November 10, 2005 Group Responses

1. The school district is continually working to build more rigor into the learning experiences that students have. Rigor is defined as commitment to a core subject matter knowledge, a high demand for thinking, and an active use of knowledge. When you think of a rigorous academic curriculum in the middle school, what would it look like?


- Offering a curriculum that’s engaging, structured in a way to enhance knowledge and application

- Challenging VS “Busy” curriculum

- Higher level thinking skills

- Varied approach to learning to meet the needs of different learning styles

- Students are given opportunities to learn/discover their own learning styles

- Engaging curriculum … “lighting that fire”

- Rigorous curriculum, enough to challenge students and take to “next level”

- Must incorporate differentiation … must be individualized

- Wide range of subject matter so students can pursue more in depth learning

- Is not an either/or question

- Every student is expected to achieve so they will “step up to the plate”

- The bar must be high enough for challenge but not a high level of frustration

- Support must accompany a challenging curriculum

- More individualized attention for regular education students… same as special ed students with IEPs

- Provide opportunities that tap into students’ learning styles

- Know and take into consideration that students learn at different paces


-Every student should be challenged at his or her respective academic level. Curriculum should be flexible and differentiated to meet the needs of each student’s ability level yet continue to propel each student’s ability. Curriculum and instruction should allow for each student to work at their maximum ability while still being encouraged to excel beyond that ability.

-Curriculum should be interactive and more ingrained across subjects so that students can absorb knowledge many different ways.

-Rigor plays a role in the need for a firm foundation in the basics. Too much focus on theory as opposed to teaching students the foundational concepts and basics. Students don’t know basic concepts and don’t have a firm grounding in Math; therefore, Math will become more complex and challenging without knowledge of basic foundation.

-English requires basic foundation like grammar, sentence construction, writing preparation, etc.; basic foundational skills essential to future academic success.

-Rigor should be across all subject areas, across curriculum. Rigor means having more consistent high expectations across all subject areas.

-Homework expectations different for each class; rigor across all classes regarding homework should be in place.

-Middle school staff/teachers should share a common understanding across subject areas, have a common plan time in order to practice consistently across subject areas.

-Rigor demands a strong need for firm basic skills and the need to balance between the basics and opportunities to be creative. Rigor just not in curriculum; there should be a balance between each child’s academic needs and abilities.

-Teachers can play a role in motivating students but not all teachers have that ability. Therefore, climate and school environment can enhance creativity in some students.

-Each middle school has a different feel when you enter the buildings. Climate has impact on ability of a school to nurture serious learning in its classrooms.

-Rigor requires that parents and students understand the curriculum and their understanding is critical to engagement. Different teachers have different materials they present and the teachers that are more engaging to students should share their strategies across subject areas.

-Student schedules or course options should support students who want to continue to more advanced courses in such subjects as math or science.

-More important than rigor is for students to learn how to learn; must learn to struggle or fail in order to prepare for academic as well as life challenges.


-Keep high expectations for learning in middle school

-In-depth focus on learning

-No skimming

-Rigor? Good, let’s focus on high expectations for our students

-Stress independent skills and help encourage students, following up on assignments and being persistent in their learning

-Math rigor concern – need for staff that are content experts and focused on helping students learn in Math

-Intellectually stimulating and in-depth

-Provide meaningful connections to the learning

-Classic literature re-introduction for students to experience both outside their comfort zone

-Core subject taught by teachers with expertise in that area

-More time/personnel for students to be able to move ahead … flexible time/personnel to help students learn at own pace

-Interactive use of content-high levels of engagement

-Additional skills communication, debate, problem-solving, presenting, listening, investigating ideas and follow-up on arguments/debates

-Attention to special needs and how to meet students’ needs

2. What experiences do you want your child to have in middle school to enhance his or her social and emotional growth?


-Be in a classroom where the opportunity to learn is not hindered by disruptive behaviors

-Learn how to work together, keep themselves and others safe, and how to function as a part of a group

-Know and accept responsibility in creating a safe environment in which to learn

-Very clear expectations (behavior)

-Have opportunities to learn “citizenship” – may even be part of curriculum

-Learn to speak up in the face of injustice

-An environment where bullying is not tolerated (adults and students’ roles in this)

-Be a part of a group without sacrificing “self” or friends

-Greater acceptance of differences in each other

-An increase in personal responsibility for their own education

-Growth in developing empathy enough to achieve personal growth

-A place where all students feel safe in discovering who they are

-Exposure to people of different cultures, etc.- will help develop acceptance

-A place where disparities in socioeconomic status, disability, or race is not so great


-Impressed with after school clubs because all grades mix, students relax, can experience teachers/staff in different more relaxed context; wish there was more middle school sports available.

