Middle School News
Mounds Park Academy Families,
As an administrator, teacher, and coach at Mounds Park Academy for the past eighteen years, I have been given the privilege of living out my dream to teach and work with students every single day. I can still remember my first class and the sense of complete excitement that I felt on my first day. When I began my role as the Middle School Director in 2008, I felt those same feelings! And now, as I think about next year and working with our new Head of School, I am once again feeling that surge of excitement. This is a great time to be in the MPA Middle School.
Earlier this week, we had our monthly Middle School meeting in the library. After our meeting concluded, I returned to my office and reflected on our discussions. In my reflection, I was drawn to a book titled, This We Believe in Action - Implementing Successful Middle Level Schools. This book sets forth a vision identifying essential characteristics of a school that is appropriate for young adolescents.
After reading a few pages in this book, I sent the following message to all the Middle School teachers.
I would like to remind you that according to the Association for Middle Level Education, successful middle schools believe the following things:
A. The most successful middle level teachers value teaching young adolescents and interact with them in other ways to maximize their learning and support their healthy development.
B. Being developmentally responsive involves teachers and students collaborating in "hands-joined" activities, ones that teachers and students work together in developing. Active learning thrives in a classroom community built on trust and democratic participation.
C. The most successful teachers grasp early adolescence and also have strength of professional conviction to trust both their understanding and their students to pursue curriculum that is challenging, exploratory, integrative, and relevant.
D. Advocacy lies at the heart of middle level education, and every middle school educator needs to be an advocate for young adolescents.
What is even better news is that you believe these things and have created an amazing MPA Middle School.
With that, I would like to share some of our plans and priorities for the 2013-2014 school year.
- One year ago, we created a Middle School task force titled, Middle School Advancement. From that task force, we create TOSA (Tutorials Options Student Activities). TOSA is a thirty five minute time period at the end of the day in which students can choose to be in Math Club, Quiz Bowl, meet with a teacher, or have study time. Due to its success, I plan to expand the Options and Student Activity portions for the 2013-2014 school year.
- Middle School teachers have just completed year one of a new Professional Development and Evaluation process. In year two, the Collegial Colleague Learning Communities will remain to support and drive innovative program growth within the classroom.
- During the 2012-2013 school year, we added a 5th Grade Sports Club to our 5th Grade Academy. This program was a huge success and we have plans to expand those options for the 2013-2014 school year
The MPA Middle School is truly an extraordinary Middle School because of its commitment to developmental responsiveness, high expectations, a desire to advocate for every student, and a group of passionate teachers who enjoy young adolescents.
I am proud to be part of this extraordinary Middle School, and I look forward to partnering with you as we travel the journey through the upcoming adolescent years together. Please feel free to contact me through email or by phone at your convenience if you have any questions, concerns, or comments about our Middle School.
2013-14 Middle School Director
The National Academic Quiz Tournaments (NAQT), LLC, is an organization that creates and organizes premier national quiz bowl competitions. Some might ask, "What is Quiz Bowl?". Quiz bowl is a game in which two teams compete to answer questions from a variety of categories. The questions can pertain to science, the arts, current issues, sports, literature, pop culture, and history. Much of the excitement comes from the use of a buzzer system. Players can interrupt the reading of a question as soon as they think they know the answer.
At MPA, Coach Wade Peterson, meets with Middle School students interested in Quiz Bowl from 2:30-3:10pm every other day. These students then compete in competitions throughout the metro area.
This year, Mounds Park Academy had THREE teams qualify for the NAQT Middle School National Championship Tournament in Chicago on April 27-28. They did so by having "top 2" finishes in both the December and April qualifying tournaments where they competed against all public and private schools in the metro area. Yes, MPA competed against MPA in both tournament finals.
We are so proud of these students for their work in Quiz Bowl and in the classes they attend everyday. As teachers, parents, and administrators we celebrate with them on this amazing accomplishment and wish them the best of luck in Chicago!
Cole S. (8th)
William AB. (8th)
Jack I. (8th)
Aiden O. (8th)
Charlie K. (8th)
Amanda B. (8th)
Nick S. (8th)
Kate V. (7th)
Ryan G. (7th)
Theo J-F. (8th)
Travis M. (7th)
Sumner W. (7th)
Pranay S. (7th)
Teja U. (8th)
In her recently released book, Bully Nation: Why America's Approach to Bullying is Bad for Everyone, Susan Porter set out to uncover why bullying has increased among children, but her findings were not what she expected. What has changed, Porter discovered, was how our culture thinks and talks about aggressive childhood behavior.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at their stopbullying.gov site defines bullying as aggressive and repeated behavior that involves an imbalance of power. "Kids who bully use their power--such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity--to control or harm others."
