Blended learning model successful at Dartmouth Middle School

Jul 9, 2018

Dartmouth Middle School administrators will keep up technology-infused classroom programs, positive behavior programs, and include more community engagement next year.

Speaking at the July 9 School Committee meeting, Dartmouth Middle School administrators presented an update on their school improvement plan, including progress made last year and where the school will go next year.

The plans, prepared by each school in the district, detail how each school is implementing Superintendent Bonny Gifford’s strategic plan. The plan is divided into three sections: teaching and learning, access and equity, and community engagement.

Associate Principal Carl Robidoux detailed the school’s biggest step in teaching and learning: the integration of technology and innovative classroom instruction through a process called blended learning.

Through a grant, the school has been working with the Highlander Institute, an educational consulting firm specializing in technology-driven teaching. Last year, 12 teachers volunteered to test drive various blended learning educational models, and introduced the models to the entire student body.

Several models were tested. One, called the station teaching model, broke classrooms of 24 students up into three groups of eight students. One station included teacher-led instruction, while students worked cooperatively or on computers at two other stations and rotated throughout the period.

Teachers also used a flex model, which involved breaking the class in half to work face-to-face with teachers and online before swapping.

The third model, commonly called a “flipped classroom,” shifted learning to outside the classroom. Teachers recorded and shared their lectures with students online, which students listen to before class. It allowed most in-class time to be dedicated to applied learning.

Next year, Robidoux said more project-based learning using technology is a big priority, as is revamping writing classes.

In community engagement, Principal Darren Doane highlighted increased collaboration with outside groups in town, including the Rotary Club, parent teacher organizations, and the VFW, among others.

Students honored first responders with several programs last year in response to the Parkland, Florida school shooting. Students held a rally for first responders in the community, and wrote thank-you cards which were delivered by Odies Place Animal Rescue.

Various after-school programs are offered through groups like DCTV and the county Youth Court, a peer-led juvenile justice program, and friends and families were invited to attend various functions like open houses.

This year, Doane said a big focus will be using the district’s new website and keeping the community informed electronically through postcards, newsletters, and Google Classroom.

In access and equity, staff continue to work to support the social and emotional wellbeing of students, explained Sarah Decas. Staff received additional training on encouraging reluctant learners and supporting students with anxiety. Data-driven analysis was carried out on attendance and how frequently students visit the school nurse to find and help students who are, for example, visiting the nurse frequently with no real health problems.

The school’s student success center, which provides extra support for students who need it, was busy this year, and the guidance department implemented new targeted academic support programs for students in need.

Going forward, Decas said the focus will be on getting everyone fully behind the school’s positive behavior intervention and supports (PBIS) system, which rewards good behavior instead of simply punishing bad behavior.