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Written by:  Amelia Morrison Hipps
April 2, 2015

LEBANON, TENNESSEE — Wilson County Schools’ district and school level administrators have been evaluating the curriculum for its middle level grades throughout the 2014-15 school year.

Dr. Donna Wright, director of Schools, acknowledges the need for some extra attention for the middle grades.

“We recognize that there is often an imbalance in the attention given to the middle grades compared to elementary and high schools across Tennessee and even the country, but we are making efforts in Wilson County to address the needs of our students and teachers in grades six through eight,” said Wright

According to M. Scott Walters, secondary supervisor of instruction, the process involved meeting with teachers, parents and other administrators from across the county to gather information on the current status of middle level education and to discover what direction the future holds for it.

“In addition to involving the educators of Wilson County, contacts were made with schools in other states that have made similar moves with their middle level education, and a team of educators visited various schools around middle Tennessee to see what other schools and their leaders were doing,” Walters said.

After gathering information regarding course variety, schedules and different levels of curriculum, Walters noted that two basic conclusions were made:

  • The students of Wilson County in grades six, seven,and eight need more elective choices outside of the core curriculum; and,
  • High-achieving students need a more explicit opportunity to be challenged academically.

“Principals at each of the schools that serve grades six through eight have been working to develop new schedules next year that offer more choices for students outside of their English, math, science, and social studies courses,” said Walters.

“Schools have the autonomy to offer courses that meet the needs of their student population, their community and their personnel, according to Wright.

“More specific and focused elective courses in the music, physical education art, and vocational departments will help broaden students’ opportunities to explore  top rated kids guitars and their interests and will help prepare them for the abundance of choices they will have when entering high school,” she added.

In addition to these innovative course offerings and schedules like ISO 14001 Consultants, Wilson County Schools will be using the College Board to provide training to teachers that will equip them with the strategies needed to challenge high-achieving students, Walters added.

“Processes such as Response to Intervention are in place to address the needs of students who struggle with certain skills and concepts, but there are few consistent efforts that exist on a county level to address the needs of those students who master skills quite easily,” said Wright.

“We recognize that there is a need to ensure these students are being challenged so that they are better prepared for rigorous coursework in honors and AP courses in high school,” said Walters.

According to Walters, the College Board will provide training to teachers from all schools in order to offer pre-advanced placement (AP) courses in English and math. Lebanon Special School District’s two middle schools will also be participating in the training.

“Partnering with LSSD is important to us as almost 80 percent of the incoming freshman class at Lebanon High School comes from their middle schools. We want to have a working relationship with them,” said Walters.

Schools will use data related to students’ STAR screening reports, TVAAS projections, TCAP scores, classroom grades and attendance to place them in the pre-AP classes, according to Wright.

Walters also noted that a long-term plan is in place to ensure the training for teachers extends beyond the 2015-16 school year and includes other subjects and grades in the future.