SHREWSBURY – Sherwood Middle School and Oak Middle School received special attention at the School Committee’s Jan. 24 meeting.
The committee unanimously approved the middle school improvement goals that were presented by Oak Middle School Principal Hallie Burak and Sherwood Middle School Principal Jonathan Kelly at the meeting.
“I think they’re focused on the right things,” said Superintendent Joe Sawyer. “I think [the plan] — more than I’ve seen before — focus on using what we know about how students are doing academically and then intervening quickly and systematically to make sure kids are getting what they need.”
The first priority of the plan, as Burak and Kelly described, involves closing opportunity and achievement gaps, particularly involving literacy. The plan includes several action steps, including implementing an academic intervention system, communicating with families, measuring students’ progress and holding literary data analysis meetings.
The percentage of Sherwood students receiving additional reading support has already dropped this academic year, according to Kelly.
“We’re hearing students say that they’ve become more confident with their reading. They’re able to grasp the grade-level reading more appropriately,” said Kelly.
The second priority involves well-being. The district hopes that middle-school students have “a safe and inclusive culture” that “honor[s] and celebrate[s] diversity, create[s] connections and a sense of belonging for all, and support[s] and engage[s] all students, staff and family members.” This priority also includes action steps, including implementing curriculum to help foster student-staff relationships. Burak and Kelly reiterated that the district is committed to ensuring students feel supported, have community, and learn the importance of self-advocacy.
The number of student-led organizations at Oak has skyrocketed, according to Burak, and students frequently participate in mood meters to help educators gauge the feelings, thoughts, problems, and sense of belonging among their students. At Sherwood, Student Voice groups continue to provide students an opportunity to find community, and the school has held food truck nights and other events to bring people together.
“It’s a unique age,” School Committee Chair Sandra Fryc said. “I think that’s being kind. I wouldn’t want to go back to middle school. It’s a tough age, and we have middle schools the size of some high schools. There are a lot of students. There are a lot of different needs… You’re doing great work. It’s not easy… I think we’re looking at the right things, doing lots of great things, but looking at things we can be working on.”