In the Middle Newsletter
August 2019

MASSP is in the Middle with YOU!

MASSP recognizes that the middle level has unique challenges and perspectives. We also notice that middle level administrators tend not to want to leave their buildings for professional development. With this in mind, we have developed this new quarterly publication specifically designed just for middle level building to support your work, keep you connected and help you lead forward.

Your PSAT 8 Data is MUCH Better than MSTEP Data

This spring was the first year PSAT 8 was administered as the state assessment for eighth graders. This new test represents a shift in content, item types and an entry point on the scale of determining college readiness. For many who are not familiar with the College Board suite of assessments the fact that PSAT 8 is a pre-SAT test and provides a predictive SAT score might not even be known. Unlike the MSTEP the PSAT 8 results come with access to the College Board reporting portal for students, parents and educators.

New Beginnings

One thing I love about our profession is the fresh start we get each year. Every year is a new beginning, and August is the time to prepare for the next adventure. It is a time of excitement, preparation and a little stress for the Principal. As you prepare for the 2019-20 school year, here are a few tips to build the excitement, help with the preparation and hopefully alleviate some of the stress.

Holly Middle School to use a Restorative Practices Facilitator during the 19-20 School Year

In the Fall of 2017, we attended MASSP’s Restorative Practices Foundations professional development offering. While many of us in attendance were there to learn about Michigan’s newly passed legislation requiring schools to consider restorative practices as it applied to the “7 Factors,” we walked away with so much more. Little did we know that our paths were going to cross with Roy Burton, the director of the Michigan Restorative Practices Trainers and Consultants. Roy captivated and inspired us to approach our job with a restorative mindset and we returned to Holly Middle School committed to learning more about, and applying, restorative practices.

Welcome Back Celebration

The beginning of the school year brings about mixed emotions for all students (and staff). As Labor Day weekend looms, the excitement of the upcoming school year builds – as does the anxiety of most students. Sure, school is something that students are familiar with, but the start of a new school year brings about many questions: 

October 2019

Why Middle School Matters

In the future, I'll use this space to answer questions about “Middle School Matters," my roadmap to the phase for educators and parents. But first, I want to share my philosophy and approach to an age group that too often is misunderstood and maligned. As an exasperated colleague once told me, middle school is the Jan Brady of education. Rather than neglect these years, we should use them to build students' character and confidence.

I have a unique perspective on middle school because I wear multiple hats. I’m a middle school counselor, a therapist working in private practice with tweens and their caregivers, and the parent of a sixth grader. (My older two children are now middle school graduates.) I also write about tweens for The Washington Post and other national publications. My goal is to bring research to life and give it practicality.

Beginning to Infuse Social and Emotional Competencies into an MTSS Framework at the Middle Level

One thing I love about our profession is the fresh start we get each year. Every year is a new beginning, and August is the time to prepare for the next adventure. It is a time of excitement, preparation and a little stress for the Principal. As you prepare for the 2019-20 school year, here are a few tips to build the excitement, help with the preparation and hopefully alleviate some of the stress.

Home Visits: One of the Best "Deposits" You Can Make into Your School Community

We have been conducting home visits at L’Anse Creuse Middle School – East for over 5 years now.  It is, by far, the best initiative I have been involved in as an administrator. To expand on our success of home visits, our counselor approached me last year about writing a grant to expand our current home visits to every incoming 6th grade student!  We are very excited to be able to visit every single 6th grade student this year before school begins!

Making Connections: Lighting a Fire in Your Staff and Students

I am not a camper, so I am in no way an expert on building a fire, but I do know (thanks to my high school science classes) that in order for fire to ignite, it needs three elements: heat, fuel and oxygen. However, being a school leader is something I do know, and culture is something that is talked about all over leadership blogs, articles, books, and tweets. Culture is way more than just a buzzword. Culture is the heart of a school, and the determining factor between success and failure.

Learner Engagement in the Middle School Classroom

To be in education, today, individuals and teams must be flexible, vulnerable, and have the ability to think critically about how their words and actions are impacting the thinking of the larger team. For this to take root within the culture, both individuals and teams must have the beliefs, values, and shared identity that embrace true collaboration—for both themselves and their learners. It has been proven that when a team has a shared vision for success coupled with team efficacy and vulnerability, success is the result. Moving beyond compliance to true accountability to the task (the “what"), the process (the “how”), and group development (the “who”) takes both time and intention. 

January 2020

Why Middle School Matters

You asked and Phyllis answered! Read more to find out how Phyllis Fagell answered the following questions:

  • What drew you to counsel middle school students, and how has your background helped you work with this age group?
  • What do you see as the biggest challenges for middle level students both academically and socially?
  • Do you have any suggestions for administrators when it comes to approaching discipline issues with middle level students? In many cases, there are teachable moments that can come with poor decision-making. How can administrators keep the relationship positive and help students learn from their mistakes?
  • In Chapter 1 you talk about the ten key skills.  Are there ways the school can be working in partnership with parents to help students acquire these skills?  Are there any you view as more critical than others?

Building Culture and Leading Learning

As a middle level administrator, you know that early adolescence is pivotal to developing each individual’s potential and opportunity. You know that school climate and culture have a significant impact on student performance and the health and happiness of the entire school community. You strive to build culture and lead learning.

Reward Your Kids. Change Your Culture. 

I had the privilege of being the assistant principal at Grayling High School for seven years. I had a front row seat in watching the dramatic shift in culture and school spirit. I was a teacher when Grayling Viking Renaissance (GVR) was introduced to our school. The assistant principal at the time, Donna Boughner, was able to get our staff to buy into this unique concept at the time. When she became Grayling High School’s principal, I was handed the keys and did my best to keep the momentum rolling. 

Word of the Month

Though I consider myself reflective and goal-driven, I had not set any New Year’s resolutions for a few years now. My thinking was that I did enough to try to promote my personal and professional growth without the stress (and inevitable guilt) of a resolution that I was going to struggle to keep. Do you need more stress in your life? Or guilt? I sure didn’t!

9th Grade Academy - The Academies at Romeo High School: Transforming the High School Experience 

A successful high school experience draws influence from a wide spectrum of variables and supports.  The Academies at Romeo High School, with guidance from Ford Next Generation Learning (Ford NGL) and Macomb County Planning and Economic Development, have strategically targeted some of the more critical variables and set structures in place to assist students in making the most of their 9th grade year and beyond. The 9th Grade Academy is considered the foundation for this model.