There is a distinct difference between being a bully and being mean. Bullying is an act of violence; being mean is an act of humanity. We can't and do not expect middle school students in their normal healthy development to be consistently kind, nor should we hold them to unrealistic adult standards. What we should do is avoid fixed mindsets and labels like "bully" and "victim" and focus on growth mindsets that include learning, accountability, and forgiveness.
Porter writes, "Using the term 'bully' is an easy way out, and it allows adults to avoid the very hard work of helping children change their behavior. This is not just an issue of semantics, as any parent of an accused child can attest. It's about believing in growth or not." She states, "We must admit that our approach to childhood aggression is flawed. Our children are not worse than they used to be, nor are they less resilient. But we adults seem to be. Instead of being so quick to label them, we must teach them how to deal with their aggression and pain appropriately and to develop compassion, impulse control, and resilience in their relationships. And we must learn to do the same."
At Mounds Park Academy, we would like to work together as a community and to invest our time and effort into teaching our children to develop compassion and empathy and to learn how to face adversity and develop resilience. In this endeavor, we must take care to distinguish between what is true bullying, which is relatively rare, and what is typical, albeit still unacceptable, inappropriate social interactions between students. We need to be committed to teaching our students about social growth and strength of character. There is great value in learning to cope with and conquer adversity, conflict, and failure, along with celebrating successes. And, as a number one goal, we must demand a growth mindset and commit to doing the hard work of helping children grow emotionally and socially. This is our commitment to your child while at Mounds Park Academy and we ask that you join us in that commitment beyond these walls.
Tony Reimers Anne Atchision
PreK-8 Director 5/6 Dean of Students
During two days in January and three days in early February, all students in grades 5-7 will be making history at MPA! In recent years, Lower School students took standardized tests in January and Middle School students took them in April. Both Lower and Middle School students participated in the CTP 4 testing program. The CTP 4 Program was a paper and pencil test similar to the process many of you participated in as a student.
MPA is one of the first independent schools in the state of Minnesota to transition to the CTP Online program for both Middle and Lower School students. The CTP Online program is a rigorous assessment of student achievement of essential standards and learning domains. In addition to instantaneous score reports, the online program is adaptive and adjusts to the student's performance on test questions.
When visiting the testing website, you can read the following statement. "ERB is the only not-for-profit member educational services organization offering assessments for both admission and achievement for independent and public schools PreK-grade 12 -- including professional development services for interpretation, and links to next steps instruction within our online assessments". To learn more about the actual test your student will be taking, feel free to access additional information here.
As a school, we are excited about the new score reports available to us that will track the multi-year progress of individual students, classes and grades. The instantaneous score reports will also allow us to generate easy to read, customized reports to identify students for enrichment or support groups along with analyzing each content area.
To help us in this process, we are asking that you be mindful of the dates your child is testing and make sure your student is in attendance during those dates. It is likewise important for them to be well rested and at their best during these dates. In addition, to help students become more comfortable with the testing format, students will be given a practice test prior to the actual testing.
While we recognize this type of assessment is only one piece of a large puzzle, it does have long-term value. Supported by educational research, "Successful schools provide continuous, authentic, and appropriate assessment and evaluation measures that provide evidence about every student's learning progress."
The MPA Middle School is an extraordinary Middle School because of its commitment to developmental responsiveness, high expectations and a desire for social equity. Its grade level teaming approach is the structural foundation to make all this happen.
If you were to stop by the MPA Middle School between 11:10am and 11:50am on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Friday, you would find grade level teams discussing student learning. If you were to stop by the MPA Middle School from 7:45-8:20am on Tuesday mornings, you would find Mrs. Woodruff, Mrs. Atchison, Mr. Comfort, Mrs. Kramer, Ms. Osman and me meeting as the Middle School Student Concerns team.
These teams work collaboratively to create a sense of social equity, high expectations and a developmentally appropriate program. They also work to make sure each student in the Middle School is well known, growing and developing in all areas.
I hope that you enjoy the last few weeks of 2012 and are blessed with a fantastic and family filled Winter Break.
Congratulations to MPA Debate Team members Ingrid Dai and Jenny Portis for a great performance at the State competition yesterday! Ingrid and Jenny, both 9th graders, won the Novice State Classic Debate Tournament on a 3 - 0 decision. Ingrid and Jenny were the top team out of over 60 novice teams. Go Panthers!
