New ‘Team’ Scheduling Awaits Franklin Middle School Students

Middle School Schedule

A new, “team-based” schedule will be introduced into the Middle School this year.

Come Sept. 1, Franklin Middle School students will be greeted with a new schedule, one designed to decrease hall congestion and allow teachers to focus on students.

The schedule will divide the roughly 1,100 students in grades 7 and 8 into four “teams” in each grade of about 125 students each. Each student team will have assigned to it an interdisciplinary faculty team of two math and English language teachers, as well as one science and one social studies teacher.

Most classes will be grouped together, so students won’t have to navigate from one end of the building to the other during class change times.

Also, academic classes for 7th graders will be limited to the building’s first floor, while 8th grade academic classes will be held on the second floor.

“The interdisciplinary teaming aspect is really strong,” said schools Superintendent John Ravally. “Now you have a select group of teachers working with a select group of kids, and you give those teachers the opportunity to artculate about those kids on a daily basis.”

“So if we start to really look at the data and analyze and identify those kids who are struggling, we can start to look at why they are struggling as a group of professionals and try to overcome that within our team,” he said. “That’s really focused work, then, which I think is going to help tremendously.”

Related: FMS Principal: Backpacks Are Verboten In Class

The idea to go with the team-based model was FMS principal Reginald Davenport’s. Davenport took over the FMS reins in December 2015.

Davenport said he was stunned the first time he saw a class change in the middle school.

“I thought, ‘What’s going on here?’ “ he said. “You’re standing in the hall, you’re blinking fast, there’s a lot of people moving around.”

That many 7th and 8th graders moving through the halls at the same time sometimes led to less-than-ideal interactions. Those interactions, Davenport said, could be reduced “in a way that’s supported by research, that’s not arbitrary.”

“Typically a student of that age, from a learning standpoint, needs support, but from a social-emotional growth level, needs a little more support as well,” Ravally said. The team model “really is geared toward supporting not only the academic part of the child, but the social-emotional part as well and it breaks a much larger community into smaller learning teams that leads to academic growth of middle school-aged children,” he said.

Team-based scheduling for middle schools has become the norm in education, both administrators said.

That method was used in “every other school I’ve been in,” said Davenport, whose last position was with a middle school in Plainfield. “I was surpiresed when I came here that it was departmentalized. The teaming concept is prevalent in the middle schools that I’m aware of.”

Davenport was only in the position a couple of weeks before he started mapping out the new plan, he said. He said he created a 16-member committee of teachers, supervisors and administrators to hash out the new plan in January.

The committee put the last touch on the plan in May, Davenport said.

Each grade level will be divided into four teams comprised of about 125 students each. The teams will be able to name themselves, based on a theme set by the administration.

“That also will hopefully lead to pride in the team,” Davenport said. “The small learning communities will allow teachers to do things specifically with the teams.”

The team structure will also allow all of the teachers assigned to a particular team to meet and discuss their students in a way they could not if they were dealing with a group of 1,100 students, the two said.

“The kid who is struggling, the kid who has a problem, all the teachers can work together to help,” Ravally said.

“Also, when parents come in, they know there’s a team of teachers who know their child,” Davenport said.

Two of the teams in each grade will have special education teachers assigned to them, and two of the teams will have English as a Second Language and English Language Learner teachers assigned to them.

“We made sure that there were also advanced students on the same team (as the special education students),” Davenport said. “So it’s not just a team of special needs kids, it’s a broad mix of kids. Teachers make sure that their teaching methods and focuses are very specific.”

The schedules are staggered so that half the students in each grade will move through the halls at the same time, citing the number of bodies in the halls by more than half.

The school will retain its “A” and “B” schedules to accommodate electives, Davenport said.

Davenport said the team model should be imported into Sampson G. Smith School when it becomes a middle school and both schools hold grades 6-8 in 2018.

“We’re going to take the lumps and learn this,” he said. “There’s going to be some tweaking.”

“The conversation will be how do we expand this into 6th grades,” he said. “We have to see how we’re going to work through that.”


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