Lake Region Middle School is located in scenic Naples, Maine and houses 400 students in grades 6-8. There are 75 staff who work with the students. Lake Region Middle School has a 59% free and reduced lunch rate and has a 19% special education population.
If you want to see unpacking the common core standards and individualized and performance-based learning, Lake Region is the school to visit! Walking around the school, you can see students hard at work unpacking standards, working independently, in small groups and having large circle discussions discussing their learning. Each of the classes at least one of the identified learning targets on the wall and all learning that takes place is directly related to the learning target. When talking to the students, they each could identify what they were learning, why they were learning it, what they needed to know before getting to this learning target, and where their learning was going to next.
The students have a portfolio that they use to demonstrate mastery of the learning targets. Fine arts are attached to one of the five teams to provide opportunity for full integration. This is coordinated by highly functioning PLC groups that meet on a regular basis to discuss students, data, content, and direction. Their hard work is paying off, since they began the journey three years ago, students’ data has consistently, and dramatically increased.
The story of how Lake Region Middle School came to be is interesting and one that all principals can learn from and model to help move their staff and students towards performance based learning. Principal, Tonya Arnold, shared student data with the staff three years ago and as a team, they decided they needed to do something different in order to better meet students’ needs. They then broke themselves into seven teams and visited schools around the state with the focus of looking for the Carnegie Components for Middle Level Schools. After gathering data, the staff identified patterns in the great things taking place in those schools. Using this information, the staff created a vision and comprehensive series of action steps that everyone on staff would work on during the next three years.
Lake Region Middle School’s technology integrator helped to create a lesson plan form on google doc that all staff was expected to use. Each teacher begins their classes with an “activator,” they teach to the target, and every class ends with a “summarizer.” This commonality has helped the staff when planning in both their content PLC and in their interdisciplinary PLC.
The next step the staff took was to do a book study using, “Classroom Assessment for Student Learning” as a base text. Mrs. Arnold lead the book study, but the learning and practical application of each element was facilitated by the team leaders of each of the five teams. All of the staff meetings and collaborative late arrival times were focused around elements from the book which served as a road map toward proficiency-based education. The common vocabulary between teachers helps the students and especially helps the staff as they are faced with the daily challenges of education. Gabrielle, an 8th grade student at Lake Region said it best, “The teachers really try to understand each of the students. They clarify directions and expectations so we know why we are learning stuff. They get each and every one of us.” If it wasn’t for the direction and course set by the staff, led by Mrs. Arnold, the students would not be as successful as they are.
As we move toward proficiency based educational systems, Lake Region Middle is one to visit. The work they have done, and are continuing, is impressive!