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How do you start reform where it's needed?

Jay Clark Principal - Van Buren Middle School (Van Buren, OH)

I am the proud principal of a small middle school in NW Ohio. How small? 240 students in three grades. It's a terrific size - I know our families and students well.

I will start my eighth year at this school in August and really feel that if reform is going to start ANYWHERE, this is the place. I have a terrific staff, parents who are rather supportive, and kids who will do what is asked.

Now you're asking why we haven't accomplished GREAT reform. It's because we have a terrific staff, parents who are rather supportive, and kids who will do what is asked (I love cut and paste!). There is no great need!!! 80-95% of our students score "proficient" or higher on our state tests, many of our students go to college and do rather well - our board of education, parents, and community feel that our schools are great.

Here's where I am so very conflicted... our school IS great. However, I know that we could engage our students at higher levels and go beyond test prep and set higher local standards than our state standards. I'm not certain my colleagues at the elementary and high schools would agree with me.

How do I do this? Where do I start? Help!!!

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Principal - Van Buren Middle School (Van Buren, OH)

How the PBL "Block" is going

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We're about a month into school and all of our eighth graders rotate through an interdisciplinary, collaborative, project-based learning block called "extensions" daily. The 8th grade teachers and I have come to the conclusion that this is 'gifted education' spread amongst all kids.
Their first project is called "World" - our teachers found some units of study/simulations and we purchased them last spring. It's gone well - I witnessed a peace treaty being signed today while the created countries' flags hung on the bulletin board.
While this is an big picture educational vision we have, this also helped meet a goal of mine: To eliminate large group study halls. It's gone rather well and the teaching team is meeting to determine changes for the next unit. Stay tuned...


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