Middle school dives into data, technology to improve teaching, learning

Jul 8, 2019

Dartmouth Middle School administrators are bringing more technology into classrooms, using data to reach students in need, and bringing the community into the classroom.

Those were just some of the initiatives the school is leading through its School Improvement Plan, which administrators updated at the July 8 School Committee meeting. 

The plan outlines how the school is implementing district goals in three areas: teaching and learning, access and equity, and community engagement. 

In teaching and learning, Assistant Principal Carl Robidoux highlighted work the school is doing in Rubicon Atlas, which provides a visual representation of the school-wide curriculum. The school has also simplified its efforts to update curriculum scope and sequence with easy-to-understand language. 

Data analysis is taking a big lead in guiding decisions to improve student learning, especially for students in need of extra support. Everything from MCAS test results to attendance records is being used to identify at-risk students and set up supports. 

The school is in its second year of implementing blended and personalized learning. Personalized learning places more emphasis on project work over worksheets, for example, while blended learning mixes traditional classroom instruction with student-led classroom time.

“Smaller groups of students can be working together while allowing other students to work independently,” Robidoux said. “It’s the change we’re looking for regarding instruction.” 

In access and equity, Assistant Principal Peter Rossi highlighted training and professional development to help teachers and staff address student anxiety. 

Staff learned “brain-based interventions” focused on providing routine, recognition and positive reinforcement, relationships, and restoration. 

Last year, students in the eighth grade received Chromebooks as part of the district’s one-to-one computing initiative. That has made a big impact for students, as Rossi read student feedback highlighting positive reactions from students and teachers. 

In community engagement, the school continued hosting events to bring parents into the school, from talent shows to career fairs. Staff are utilizing social media and podcasts to reach students and families as well. 

Starting from the sixth grade, students are being introduced to MassCIS, an electronic career and education exploration system. It allows students to start thinking about their high school and post-high school careers early.