At Tuesday night’s Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 School District Board meeting, Kate Ott, principal of Cortez Middle School, presented a redesign of the instruction delivery system of the school.
According to a news release, the restructuring will enable CMS to optimize the skills of qualified, effective teachers, while increasing intervention for students who need additional instructional support.
The restructuring is based on the 21st Century learning program, which was started by the school in 2008 and designed for at-risk students. It includes two main components: looping and technology.
Looping is a term that refers to a system that gives students the same teachers throughout middle school.
“There is a plethora of research out there that shows the benefits of looping,” Ott told the board. “It offers teachers an opportunity to provide more differentiated instruction, even tailoring lessons to the individual child.”
The 21C program had 25 open student spots for the sixth grade last fall, and the school received 67 applications for those positions. There are 567 students in all grades at CMS.
In a news release, district Superintendent Lori Haukeness said that CMS staff worked to develop a plan to enable all CMS students to benefit from the proven success of the 21C program.
Seventh- and eighth-grade teachers will loop for two years with the same class, teaching the same topic at each grade level.
“By doing this, we are taking the ‘C pod’ teachers and incorporating them into the infrastructure of the school,” Ott said. “We can create one full-time equivalent English language arts and math interventionist for the seventh and eighth grades.”
Ott also told the board that the looping system has been shown to increase teacher retention, something the district needs. The new structure also puts support in place for students transitioning into middle school. Sixth-graders will have two teachers, and the school hopes the system will more closely resemble their elementary school years. They are calling the two divisions “podlets.”
“We create a podlet within a pod. You (a teacher) are responsible for 50 students instead of 100. When you do that, you can build those relationships that kids in poverty crave and need in that structure,” Ott said.
In addition to these changes, the CMS instructional leadership team has been interviewing its population of new and unlicensed teachers to identify areas of need.
“We are creating this vision of a learning laboratory classroom. To increase student delivery of instruction, we use pedagogy for these new teachers,” said Brittany Lang, CMS science teacher and member of the CMS instructional leadership team.
The “learning lab triangle” structure will allow new teachers to observe a classroom with a “research teacher” to help the new teacher know what good teaching practices look like.
“We are trying to create a culture of lifelong learners and to always be striving to better our practice,” Lang said.
The transition will take place at the beginning of 2018-2019 school year. Teachers will be given the opportunity to request which grade levels and subjects they prefer, and administrators will place them according to credentials and student and district needs, according to Ott.
As far as technological advances, CMS plans to use the equipment they already have with the new classroom structures.
“The failure of the mill levy override ballot question in November means that few new technology resources will be available at CMS,” Haukeness said in a news release.
“But existing computers will be deployed strategically to ensure that all students will have access to technology during the instructional day.”
Ott and Haukeness will take questions at a meeting with parents to explain the transition, scheduled for Jan. 18 at 5:30 p.m. at the Cortez Middle School library.