GRADE LEVEL CONFIGURATION TRANSITION PLAN

January 2015 DRAFT

Posted by Michelle MacLeod on January 14, 2015 1:20:am (7042 reads)

GRADE LEVEL CONFIGURATION

TRANSITION PLAN

- January 2015 DRAFT -

  1. SCOPE
  2. BACKGROUND
  3. MIDDLE SCHOOL
  4. TRANSITION
  5. WORKING TOGETHER
  6. ISSUES AND CONCERNS
  7. COMMUNICATION
  8. STUDENT ORIENTATION
  9. MIDDLE SCHOOL CURRICULUM
  10. LOGISTICS
  11. OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
  12. KEY TIMELINES

1.  SCOPE

This document is intended to provide a plan to guide the transition of grade level configuration within the CB-VRSB from the current configurations; P-6 elementary schools, 7-9 junior high schools, and 10- 12 high schools;  to a middle school grade level configuration consisting of P-5 elementary schools, 6-8 middle schools , and 9- 12 high schools.



2.  BACKGROUND

As a result of Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board Strategic Plan 2012, the school board undertook a planning exercise entitled: Looking Inward: a planning framework for long-term facility provision and system sustainability in a time of changing demographics (2013). The document advocated for a call to action, so that the school board could continue to fulfill its primary mandate the delivery of programs and services to students under its jurisdiction.

For the past year, the school board held a series of focus groups, information sessions and public meetings to clearly hear the voice of its school communities. Significant in these discussions was the suggestion to change the grade level configuration within the schools of the Cape Breton Victoria Regional School Board.

School Board staff recommend grade reconfigurations for schools within its region be: Primary to grade 5, grades 6 to 8, and grades 9 to 12. 

A school within a schoolconcept is supported when middle school students are housed in the same building as elementary or high school students.

3. UNDERSTANDING THE MIDDLE SCHOOL CONCEPT

Middle school students are in grades 6-8, and between the ages of 11 and 15.  The Board recognizes the unique needs of this group of learners and carefully plans programming to support their gradual growth toward independence.  Grade 6 students are assisted in a manner that fosters an easy transition to a new and larger school. In grades 7 and 8, students are supported and encouraged to take on more responsibility and leadership, so they can be better prepared for high school.  As well, there is the implementation of self-contained classrooms, student-centered integrated and interdisciplinary curriculum, and team teaching support for middle school students. Additionally, a supportive environment that includes flexible schedules, exploratory options, and advisory groups must be available for students

Middle school studentsemerging needs for self-management can be addressed by giving students a voice in reaching their education goals.  Students should be allowed to make choices throughout their education, such as the ability to pick study topics.  When students have control over these decisions within the exploratory model, student engagement increases.

There are many more advantages to middle school configuration. Classrooms that are contiguous make it easier for students to get back and forth to class on time, especially when lockers are located in the team area of a wing. The ideal would be for team teachers to have the same planning period, so that they are better able to plan for curriculum integration, interdisciplinary units, field trips and special activities for their students. Communication and support among teachers increases with middle school configuration.. Students also benefit from being a member of a team, creating a "school within a school" environment. The team helps the student (who is accustomed to elementary school) adjust by creating an environment similar to one experienced in elementary school.

Within a team, students will be grouped into pods. A pod is a group of students who follow a similar academic schedule. These students become familiar with and supportive of each other. The rationale for the creation of pods is that pods imitate the elementary school class pattern and limit exposure to various peer groups, unfamiliar people, and territory.

The middle school grade configuration allows teachers to share knowledge of their students more frequently and supports co-planning and co-teaching models. This, in turn, allows teachers to attend to students' social and emotional growth, as well as their academic and learning strategies and skills.

Research supports the conclusion that the middle school years are a unique time in a students development. Findings show those students in grades 6, 7, and 8 benefit most when a school program is designed to meet their educational needs.   There is strong academic research showing that students in grade 6 are physically, socially, emotionally, and psychologically advancing into their middle years, and are served well in the grade 6 to 8 configuration. Activities, such as exploratories, interdisciplinary units, and extra-curricular activities, are more suited to this particular stage of development and are celebrated and promoted.

The grade that has generated the most discussion is Grade 9; particularly in what context these students will benefit the most. The majority of people agree that grade 9 students will benefit the most from expanded program opportunities within the high school context.

Its believed that achieving the recommended configurations will provide an equitable, consistent program across the region.  Student transitions will be kept to a minimum, with a maximum of three transitions during a students Primary to 12-school experience.  The overarching goal of transitioning to these configurations is to offer the best possible programming for students and to meet their academic, emotional, and social needs.

