MEXICO — Seventh- and eighth-graders at Mountain Valley Middle School will have a more hands-on, customized learning experience when classes begin Aug. 28, Principal Ryan Casey said.

Because the school has some students who have not met federal academic expectations, and because every student should be engaged in their academic career, Casey said the plan includes combining seventh- and eighth-grades into heterogeneous classrooms. Teachers will team teach students with a philosophy that hands-on learning and additional peer support will boost academic achievement.

There will be three trimesters. The first will emphasize science, technology, engineering and mathematics, along with language skills, social studies and other humanities. The second will focus on the humanities, along with other subjects. The third will emphasize career aspirations and civics, while including language, math and other subjects.

“We want the students to connect learning with careers,” Casey said. “We’re trying to build a solid foundation. Many kids don’t understand the purpose of school, (resulting) in a lack of engagement.”

He said it will be a more hands-on learning experience and a more customized approach to ensuring that all students meet certain standards, he said.

He said the school has a high percentage of students with individual educational plans that require extra support, as well as a significant number who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches. Specific learning targets have been identified that all middle school students must master under the proficiency-based education philosophy.

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Cheryl Gurney, the teacher leader and a math interventionist, has assisted Casey with training other teachers and developing the new plan. She said the school has a strong response to intervention program for students who require additional help, and the school works with the high school if students are performing above designated standards.

Gurney said the new program includes many opportunities to bring in parents throughout the school year.

“Parent involvement is a major focus of our plan. We also want to know what parents need from us,” she said.

An informational meeting for parents will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 20, in the school auditorium. Casey said he welcomes questions and comments, and if a parent cannot attend, they may call him at 364-7926.

The new approach and method of delivering education will be evaluated after three weeks, then periodically as needed.

“Our mission is to continue to be a safe place where all students learn, but they have to be engaged. This is an opportunity for the students to get engaged in school,” he said.

Sixth-graders will attend traditional classes, but with a significant amount of extra support, Casey said. On Wednesday, Aug. 27, the expected 92 sixth-graders will meet and/or receive personalized emails from all staff members and take part in a Rock Star Introduction program.


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