A belated Happy New Year to all of our McClure families.
I am writing to catch you up on a few things at McClure as we head into our second semester of the 2014-15 school year. I also want to take this time to acknowledge that the Seahawks are providing our school once again with so much community spirit and unity; I have to say we are our own little “Legion of Boom” here atop “the hill” and the principal has been known to amp it up on Friday and Monday mornings – she can’t seem to help herself. Go Hawks!!!
This past week we had two really remarkable events: an all-school McClure service and community-building day and our Martin Luther King Assembly:
· On Wednesday, January 14th, (an early release day) every student at McClure Middle School was involved with some kind of service learning or activity to foster acceptance or teamwork. Our 6th graders had a WEB event, 7th graders spent the morning playing academic/thinking games, watching and discussing a TED talk on grit and/or engaging in an artistic endeavor, and 8th graders got to provide service at our feeder schools, lead the WEB event or experience the Gates Foundation. I can’t say it wasn’t a crazy-busy day - we had a different schedule for each grade level and our staff was stepping up all over the place to cover activities, provide breaks for colleagues and support students in being in the right place at the right time. But it was clearly a successful day of learning and building community.
· Our Martin Luther King assembly on Friday was also a very successful and positive event. Thank you to guest speakers Molly Peters (ASB president) and Ms. Moon for inspirational thoughts and to our ASB students who developed the content. I am also really proud of our students who have clearly assumed ownership over our Maverick PRIDE expectations. Our kids were so respectful, quiet and attentive at the assembly – all 543 of them!
I’d also like to give you a heads up on some upcoming plans for next year. It seems really hard to believe that we are already almost halfway through the year and we need to start planning for next year but…that’s just the reality!
First, next year the McClure Language Arts Department will be joining the rest of our departments at McClure and mirroring the advanced learning policies within our feeder schools. We are establishing a “blended” or “clustered” model in which all of our students who have been Spectrum-identified and our General Education students will be blended into the same Language Arts classrooms. There will no longer be separate Spectrum and General Education classes. There are many reasons behind this modification, not the least of which is our commitment to the concept of growth mindset – the researched-validated principle that we can teach students that their success in school is not stagnantly based on their past but, with grit and perseverance (and a supportive, intentional school environment) all of our students can and will grow. We have looked at testing, classroom performance and discipline data and found that the array of skills, behaviors and challenges in both of these “tracks” are similar. All of our Language Arts teachers are currently teaching (or have taught in the recent past) both sets of students and our curriculum for both Spectrum and General Education courses have already been aligned. Finally, our teachers are spending this school year and this summer to collaboratively develop differentiated lessons, assessments, projects and activities to support and challenge all of our learners. For even more details on this, please see the McClure website for the informational document which includes more about the research, philosophy and mindset behind this shift in our Language Arts program.
A number of families have come to me asking about our math trajectory, particularly for students who have been accelerated in elementary school. First, let me explain that our philosophy behind our math program is to ensure that no McClure student skips any grade level skills or standards during their time here. We are working closely with our feeder schools to redefine what it means to challenge and support highly skilled math students. We are coming to an understanding that doing math “faster” or skipping grade level skills/standards doesn’t necessarily mean “advanced” or “mastery”. That said, we are working on creating a more effective experience for our double-accelerated students (skipping 2+ years of math in elementary school); this year we have a total of ten students in this category and will have about the same next year. Otherwise, our students will continue on the math pathway that has been established. A few more math “pointers”:
- We place our math students based on the most appropriate “next” course in their learning. If a student does not receive the 7th grade curriculum in 5th grade, s/he needs to take this course in middle school. Skipping an entire year (or even a portion of a year) of coursework/standards/skills obviously does not serve students in their math development and can actually have fairly egregious consequences as students progress through school. Elementary, middle and high schools in the city and state are becoming more and more resistant to “double-advancing” students because of the reasons I listed above.
- Our current students who have been double-advanced are now in Geometry or Algebra II – we have ten of them. This year’s pilot with having these Algebra II and Geometry students take on-line courses with tutor support has not proven to be optimal. Next year, we will utilize one of our math teachers to teach and support these double-advanced students by combining advanced math courses into one math class.
- When students enter middle school (all middle schools) their placement in math has nothing to do with the Spectrum status. Students are placed, again, based on the next “step” in the prescribed math pathway for all students in the state of Washington; this is even more crucial as we prepare our students each year to master a (now) more rigorous set of grade level standards and to perform well on our state assessments. If a student is a 6th grader in 7th grade math, they are already advanced…there is no “advanced”, “honors” or “Spectrum” math courses at McClure.
- All math teachers are following a pacing guide to ensure our students are on-point to learn all of the standards and to be prepared for high school and beyond.
New Staff and Staff Shifts!
Finally: I’d like to formally welcome a few new faces to the McClure staff.
- Sheldon Durr has been hired for the remainder of the school year in Mr. Soble’s position; he is teaching 7th and 8th grade Social Studies.
- Kelsey Way - new Instructional Assistant in Ms. Ingram’s classroom.
- Nina Carpenter – new Instructional Assistant in Mr. Bremson’s program.
- Sheilah Murphy – is our long-term substitute in the Special Education position vacated by Mr. Aytch at the beginning of the year and then Ms. McGinty in December.
There are also some familiar faces in new capacities in our building:
- Laura McGinty is the long-term substitute in Ms. Littlefield’s classroom while Ms. Littlefield is on long-term health leave.
- Jackie Harden has shifted into Ms. Ingram’s classroom to assume Instructional Assistant duties there.
- Instructional Assistant Michael David has moved into Ms. Murphy’s classroom (formerly Mr. Aytch and Ms. McGinty) to provide support there.
Russell Wilson: Finally, I leave you with this. Our building-wide principles highlight the concept of grit – the idea that no matter what, our McClure staff will support all of our students in looking at challenges with a mindset of perseverance and support them in reaching beyond their comfort zones. Sometimes work is easy, sometimes it causes a bit of anxiety, sometimes it seems like that hill you have to climb is mighty high. The last Seahawks game and, in fact, this entire Hawks season verifies the power of this mindset. Russell Wilson says it best in his post-game interview:
“Q: What does it mean to be the first…to have a chance to win [the Super Bowl] back to back?
RUSSELL WILSON: Well, what it means is we’ve worked really hard for it. All the preparation, all the doubters, all the people that said we couldn’t get here, and it’s not about that, though. It’s just about the work that you put in. It’s just about the preparation that you put in and the belief in one another. A season is a long, long journey, to be where we are…It takes some ups and downs. It takes a lot of grit. It takes a lot of belief, and it takes a lot of consistency, too. That’s a big part of it…
We challenge our students to consistently “work hard for it”, we support them when they struggle through the “ups and downs”. It’s about the preparation, the belief…and the journey.
Go Seahawks and Go Mavs!!
Principal, McClure Middle School
click here for: Informational Document on Language Arts at McClure Middle School - 2015-2015 School Year Change