Middle School Program Review
Executive Summary: Phase 1
Students in grades 6–8 experience many developmental changes as they transition from childhood into young adulthood. During this time, middle school educators have a unique opportunity to leverage this rapid physical, intellectual, social, and emotional growth of their students to set them up for success for the rest of their life. This includes offering a middle school experience that provides the best student-centered facilities, student supports, and curriculum and instruction specifically designed for the unique needs of early adolescents.
In 2021, Wayzata Public Schools (WPS) commissioned the Teaching & Learning Department to conduct an internal review of the district’s middle school program. A Program Review Design Team* was formed and followed a 4-phase process similar to the one used to review the district’s curriculum. This work was guided by the district’s Strategic Road Map and Equity Commitment. Additionally, the Association for Middle Level Education’s book, “This we believe: Implementing Successful Middle Level Schools” served as an anchor resource for the process.
The goal of this process is to create an environment, culture, structure, and learning experiences that develop academic and learning skills of each and every middle school student so they may, “thrive today and excel tomorrow in an ever-changing global society.” This important work was grounded on several guiding principles:
The Middle School Review should be:
- a candid self-evaluation, documenting current and positive practices supported by research.
- aspirational and operational, directed toward improving teaching and learning and contributing to the overall quality of the middle school program.
- based upon developmentally responsive and effective educational practices.
- focused on best practices and responsive to the unique learning needs and programming for each and every learner.
This important work should:
- monitor and pursue congruence between the District’s Strategic Road Map, Equity Commitment, and the actual practices of the middle school program.
- inform the larger work of the district such as future budget decisions, facility needs, and the utilization of existing resources.
- result in the realization of measurable academic outcomes and an enhanced social/emotional opportunity for the young adolescent learners for many years to come.
The process was designed to assess all aspects of the current middle school program and envision ways the middle school experience might be modified or improved for the district’s nearly 2,900 middle school students. This work is vitally important in making the middle school experience the best it can be for WPS students.
*Middle School Program Review Design Team Members:
-Dana Kauzlarich Miller, Executive Director of Teaching & Learning -Xavier Reed, Principal, Central Middle School
-Austin Tollerson, Director of Teaching & Learning -Julie Johnson, Associate Principal, Central Middle School
-Paul Paetzel, Principal, East Middle School -Rob Rimington, Associate Principal, Central Middle School
-Mike Rice, Associate Principal, East Middle School -Solveig Harriday, Director of Equity & Inclusion
-Ryan Carlson, Principal, West Middle School -Cory Knudtson, President, Wayzata Education Association
-Kaela Loo, Associate Principal, West Middle School
-Jim Bollum, Former Associate Principal, West Middle School
What's next in this 4-Phase Review Process?
In Phase 1 (Envision & Assess) of the review process, nine project teams (involving 70+ staff) began the important work of envisioning what a future middle school model at WPS could look like. Each project team did extensive research and conducted surveys involving staff and parents before formulating their proposed recommendations. This work will serve to inform, guide, and anchor our future work and decision making to ensure a world-class education for each and every learner.
Phase 2 (Plan & Develop) - Stakeholders and staff committees will study proposals and build upon these Phase 1 guiding recommendations to determine what is ultimately best for WPS. Timelines will be driven by various factors such as budget, staffing, facilities and desired student experience.
Phase 3 (Implementation) - Incremental implementation will begin. Timelines will be established based on impact and feasibility.
Phase 4 (Evaluate & Adjust) - Implementation will be monitored for the development of the middle school culture and practices in WPS. Refinements will be made as needed.
Supporting Documents from Project Teams
Project Teams, made of up more than 70 staff members, were formed to envision what a world-class middle school model at WPS looks like for each of the following nine priority areas: Advisory Time, Courses of Study, Facilities & Learning Spaces, Flexible Learning Time, Grading & Assessment, Out-of-School-Time Programming, Professional Learning, Schedule, and Student Support. Each Project Team presented their proposed Phase 1 recommendations to the Middle School Program Review Design Team for review. The Design Team constructed the first comprehensive draft of its proposed recommendations based on these aspirational documents and Project Team and staff and parent feedback. Supporting Documents, including an overview of the priority area, a description of current practice, and the Phase 1 Project Team recommendations are shared below:
- Advisory Time Project Team
- Courses of Study Project Team
- Facilities & Learning Spaces Project Team
- Flexible Learning Time Project Team
- Grading & Assessment Project Team
- Out-of-School-Time Programming Project Team
- Professional Learning Project Team
- Scheduling Project Team
- Student Support Project Team
Resources & References