Auburn Middle School Monthly
The Principal's Perspective
Thoughts on Advanced/Accelerated Courses at AMS
I heard the story recently of a 19 year old college soccer player’s interaction with a sports psychologist who was conducting some research. The psychologist asked her what her goals were for the year. Predictably, she mentioned things like winning a certain amount of games and scoring a certain amount of goals. This was no ordinary soccer player. She was a star on one of the most competitive teams in the country. The psychologist then asker her, for each of her goals, “why?” Ultimately, she landed on the idea that major success on the playing field (or pitch, in this case) would make her happy and satisfied. He then said, “If I told you when you were 13 that you would be the best player on one of the best teams in the country and the youngest member of the US National Team, what would you have said?” She said, “I would say I’d be the happiest girl in the world.” Then, both knowing that the description was of her, he said, “Well, are you the happiest girl in the world?” “No,” she said, “because the pressure overrides any joy I get.” As my 11 year old son would say, "Boom!"
One of the most concerning changes I have seen in my 25 years in education is the amount of pressure some students place on themselves to be perfect - not just successful, but completely flawless - and the corresponding amount of stress and anxiety that goes with it.
Do we adults contribute to this problem? I'm not sure, but I think because of how much we love our kids and want the very best for them, we do contribute a little. Not on purpose, of course. We certainly mean well. I recall being frustrated when my boys did not qualify for an advanced course, or for high honors. Like anyone, I want my kids to be the best, and the temptation to put too much pressure on them is very real. In my more lucid moments, however, when I think about my children, I think I just want them to be happy - to find people, a career, a place and a life that they absolutely love. Now, to do that, they will very likely need a great education. But, despite the temptation to want them to get all 100's across the board, I think I'll settle for good grades, well-rounded activities and being a good person.
As I think about our middle school students here in Auburn, I realize that they all have very different needs in school. That's why we have to offer a well-rounded program. And it's also why, despite my not being overly excited about it (there, I said it), we have to begin to offer advanced courses for our students who need an added layer of academic challenge. As our students grow into high school students and beyond, they will experience courses of many different levels of intensity. Middle school, therefore, is the right time to gradually start the process of preparing them for their academic future. Simply, it is in the best interest of some of our students to experience advanced course work even at this young age.
Please note that all courses at AMS cover the same material and do so at a pace that is appropriate to the students in the particular class. Our staff differentiates their instruction to ensure that the variety of learning styles within each class are served to the maximum extent. Middle school, however, is the time when we begin to offer advanced courses for those students who have proven to be not just intelligent, but also responsible, hard working and dedicated to their school work. These courses are designed to be competitive and, as such, the criteria for entry is demanding and multi-layered.
It is extremely important to note that course placements are never final. We try to do what is in the on-going best interest of the student, and with students at the middle school level, things do sometimes change. Therefore, students may be encouraged to move into advanced courses if they are demonstrating the ability and work ethic to be successful there. Less frequently, but occasionally in a child's best interest, he/she is encouraged to move out of an advanced course, as well.
A child's course placement does not define him/her. Successful young people, just like successful grown-ups, come in all different varieties, and course placement is only one of many indicators. We have a great many top notch students with exceptionally bright futures who are not in advanced courses, but who do very well on their school work and are well rounded individuals - they are great students, but also leaders, performers, athletes, etc.
We will give the decisions on student placement a tremendous amount of thought. While you may not agree with every decision we make, I am confident in stating that AMS will always make every effort to do what is in the best interest of the students. For some, that will mean placement in advanced courses. For others, it won't. But all will still have equal opportunity to participate, to succeed and to enjoy their childhood while they're at it.
English Language Arts Advanced Course Requirements
Must meet at least two out of the three following criteria:
Students Entering 7th and 8th Grade:
MCAS scores- meeting or exceeding expectations
90% or higher average in current ELA class
Including but not limited to- reading on or above grade level, effort, quiz scores, homework completion, proficient oral and written communication skills, ability to follow directions
Students Entering 9th Grade:
All of the above plus a Qualifying score on Auburn High School Placement Exam
Math Advanced Course Requirements
The formula for qualifying for accelerated math in grade 7 and Algebra in grade 8 includes the following:
- MCAS scores - must be meeting or exceeding expectations
- Yearly average in the current math class
- Yearly average on Tests
- Teacher Recommendation, which includes such factors as daily effort, consistency in homework completion/class work, quiz grades and work habits.
AMS History Day
Annual Dodgeball Tournament
Festival of the Arts, S.T.E.M., and Wellness
7th Grade Boston Field Trip
Lion King, Jr
By Kweku Akese
Kweku's design was chosen to be featured on the posters for the show.
By Morganne Lucier
Morganne's design was chosen to be on the playbill for the show.
8th Grade Washington, D.C. Trip
Step Up Day for 5th and 8th Graders
The Importance of Hydration
From Nurse Donahue
Research indicates that students remember more and stay focused longer when they are hydrated. In fact, studies have found that that drinking water can improve brain function by 15 percent.
Our brains depend on proper hydration to function optimally….Years of research have found that when we’re parched, we have more difficulty keeping our attention focused. Dehydration can impair short-term memory function and the recall of long-term memory.
Having a water bottle within reach encourages students to drink more water. Because the brain has no way to store water, it is important to continually drink water throughout the day. When the body loses more water than is being replaced, dehydration occurs and brain function can be affected.
But when the brain is operating with plenty of water, students are able to have greater clarity, creativity, focus and quicker thought processes. You may consider investing in a durable reusable water bottle that is easy to refill and doesn’t tip easily. Refilling the desk water bottle each day will cut down on waste and save money.
And proper hydration is essential for student success at all ages. Water not only helps improve brain function, but simply the act of drinking water may play a part in relieving anxiety during tests.