Middle school language arts departments receive national honor


Alice Kinerk, KP News

Beginning this year, Key Peninsula Middle School and Goodman Middle School will be opening their doors to out-of-district teachers who want to observe excellent language arts instruction at the middle school level.

The schools have been named National SpringBoard Demonstration Schools in recognition of their exemplary use of the SpringBoard curriculum. SpringBoard is the middle school and high school language arts program Peninsula School District (PSD) began using in 2007.

In the years since, students' reading and writing scores have improved on the statewide annual Measure of Student Progress, or MSP, test. The district credits the SpringBoard curriculum, along with hardworking and innovative teachers, for much of that improvement.

The schools earned the honor after teachers and administrators underwent a lengthy application process that included drafting a self-assessment, creating a video, as well as submitting a portfolio providing evidence of the district's instructional leadership, professional development and school environment.

"Our district is known for quality implementation of the program," said Claudia Thompson, academic officer of teaching and learning for PSD.

Now others would like to see exactly what that looks like in the classroom.

“Teachers and districts considering the adoption of SpringBoard may visit our classrooms as we demonstrate, through our teaching, the SpringBoard curriculum. We can show them the curriculum in action," said Vicky Schauer, a language arts teacher at Key Peninsula Middle School.

Peninsula schools benefit as well.

According to the College Board website, the schools each receive financial credit for professional development services; registration and recognition at College Board events, a customized school banner and plaque, inclusion in SpringBoard research and reports, and future opportunities to pilot new SpringBoard-related programs.

Published by College Board, which also produces the Standardized Achievement Test, or SAT, the SpringBoard program considers what students will need to know in order to be successful upon graduation and then maps the skills they need to master at each grade level in order to get there. The philosophy is that all students should be challenged with tough academic courses that prepare them for college or careers.

“An advantage of SpringBoard is that the skills and strategies build from the sixth grade up, so teachers at each grade level know what students have learned in preparation for the activities of the next level. We can be assured that the students are prepared to meet the rigor of each unit,” said Christine Fuller, a language arts teacher at Goodman Middle School.

Accompanying this approach is the need for effective teacher training.

“The professional development offered by SpringBoard is exemplary and ongoing,” Thompson said.

At multiple occasions throughout the year, regional SpringBoard trainers meet with PSD teachers to instruct them on the most effective teaching practices within the curriculum.

According to Fuller, trainings also offer valuable collaboration time with teachers at other schools and grade levels.

“Since the adoption of SpringBoard, there has been a more productive dialogue between the teachers in the district regarding the specific lessons and activities. We can support each other through struggles and also share in our successes. Students in each building benefit as they get the very best of the same units in the SpringBoard curriculum,” she said.

The schools join both Peninsula and Gig Harbor high schools, which became SpringBoard demonstration schools at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year. The designation lasts for two school years, and then the teachers and administrators must reapply to keep the title.