-I wish every middle school student could feel appreciated by adults in the schools and could find peers to build healthy relationships with.

-Middle school staff should help find peer support so that no student feels “odd” or isolated due to being different; want my student in an environment where they feel safe socially and emotionally. Having kids in academic peer groupings would increase self-esteem and minimize students feeling isolated.

-I want my student among a diverse student body across racial/ethnic and class lines – want my kids to reach beyond the “normal’ group with which they interact. School is the best place for that to happen.

-I don’t like the hierarchy of middle school – 7th graders in particular are not incorporated into the school as well. 7th grade is an “odd” year for students – want to see more opportunities for that grade to become more connected.

-I support having diversity but feel that relationships need to be built between diverse groups first; instead of simply putting a diverse group of kids together. Some students may be scared if put in a diverse class considering some of the perceptions about certain students. Important that staff help make those connections between students.

-I feel it’s important that adults in the buildings make an effort to make connections between diverse student groupings; important that staff facilitate the connections between students.

-I feel getting student groups after school is more difficult in middle school because teachers don’t have time; tougher for kids to make connections because of identity issues and developmental levels.

-Athletic programs and unified arts can help students come out of their shell; helps to build self-esteem to have activities that promote connections to school.

-Music is important to building student esteem and growth.

-I would like to see the junior high model implemented with multiple interdisciplinary work teams across subjects. Teachers can team and make more collaborative efforts to meet the needs of high achieving students as well as the more academically challenged students.


-This is already well-attended VS high rigor

-Shouldn’t dismiss behaviors due to hormones, etc.

-Important to really and critically understand human differences and the kinds of strategies and skills needed to get along. Pluralistic society needs real understanding and interactive skills

-Maturation means students self-advocating (VS parents) and personal accountability

-Need caring adults who know students, advocate for them, and ensure safety

-Diversity in school provides a “lab” for understanding groups (cultures) and individuals (personalities)

-Finding a balance between academic rigor and social/emotional/community needs

-This is a complex question as parental expectations in this area vary

-Benefit from international perspective

3. What are your hopes and dreams for your child in middle school?


-Kids more responsible for their own learning

-To be challenged in the classroom with appropriate feedback to enhance accountability

-Be excited about going to school every day. Is inspired by learning and challenges

-Be able to become critical thinkers and it is safe to do so

-Value learning – even when they may say that they don’t like it

-Be engaged in their learning and take responsibility for this

-Be ready for high school by the end of middle school

-Be happy, self-confident, ambitious, and motivated to achieve

-Be confident and feel safe to admit not understanding something and ask for help

-Feel some level of success as a student

-Enjoy a curriculum that provides opportunities for hands-on learning

-Discovers other “safe” adults as mentors


-Hope that “encore” would be intact because currently being eaten away and has been foundational for my child.

-Have students and staff find student strengths and build on them – give encouragement and acknowledge strengths.

-Every student graduate from middle school wanting to continue to learn, build strong relationships and continue friendships.

-Have my daughter continue building confidence in math and wanting to learn more.

-Want a global education for my student – want kids to become more globally aware.

-Dream is to have more foreign language opportunities and to learn and be fluent in foreign languages.

-Strong skill set to succeed and compete in high school. Want middle school to teach basic skills like study skills that can take them through high school and beyond.


-Students get excited about learning

-Less attention to tests scores and more on potential

-Kids get what they need, at the level they need

-Students stretched beyond comfort level

-Opportunities to take/experience different and unique courses

-Opportunity to master outside of exploratory classes (like music and foreign language)

-Retain music and foreign language

-Students to be more active with the world (schools engage students in thinking beyond: ethics and justice)

-Students who are encouraged to explore their thoughts on “real” world issues and life experiences

-Students have ability to respectfully debate, reflect, and put actions into serving and learning

-Great Math and Science offered

-Allow for students to learn, stretch, and struggle

-Writing needed

-Presentation skills reinforced along with different assessments used

4. What are your greatest concerns for your child in middle school?


-Does not feel safe at school

-Suppressing academic abilities to avoid social pressure from peers

-Afraid to speak up for victims of injustice

-Lost “in the shuffle” … teachers don’t really know about the student … too many teachers in one day

-An environment (classroom) of control rather than one of learning

-Will not be motivated. Will not put forth much effort and just “slide” by

-Will take the easy way out

-Math curriculum will produce a student who is not prepared for high school math

-A curriculum that does not meet all learning styles and needs

-Lowered expectations

-A curriculum with non-essentials that hinders real growth and understanding of important concepts

-Lack of opportunities to explore non-academic interests … disparity between schools – no differentiation for students with prior knowledge or experience in a given area


-Amount of time in day learning inconsistent, classroom management inefficient because time spent dealing with discipline and other non-academic tasks.