4. TRANSITIONING TO A NEW CONFIGURATION

We understand that any change, particularly one that involves our children and youth, can produce anxiety and concern for some and excitement for others.  This document provides for a comprehensive plan to ensure the change is well managed to provide a smooth transition to a new configuration.  

This plan will be carried out in schools where a transition or new configuration is identified for the following school year.  Each school community will be treated individually; each plan will address the uniqueness of the school as it transitions to grade 6-8 middle school and/or grade 9 to 12 high school. 

This plan will include the following components:

  • Communication with parents/guardians
  • Communication with staff
  • Orientation for students
  • Communication between schools
  • Physical arrangements for schools-within-schools
  • School schedules and bus schedules
  • Staffing
  • Programming and resources

5. WORKING TOGETHER

Staff at the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board will work with school staff, students, and parents/guardians to prepare for September 2015 and beyond.  Information sessions, student transition activities and meetings with staff are some of the activities that will be undertaken. 

6.  ISSUES AND CONCERNS

Anticipated Issues and Concerns

With any change it can be anticipated that there will be issues and concerns that lead to heightened levels of anxiety. It is important that as we prepare for this change, we consider the issues and the concerns of all involved and construct a plan to adequately address these concerns.

Chart: Expected Concerns.

STUDENTS

PARENTS/GUARDIANS

TEACHERS/STAFF

  • What bus will I go on?
  • How will I find my way around the school?
  • What will it be like having so many teachers?
  • Will I get bullied by the older kids at recess and lunch?
  • What extra-curricular activities will be offered?
  • I know the grade 6 teacher from XXX, who will be the grade 6 teacher at the new school?
  • Will my child get picked on by older students?
  • Will older students in the school be a bad influence on my child?
  • What will my job assignment be? What if I don’t want to go to the new school but my grade level/assignments no longer exist in this school?
  • How will my schedule change? Will I have to work longer hours or different times?
  • What resources will I be able to bring with me?
  • What happens if people leaving take their resources? Will we get new ones for the teachers/staff staying at our school?

7. COMMUNICATIONS

A.   Communication with Parents/Guardians

The success of any change is determined in large part by the degree, quality and consistency of communication.  As is currently the case when students transition between levels and/or from school to school, communication with parents/guardians, students and staff happens in multiple ways and over a period of time.  This practice will be expanded in recognition of two grades transitioning rather than one.

Suggested communication considerations:

FOCUS

MODE OF COMMUNICATION

SUPPORT DOCUMENTS

General information about the transition and Parent Communication Plan

  • Newsletter, website, SAC meeting
  • Open house
 

Development/ Sharing of School Transition Plan

  • SAC meeting
  • Staff meeting
  • CBVRSB general transition plan
  • Parent Communication Plan template (Appendix A)

Overview of transition plans

  • Parent meeting (at the sending school but with the principal of the receiving school)
  • Brochure with FAQs
  • Website and newsletter updates
 

Update on transition plans

 
  • PowerPoint

Programming and supports offered at the receiving school

  • Parent orientation (receiving school)
  • Parent/student tours (receiving school)
  • Student Orientation
  • Newsletter/brochure
 

Inter school transition meetings

  • Inter-school meetings with resource, guidance, teachers, administration
 

Transportation and bussing

  • Transportation schedules sent home
 

Class lists and supply list

  • Lists available at the school
 

B.Communication with Students

Those affected most directly by school reconfiguration are students. In an effort to make this transition as smooth as possible, it is important to keep students informed of the changes and how they may be affected.   This practice currently exists and will continue with grade level reconfiguration to include all students transitioning to another level.

C.Communication with Staff

The prospect of changing the configuration of a staff members present school raises numerous questions and can be a difficult transition for some. To help teachers understand the process and feel comfortable with the changes, clear and regular communication is necessary.

It is recommended that teachers take ownership of the transition process by becoming involved in the development of the school-based transition plan. One way to encourage involvement is by establishing staff committees (or teams) responsible for various aspects of the transition process. These teams would report at regular staff meetings.

Teams could include:

Middle School Best Practice Team:  Review NMSA/AMLE journals, articles and resources for best practices, and practical ideas and share these with staff at regular staff meetings. For those schools where this reconfiguration coincides with a greater movement toward a middle school philosophy and programming rather than a traditional junior high model, it is recommended that topics such as teaming, exploratory options and advisory programs be investigated.

Materials and Resources Team:  Survey staff to identify (a) existing school resources, (b) resources departing or arriving with teachers changing to new schools, and (c) gaps in resources needed. This could also include organizing resources in central or in a shared space for future use. 

