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Education Board Focuses On ‘Neglected’ Middle School

Bemus Point Central School District Supertintendent Michael Mansfield told board of education members a greater emphasis on the middle school level must happen.

“I’ve learned through the years, I think it’s been one of the most neglected parts of education — that bridge from elementary to the high school,” Mansfield said. “So, we’ve spent a lot of time working on the middle level in the last few years.”

The Bemus Point Central School Board of Education met Monday where Mansfield and Carrie Yohe, director of student programs and data, presented recent information regarding a districtwide effort to assist middle school students as they transition into a new environment, specifically at the sixth grade level.

At the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, a new middle school schedule was implemented at the sixth and seventh grade level. Additionally, a larger emphasis on collaborative teaching is being used at the middle school.

Mansfield said the change will put a “focus on the developmental needs and characteristics of middle-level students.”

Mansfield said he has often heard complaints of middle school students that they are unorganized due to their schedule.

“We want to limit student transitions through the day,” Mansfield said.

Through use of elements of a “block” schedule, the amount of change in a middle school student’s day is reduced. In sixth- and seventh-grade schedules, blocks for English, math, science and social studies are being utilized. On alternating days, two core subjects are being taught. Mansfield said the shift allows for “a manageable focus for homework” among students.

As for collaborative teaching, certain teams of teachers within a subject will share a syllabus ensuring that each student within a grade level is given the same set of expectations through the school year. Additionally, teachers are able to support their colleagues with strategies, issues and new ideas.

The district’s focus on middle school was evident several years ago when the sixth-grade level was relocated to Maple Grove High School from the elementary school at the start of the 2013-14 school year. He noted that the students and teachers alike benefited from the transition.

The first-year middle school students were then given access to Maple Grove High School facilities such as educational labs, the fitness center and piano/guitar labs. The students were also now exposed to teachers who are certified in specific content areas. Mansfield said the move allowed the sixth-grade students to better prepare for the “more rigorous” high school set of courses.

It also allowed the school district to address state mandates for middle school students a year early.

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