-Curriculum should be differentiated.

-Not all students engaged because lessons not differentiated.

-SEAs could be better used to support students needing support for engagement.

-More staff and resources needed for heterogenous classes.

-Want daughter to be able to handle boys as it pertains to socio-emotional issues and healthy relationships.

-Teachers who add rigor have been pulled back from efforts by the district – feel that the district has discouraged “rigor” efforts.

-Concern that achievement gap efforts will compromise other students’ progress.

-Concern that No Child Left Behind has middle school principals charged with such high demands and limited resources to accomplish.

-Special education students are grouped all together, therefore, spec ed students with high emotional needs take up a lot of spec ed resources. Spec ed students with high emotional needs should be segregated from the kids who don’t have such high needs. Need to come up with another strategy to support emotional student needs.

-Hard to be “smart” in middle school because risk being socially isolated. Smart kids at risk of being teased; have to decide whether to fit in or feel like a “freak”.

-Safety issues in the hallways and on buses – not all students feel safe.

-Bus safety a serious issue; if camera on bus may change behaviors.

-In school safety – concern regarding cliques that give dangerous element in halls or restrooms.

-Being prepared for high school expectations, esp. foreign language.

-Don’t want student to hate school – social concerns, safety, not feeling engaged. Major concern is ensuring my regular ed student’s academic skills are being challenged while my spec ed student receives adequate attention and challenge.

-Too much homework in evening may mean school day is unproductive.

-Lunch time needs to be more orderly and have more supervision.


-Lack of challenge resulting in being turned off

-Disconnection of content-relevance, coherence, definition, greater analysis, critical thinking

-Connections and integration between subjects

-Learning “limbo” due to need for rigor

-Prepared for future learning through greater breadth and depth

-Effort developed in learners through challenging assignments

-Greater ongoing communication with homes to foster true partnership that pushes students

-Instructional settings arranged for struggle (VS failure)

-Elementary preparedness

-Kids can opt out from challenge

-Academic peer opportunities on occasion

5. If you could design Madison middle schools in any way you wanted, what would they be like?


-Logical progression from elementary to high school building on kids’ academic and social skills to become more independent

-Combination of rigor and innovation with consistency

-Organized to meet students’ abilities in offering appropriate academic opportunities

-Well-funded schools

-Cooperative grouping of resources

-A place where no one is “invisible”. Teachers will actually get to know their students

-More integrated curriculum taught by qualified and nurturing teachers (relationship building)

-A school where students can develop relationships while being challenged with a rigorous curriculum

-Faculty and staff reflect the diversity of its student population

-Believe all students can succeed

-Smaller classrooms

-More service learning and collaboration with the larger community … more welcoming to community members

-Schools that focus more on learning styles … magnet school with choices


-Make middle school similar across core academics and add more elective choices respective of school personality; for instance, in explorations and unified arts could be choice of having excellent drama program in a particular school.

-Have unified arts offered consistently across district because helps students connect with school; want district to value unified arts as much as core academics.

-Do not take away school programs like drama that are working for the sake of consistency.

-There should be geometry offered in all middle schools.

-Be more virtual – use all available resources like the internet. Develop virtual classes to spread knowledge. Can help allocate staff more efficiently.

-To keep courses, may need to have larger classes and use volunteer parents or provide some other forms of alternative support.

-Supplement after school programs like drama.

-Use internet, current technology and develop online courses.

-Provide after school programs and tie in community resources.

-Develop after school language clubs and provide accreditation.

-Have after school programs during the evening hours.

-Do not take away programs that are working.

-Determine line between school mandates versus district mandates. What extent is there for choice? How to maintain flexibility while still meeting district requirements.

-Issue is to provide common experiences across schools while maintaining flexibility in how taught.

-Have teachers share what they’re teaching, especially if they are engaging students.

-Not have DPI limitations limit district and school flexibility.


-6th grade back to elementary and 7th and 8th grades in middle school

-K-8 with a planned approach with mentor-ships and role models of older grades and build on community

-Outcome measures between schools outside of district

-What are other countries doing? What are those students learning?

-Multi-age grouping investigated

-Students spend more time with teachers - in-depth and fewer transitions

-Staff development in differentiation

-More money

-Staff experts in content teaching

-Fewer transitions for students within the day

-Staff: content experts teaching several levels of same subject in a school (China example)

-Attention to diverse learning styles and needs

-Limit interruptions during instructional time

-Homogeneous groups allow for exploration of different ideas, skills, and learners

-Heterogeneous groups allow for similar styled learners to move towards abilities

-Being sensitive in balancing heterogeneous/homogeneous groups to build strengths and potential of learners

-Equity and Excellence together