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Middle School changes academic format

Changes to the academic calendar and the leadership structure are ahead for the middle school next year.

The Middle School will be moving to a trimester academic calendar and adding grade level deans for 2016-17, according to Middle School Head Mr. Patrick Sillup.

Sillup said that the quarter model that Malvern has used for several decades had a “cramming effect” on students.

“I think the trimesters will give us an appropriate amount of time to do certain things,” he said. By adopting the trimester system students will have a “longer runway” for evaluation, according to Sillup.

However, middle schoolers will be losing classes due to the new format. One of their “carousel classes,” classes that switch every quarter, will be taken away.

Sixth graders will no longer have Study Skills class, and the seventh and eighth graders will no longer take Design Thinking and Chapel Reflection respectively. However, students will still have the “core carousels” of music, art, and life skills, according to Sillup.

Mrs. Carissa Casey, Middle School Counselor and Learning Specialist, said that in between each trimester the Middle School will have a “bridge week” where the students will give presentations of their work during the trimester. “For a full week, it will be dedicated to [the presentations],” she said.

“The purpose of the trimester is to allow for the longer adjustment period,” Casey said. “First, second, third, fourth [quarters], they’re pretty short,” she said. “In order to allow for more class time … we’re going to extend [quarters] out into three sections.”

Casey taught sixth grade Study Skills, which will no longer be a course next year. “Instead of having it as a class, another way we can approach this is to have your core teachers also implement Study Skills in their curriculum,” she said.

“I’m just excited,” Casey said.

Assistant Dean of Students for the Middle School Mr. Fred Hilliard isn’t sure as to why the Middle School is moving to trimesters. He said he is confident in the decision, however.

“I’m sure there’s data and reasons to support why it’s going to be valuable,” Hilliard said. “But in terms of how it’s going to look, I think that’s still being discovered.”

The Middle School will also be adding in grade level deans next year.

“As an Academy team … [students] have things happen that are very specific to [them,]” Sillup said.

“I’ll get a phone call about when a particular demonstration is happening, or what it’s going to look like,” he said. “Staying in that loop is more and more difficult when all these teams are running at their own speeds.”

“There will be questions that I think the best person to answer that question is the captain of that team, not me,” he said. “Why not give [all of the families] direct access?”

The middle school does not currently have those deans yet. Application materials were due April 18.

“They will be people that teach in the middle school,” Sillup said. “If you were going to be the football team’s captain, you have to play football.”

Casey says that the grade-level dean group will be just another one of many teams working in the Middle School. She said that this team will consist of the grade level deans, the middle school counselors, Mrs. Lott, and Mr. Sillup.

“Everybody in the Middle School will have the same sort of conversations with them, the opportunity to collaborate with them… it’s a smaller team within a bigger team,” she said.

Hillard doesn’t see the addition of grade level deans changing much for the students. “The goal of the grade level deans is, now your going to have… one person in charge, so it streamlines that role,” he said

Hilliard does see one potential challenge in using existing teachers as the deans – the workload. “Now you’re talking about them, still teaching at least three courses, and also having to balance six, seven, eight faculty members,” he said.

Casey believes that the biggest positive to adding grade level deans into the Middle School environment is teamwork, and that the teachers will push each other and support each other.

“It’s going to allow for even more communication,” Casey said.

About Joe Lister

Joe Lister is has been on the Blackfriar Chronicle for two years. He is from West Chester, Pa. He is in MTS and also plays soccer for Malvern.

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