Physical Space Team:  Review the physical layout and set up of the school and, along with the administrator, envision changes that could be made to better accommodate staff and students within a new configuration.  

Communications Team:  Work to update parents, students, and the community on the transition plan and to seek feedback and input throughout the process. Communication could happen through newsletters, school website, parent meetings, development of presentations, and more.

Student Orientation and Transition Team:  Development of activities and opportunities that would take students through the transition process, including familiarization with their new school and the programs offered.

FOCUS

MODE OF COMMUNICATION

SUPPORT DOCUMENTS

General information about the reconfiguration

  • Staff Meetings
 

CBVRSB and School Transition

  • Memo/email
  • Staff meeting
  • Appendix B1:  Memo to Staff
  • PowerPoint
  • CBVRSB transition plan
  • Appendix A1:  Parent FAQ brochure, and NMSA/AMLE excerpts

Establish school teams and begin to develop school transition plan

  • Staff meeting and team meetings
  • Appendix B2:  School Transition Plan (Part 1 to be completed and returned).

Staffing Information

  • Presentation by Human Resources to staff during a Family of Schools/Principals' Meeting
  • HR FAQs

Team Planning Sessions:

  • ML Best Practice
  • Materials and Resources
  • Physical Space
  • Communication
  • Student Transition
  • Working sessions to prepare detailed plans for transition
  • Regular updates at staff meetings
  • Appendix B2:  School Transition Plan (Part 2 to be completed and returned)

Actions and updates on school transition plans and team work

  • Regular updates at staff meetings
 

Preliminary staffing

  • Discussions between administration and staff about intended assignments
 

Staffing

  • Intended assignments come out
 

Inter school transition meetings

Class lists and supply list

  • Inter-school meetings with resource, guidance, teachers, administration
  • Develop class lists and supply lists for the following year
 

D.Communication Between Schools

Communication between staff in each school is an important part of any transition process. Open and regular communication should be modelled and encouraged by administration from both the sending and receiving schools as is the current practice during annual transitions.

E.Programming and Resources Considerations

Quality instruction and assessment remain the top priorities of each school, regardless of its configuration.

School administrators are encouraged to continue to support teachers with quality professional development that is organized for them and by them. As with any time a new staff member joins a school community, it is important that there is opportunity for these individuals to work with other teachers/staff. Through this collaboration it is possible to work toward a common understanding about best practices, work on curriculum alignment, and to share ideas.

With the reconfiguration of schools, materials will be shared as much as possible. To facilitate this, the following approach will be used:

  • conduct an inventory of materials at each school,
  • collect materials that are specific to grade 6 (or 9),
  • divide and share items where possible,
  • and purchase additional resources when necessary and where possible.

8.         STUDENT ORIENTATION

Orientation is the annual process where students learn about and visit the school they will transition to in the 2015-16 school year.  Orientation starts as early as February of the preceding school year.

The transition process may consist of multiple events.  Some possibilities include a school visit early in spring.  During this visit, students experience class changes, breaks (where applicable) and lunch hour.  Students of the receiving school help with this orientation/transition for incoming students.  Once the decision has been made, the following actions are recommended:

  1. Principals of the newly formed middle schools meet with both Human Resources and Programs & Student Services to discuss middle school philosophy and possibilities for scheduling.
  2. Provide teaching staff with an overview of the middle school philosophy, including team teaching, engaged learning, relationship building, and best practices developmentally appropriate for middle school years. 
  3. Principals of middle schools and principals of respective elementary schools meet to develop a schedule for site visits by grades 5 and 6 students.  Depending on student numbers, this may have to span a number of days.  It is recommended that elementary classes visit separately and that a welcome by grade 7 representatives be considered, as they will be the only class remaining in the current junior high the following year.  Activities, school tours, and familiarity with the site can be planned as appropriate.
  4. An Open House/Parent Information Session can be scheduled at an agreed upon time.
  5. Clearly communicate bus numbers and bus routes to students and parents in spring, and well before the transition.

9.      MIDDLE SCHOOL CURRICULUM

What are the major components of the middle school curriculum?

Three major elements make up the middle school curriculum: 1) Core subjects as prescribed by the Nova Scotia Department of Education & Early Childhood Developments Public Schools Program (the team classes); 2) exploratory classes; and, 3) other.

Exploratory classes may consist of computer keyboarding, community service, career exploration, computer hardware and components, information skills and other cultures.  Band, choir, visual art and family studies/technology education are some of the other courses. 

INTERDISCIPLINARY UNITS

What is an interdisciplinary unit?