The following students had our highest scores on this year's America Math Competition for 8th graders:
Seventh graders Ian Beauchane and Alex Esch (pictured above) both scored 18/25. Their score is among the top 5% in the world, and they earn a place on the AMC Honor Roll as a result. As our school winners, their names will be added to the plaque in room 129.
Jack Gangestad (8th grade) and Bryan Boehnke (7th grade) scored 16/25 to tie for the second best score at MPA. Sarah Ley (7th grade), Tony Kuba (7th grade), Charlie Kramer (8th grade), and Jack Indritz (8th grade) scored 15/25 to tie for the third best score at MPA.
The AMC 8 is a challenging 25 question, 40 minute multiple choice examination in middle school mathematics designed to promote the development and enhancement of problem solving skills. About 200,000 students worldwide participate each year.
Crispness is in the air. The leaves are falling. The winds are picking up. That must mean only one thing! It's time for the first MPA 7th/8th grade dance of the year! This Friday, November 2nd, from 7pm-10pm our MPA seventh and eighth graders will be gathering together to dance the night away. The cost for the event is seven dollars and there is a concession stand that sells soda and snacks. An interesting tidbit is that all dances are planned and run by the 7/8 student council.
For our seventh graders this will be their first MPA dance and many may be nervous or not know what is expected of them. First and foremost, the goal is to have fun and let loose. Students are allowed to dress as they would for a casual day at school, which means skirts/dresses still need to be an appropriate length (at least as long as their fingertips with arms fully extended at their sides) and no exposure of mid-riffs. Students who show up out of this dress code will be asked to change into their gym clothing.
Rules for the dance are:
1) Have fun! Each year we have a 95% turn out for all of our dances. Kids really do dance, and for the majority of the time!
2) Listen to the teacher chaperones! They are there for everyone's safety.
3) Stay put! Once you have entered the dance, you may not leave the building unless you are going home. No re-entry from outside the building
4) Dance like grandma is watching! Which basically means no grinding or inappropriate dancing.
Our DJ company, Sounds Great, is very professional and has more than thirty years of experience with weddings, bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, middle and high school dances, among other events. You can see their credentials at their website at: www.sounds-great.com
Questions? Do not hesitate to contact Mr. Dallmann or Ms. Gleason.
On Monday afternoon, I sat in a meeting with Mr. Peeler and Mrs. Stinson. We were looking ahead to the admission season and the second year of being able to award a Malone Family Foundation Scholarship.
Just last year, Mounds Park Academy was awarded a $2 million grant from the Malone Family Foundation. This grant funds scholarships for gifted students whose families are not able to afford the full cost of a Mounds Park Academy education.
As we thought about the current criteria and possible standardized assessments, I couldn't help but think about the MPA Middle School and its commitment to a challenging curriculum. When I returned to my office, I did some research and would like to share some of what I found with you.
When Newsweek ranked its Top 20 High Schools they looked at ACT scores and SAT scores. Middle schools do not have ACT and SAT results. So I dug further. What makes a National Blue Ribbon School a Blue Ribbon School?
One criterion is that the school is in the top 15 percent of the schools in the nation in reading and math. One way to measure this stat is school achievement scores on the CTP 4. We currently administer the CTP 4 to our Middle School students. In order to meet the 85th percentile mark, the school mean scale score must be 350 or higher for seventh graders taking the reading comprehension test. MPA's mean scale score for reading comprehension last year was 352.6. In order to meet the 85th percentile mark for mathematics, the school mean scale score must be 354 or higher. MPA's mean scale score for mathematics was 365.5.
As I have said in the past and continue to see on a daily basis, the MPA Middle School is an extraordinary place to grow and learn!
Mounds Park Academy
The Mounds Park Academy middle school teachers pride themselves on fostering those relationships through their frequent communication with families. Most of you have received emails, PowerSchool postings, and memos from multiple teachers already. Teachers also communicate to students on a daily basis through the assignment notebook and classroom blogs. Along with these communications, we also provide formal times for you to get reports from middle school teachers. The first of these formal times is the parent/student/teacher conferences that begin on Thursday, September 27.
All middle school conferences will take place on Thursday, September 27 or Friday, September 28. Our fifth and sixth grade students have a 25-minute conference with their advisor teacher. These conferences are designed to set long term goals and share information that will maximize student learning. Seventh and eighth grade students have two or three separate, 10-minute conferences with teachers that they select.
You are encouraged to contact any of your teachers at any time during the year. It is not necessary to wait for one of the formal reporting times to discuss issues about your student. Remember, the relationship between parents, students, and teachers is critical! I also know you will find MPA teachers receptive to your compliments as well as your concerns.