Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Southern Indiana Schools, Part 3

On Friday, September 19, 2014, I visited eight schools in three southern Indiana counties.  Traveling with me was Andy Bosk, Director of Career Connections for the Indiana University School of Education.  This is the third in a series of posts about those visits.

Three middle schools in Scott and Floyd counties all share one goal...high student achievement.  They approach their goal in different ways, but the effect is the same.  Students are learning, and I saw evidence of it when I visited their schools.

At Scottsburg Middle School, the students all use district-issued iPads.  There are no textbooks.  Having made the move to a 1-to-1 model, Scottsburg schools rely on technology not just to deliver instruction, but as the very environment in which students work.  I know this because Mark, an 8th grade student, led me through a demonstration on his iPad of what school looks like for him.  While I was certainly impressed with the content of what he showed me, I was more taken by the mature, capable manner of this young man, proof that what Scottsburg is doing is working.

Highland Hills Middle School in Floyd County, Indiana, has an unofficial slogan.  They call themselves the GMS on the P.  I asked Dawn Boling, top 10 finalist for 2015 Indiana Teacher of the Year, what that meant, and she said, "Greatest middle school on the planet."

This was not the usual educational hype and spin.  In Elizabeth Murphy's room (above left) and in Doug Elmore's class (above right), I saw students actively engaged in learning life.  Liz, a 2009 top 10 finalist for INTOY, has an English classroom bursting with interest.  At first I thought it was a music class, but then I learned she had brought in music as a way of setting up that day's reading.  As for Doug's orchestra, well, let's just take a listen.

My visit to Hazelwood Middle School held some nostalgia for me.  When I attended, it was Hazelwood Junior High, grades 7-9.  Now it is a middle school of grades 5-8.  Much had changed thanks to physical renovations, and we were fortunate to have Jessica Waters, the Bullpup principal, to guide us.

What I noticed in classes like Ms. Thurston's ELA/Social Studies room (above, left) was light and enthusiasm.  Our visit was late on a Friday, shortly before dismissal, yet whether they were in the classroom or in the gym, these students kept their focus on where their teachers were leading them.

Three different middle schools, one goal.  More than any data chart could show, these schools contain life, and that life is flourishing in Scott and Floyd counties.

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