An interdisciplinary unit is one where all educators on a team teach around one theme and apply it to their subject. For example, a theme on travel could involve a social studies teacher explaining maps, an English teacher facilitating a research report and reading material on cultures, a math teacher could examine money exchange, and a science teacher could explore expected plant and animal life. Teams typically do three or four interdisciplinary units each year.

Learning Center programming

The proposed grade level reconfiguration will impact the current service delivery model for Learning Disability Programming within the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. The changes will impact middle school (grades 6-8) and high school (grades 9-12). Currently, our pull-out Learning Disability Programs provide interventions and programming to students in grades 4-6 and 7-9. With the reconfiguration of grades, the Board could move to a model of service delivery for grades 3-5 and 6-8. The commencement of combined direct instruction and strategy instruction to students in grade 3 is consistent with best practices in teaching students with Learning Disabilities. The Board understands that when interventions for students diagnosed with learning disabilities start early, outcomes are improved.

Currently, Learning Centre Programs are available at elementary, junior and senior high school levels in some schools. This would remain the case with the proposed grade level configuration changes. Learning Disability Programs are currently available for grades 4-6 and 7-9 in some schools. With the grade level configuration changes, the elementary Learning Disability Program could be delivered to students in grades 3-5, and middle schools could deliver the Learning Disability Program to students in grades 6-8. For grade 9 students it may be possible to provide learning strategies support and/or consultative support through a visiting Learning Disability teacher. From discussion with Student Services staff, it would seem that many grade nine students in Learning Disability Programs participate in the learning strategies component of the program currently and are otherwise monitored academically.

Transition support for students with special needs occurs regularly throughout the school year. In the spring of each school year, Student Services staff members assist school staff and parents with transition meetings and planning for new students with previously identified special needs. Transition support from Student Services personnel continues well into the fall of the school year to ensure that students have the required programming and support to experience success in school. As needed and upon request, Student Services staff will also assist with the transition process for students with special needs from grade to grade, level to level, and from school to community. The grade level configuration change will not impact the transition process for Student Services, as this is an ongoing service.

IT classroom impacts

For the year 2015-2016, the intention is to implement the provincial IEI (Information Economy Initiative) project in the school boards middle schools, instead of grade 9.  Having completed the initiative for grades 7 and 8 over the past two years, the original intention was to complete the junior high implementation at the grade 9 level.  Instead, alternate funding from the boards capital technology budget will be used to provide technology to grade 9 classrooms.  A favorable response regarding this proposal has been received from the provincial government.

French language Learning impacts

Schools that offer Intensive French and French Immersion need to be reviewed.  Schools that offer  French Immersion in grade 7, will also offer the Intensive French program in grade 6.


10. LOGISTICAL CONSIDERATIONS

  • School Staffing

Information sessions in regards to Collective Agreement Articles dealing with Transfer of Teaching Staff will be required to facilitate the voluntary staffing process.  Discussions with union groups will be required to effectively facilitate the transition of staff.

In order to prepare staff, Principals will require direction and support regarding placement of teachers in positions where they are qualified.  A review of school-based teaching assignments will be required to ensure teachers are qualified for courses.

In February and March, a preliminary collection of Primary numbers as well as student enrolment counts for programs, such as French Immersion, will take place. The staffing plan will be developed and revised during spring staffing, as is our current practice.  The Principal will notify teachers who will be transferred as a result of this plan.  Consistent communication between Human Resources and Principals will be key to managing staff transitions.

Subsequently, itinerant staffing that is based on the number of classrooms will be finalized and presented to the Board.  It is anticipated that each situation will require analysis, so that these program areas best serve students.

  • Administrative Staffing

Schools will be staffed through the existing process based on enrolment and needs.  Any required adjustments to administration staffing after classroom and itinerant staffing will be addressed according to contractual obligations.

Staffing is a complex and crucial process to ensure teacher assignments are based on qualifications.  At the middle level, one of the goals is to limit the number of teachers a student sees each school day. This is best accomplished by arranging teachers in teams - ideally two core teachers and necessary specialists.


  • Enrolment Projections and Capacity

Projected enrolments for schools have been calculated and will be confirmed at spring staffing time. The capacities of schools have been calculated utilizing provincial standards and confirms space is available in receiving schools.

  • Floor Plan Review

A floor plan review will be conducted in consultation with school principals.  The plan will identify the location of grade level and specialty classrooms within the schools.

In all cases, for  9-12 high schools, grade 9 classrooms will be located in a common block of rooms.  For middle schools, grade 6 classrooms will likely be located in former grade 7 classrooms; with grades 7 and 8 located in former grades 8 and 9 spaces,

  • Physical Arrangements for Schools-Within-Schools

For schools-within-schools, the physical layout and amenities of a building should be consistent with the needs of students within different age groups. Within an elementary/middle level school, or a middle/high school, it is desirable to have spaces for middle school students that are separate from spaces utilized by the rest of the school population. This also means considering how shared or common spaces are to be used by both groups. As well, sensitivity to differences in age and maturity is required when planning how students will interact and move throughout a building.

