beneficial to understand the importance earlier about how each course you take will affect the options that are available to you in later grades. I think there should also be a discussion of introducing the opportunity to study the other world languages prior to eighth grade.
Guidance counselors need to develop a working knowledge of each student's learning profile and create a profile that includes their learning style, strengths, limitations, and interests in occupations and hobbies starting in sixth grade. A program entitled "Kaleidoscope Navigator" allows students to recognize their learning preferences and inclinations. Students can use programs that allow them to share their interests and goals in a central database that can work in tandem at the high school level.
Students should have the opportunity to research careers through the form of projects and occupational fairs, learn from guest speakers in the areas of education, science, health sciences, math, finance, marketing, technology, history, journalism, management, fashion, and other pertinent disciplines, and share their ideas through self-analytical and reflective discussion with their guidance counselor, teachers, classmates, and friends. Programs such as C.H.O.I.C.E.S. and ROGATE are exemplary models to help prepare the middle schools for future areas of study. We need to increase the frequency and accessibility of such programs and introduce them at the sixth grade level and every year of middle school.
Students need as much instruction, practice, and feedback as possible before they graduate high school. Students need to sharpen their literary critical-thinking, analytical, and contextualization skills. Likewise, students that have more exposure to word derivation and etymology will increase their vocabulary base and have a heightened appreciation for all literary genre and languages. Research from universities has disclosed that too many freshmen have arrived at college deficient in their expository writing and research skills. Many students are required to take a remedial writing course which results in taking extra courses and possibly additional time before commencement. Administrators, guidance counselors, and teachers must take a pro-active approach to forming professional learning communities that speak to the development of critical writing skills, explication of text, and researching skills.
In order to develop the work ethic and improve the overall academic success of each student, the Middle School faculty should model, reinforce and evaluate the note-taking and the study skills of each student. In addition, the curriculum should each student. In addition, the curriculum should incorporate the opportunity to use higher order thinking skills (i.e. analytical, evaluative, and synthetic skills) in a variety of activities and assessments. Students should be exposed to specific questions from standardized tests that speak to each skill on a continual basis so as to acclimate the students to the strategy and expectations of each assessment.
In order to empower our students to strive for and achieve proficiency in a conversational language, they need continual instruction in their formative years. A full-time world language study starting in the sixth grade is required for mastery and proficiency of all conversational and classical languages. Currently Edgar Middle School offers part-time world language study. We need to re-evaluate the world language course offerings and accommodate a full time schedule for our students. We must re-evaluate our current world language course offerings to determine if they are the most relevant for the areas of study and vocational opportunities that our students wish to pursue. I participated in the Cranford School District World Language Task Force from 2006-2007. We evaluated world languages offered for study in grades 1-12 in light of available data and current thinking in the business and world language communities. Our recommendations to the Superintendent were guided by which languages were deemed most "critical" to prepare students for the 21st century and on criteria based upon the student interest, status as a critical language, existing world language programs in comparable districts, and community support. We researched the following world languages: Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Hindi, Russian, ad American Sign Language. Cranford currently offers Spanish, French, German, Latin and Japanese. Our recommendation to the Board was to maintain our current course offerings and to offer Mandarin and American Sign Language for 2008/2009.
The following articles were instrumental in our evaluation of critical foreign language course offerings: http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=7540 and http://worldroom.tamu.edu/Blog/Text/May21/Becoming-Citizens-of-the-World.pdf
Middle school is where students really begin to think about their futures, including whether they are likely to want to attend college. Many students are already aware that they will be more likely to have a successful future career if they attend college, and we should foster an expectation that college can be in anyone's future. Therefore, during middle school it is critical to maintain educational momentum and keep students motivated and focused on accepting challenges and doing their very best. We need to fully prepare them for the more rigorous courses they will face in high school.
Middle school students can begin to develop a plan, to entertain real ideas about what they might like to study or careers they think they might be interested in. To facilitate this, a career fair and/or programmed visits from parents to describe their careers would be valuable to all 5-8th grade students. In addition, early and thorough guidance about what HS courses and activities will make them most competitive for college would be helpful. Some additional proposals to help improve college expectations for all students include:
· Educating students and parents about the benefits of how a challenging course of study can affect their student's, future education, career, and incomes.
· Educate parents and students about enrolling in specific pre-requisite college prep classes during middle-school.
· Explore having colleges visit the HS to give early interviews and feedback
· Help parents estimate future college costs and develop a plan to meet costs.
· Develop K-6 curricula to be structured around instruction and program culture that takes into account the developmental needs and assets of the students.
· Enable students to develop their creative thought abilities by developing curricula that encourages independent thinking and curiosity while focusing on real world concepts.
· Teach students to expect difficulty and challenge when learning so they understand that this is part of the learning process.
· Facilitate peer-groups and tutoring led by college-bound HS students to expose younger students to motivated and academically successful role models.
It's hard for parents, especially those with their oldest child at Edgar Middle School, to focus on college when their next concern is high school. With this in mind, I would suggest during middle school that we expose our students to as many ideas as possible. We should initiate some discussion with students about possible career choices and what is required to enter into a particular field, so that they begin to think about their future. Middle school is a big transition period for most students. More importantly, we need to consider the whole child including emotional, social and academic development. They all need to be in sync as one area could impact another. Clubs, athletics and the music program are all critically important to middle school students. Edgar Middle School needs to continue to offer additional activities such as the Rogate Exposition, Arts Middle School, Math Counts, St. Joseph's Science Bowl, St. Joseph's Math Competition, All State Honors Choir, All State Band, All State Orchestra, and the National Geographic Bee for students looking for an extra challenge.