Planning for a school-within-a-school environment also requires schools to anticipate the need for adjustments to furniture and equipment to accommodate additional students.  

There is also a need to include in the review of student accommodation, locations within buildings to ensure Learning Center needs are met. Based on student enrolment in the Learning Centres and Learning Disability Programs as of mid-October 2014, pressures that may exist for grade level configuration changes for the fall of 2015 have been identified. Please note that the data is subject to change given the nature of the special class placement process, which allows for entry into and exit from programs throughout the school year. Any additional needs will be finalized in the spring and can be implemented during the summer of 2015.

  • Playground Impacts

No changes to playgrounds are anticipated

  • School and Bus Schedules

Depending on the school and the present bussing schedules, reconfiguration of schools could result in minimal to moderate changes in student transportation. Transportation staff reviewed the routes in respect to the proposed grade level changes.  This reveals no significant bussing changes.  It will be necessary to review this in April to verify changes, and to enable early communication to parents and students of the bus numbers, and pickup time for September.

School administration and offices will work closely with the Coordinator of Transportation and regional office staff to determine appropriate bus routes and schedules for September 2015 and beyond, and communicate these routes to parents/guardians and student prior to the end of the 2014/2015 school year.

  • Quantification of Materials to be Moved (Operations & School Administration)

With the significant number of moves, early planning for transfer of materials from school to school is necessary. This will be accomplished as per the following schedule:

April, 2015

Meetings with Principals to identify classroom supplies to be moved

May, 2015

Consolidate list prepared

June, 2015

Moving boxes provided and school will pack

July, 2015

Materials will be moved

11. OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

A.Impacts to Sports

All schools will follow the rules and guidelines, as articulated by the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation (NSSAF).

Schools at the high school level will be encouraged to have both varsity and junior varsity teams.  Students in grades 9 and 10 may wish to try out for the varsity team. Those who arent selected can try out for junior varsity, thus gaining more experience and skills.

At the middle school level, schools will be encouraged to offer intramural and house team programs.  This results in less travel and increased school spirit within the school.  Teams also have the option of competing with other schools.

B.Naming of Schools

The names of schools would be changed to reflect the new grade level configuration. For example, Dr. T. L. Sullivan Junior High could be changed to Dr. T. L. Sullivan School.  These name changes will be brought forward to the Board for approval.

C.School Discipline

     School Code of Conduct Guidelines

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Education has designed a set of Guidelines used to assist school boards and schools to develop, implement and track the regional and school-level codes of conduct and discipline. The proposed grade level reconfiguration would not impact the current service delivery model.

The Provincial School Code of Conduct reflects a proactive approach to assist students in learning appropriate behavior in the context of social responsibility.  The emphasis is on creating a safe and productive learning environment for all members of the school community.  These guidelines provide school boards and school communities with a framework and process for developing their respective policies and procedures for their codes of conduct. Creating a positive school climate is not a single event, but rather a process that includes consultation with stakeholders and the articulation and communication of behavioral expectations to all school community members(School Code of Conduct Guidelines).

Reconfigured schools will continue with this code of conduct.

D.Lunch Scheduling

Lunch scheduling will be reviewed on a site-by-site basis. Site-based decisions will be made with regard to the number and duration of lunch breaks.

E.School Trips and Tours

It is anticipated all school trips and tours would be respected as currently organized.  This will mean that during the transition, multiple schools may be involved in some trips and tours.

12. KEY TIMELINES

            January

  • Decision
  • Meeting with Principals to provide overview and key points.
  • Principals will meet with their school staff.
  • HR staff will meet with respective unions.
  • Post documents on CBVRSB website.

February/March

  • Professional development for Principals regarding middle school and grade 9 additions to senior high (full year, do not need different bell schedule, etc.)
  • Meeting with Principals regarding the staffing article in the Collective Agreement(s)
  • Review decisions with Principals regarding specialized programs
  • Information sessions with teaching staff regarding the middle school model
  • Principal/SIS Leads will require professional development regarding scheduling
  • Preliminary staffing will begin in February
  • Student/parent programming orientation/transition meetings
  • Student decisions finalized for receiving schools
  • Begin work on possible facility needs for Student Services.

April

  • Finalize classroom staffing plan
  • Finalize itinerant staffing plan
  • Work through the Collective Agreement staffing transfer process
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