June 3, 2014
I spoke recently with the family of one of our sixth grade students about their plans for next year. While overall they were very pleased with their child’s experience at PHA, they admitted that they were thinking about moving their son to a large middle school. They expressed concern that because we don’t change classes every hour and don’t have lockers, her student might not be ready for high school.
Those parents were expressing very real concerns about the future of their child. They wanted the best for their child, yet they were distracted by their own expectations of what middle school is, like lockers and bell-schedules, combined with what they had heard about the PHA program this year, and were on the verge of missing a golden opportunity for their child.
This year in middle school was about establishing a coherent, rigorous and viable instructional program that met the Utah State Standards. Kumu Ward, Kumu Irene, and Kumu Van Tassell rose to the challenge and in one year totally reformed the middle school and accomplished our goal. Next year, together with new staff members with Expeditionary Learning expertise in science and social studies, the team will continue to aggressively develop the PHA middle school program.
Middle School students at PHA:
· Benefit from learning in an environment that is physically and emotionally safe, marked by kindness, respect, and responsibility.
· Hold themselves and their peers to high expectations for quality work, commitment to learning, and character.
· Take leadership in their schools and communities.
· Complete projects that challenge them to do the work of professionals – scientists, historians, mathematicians, writers, and artists.
· Work with experts and conduct field research to produce high-quality academic products that meet professional standards.
· Contribute to their communities through meaningful service embedded in the curriculum.
· Find joy in learning.
Research tells us that these are the skills and characteristics that teens need in order to be successful in today’s society. Today’s large middle schools with their changing classes, and fragmented and disconnected curriculum are hard pressed to keep track of all of their students, let alone guarantee all of them a high-quality educational experience.
At PHA, middle school students are Crew, not passengers. Students at PHA are not along for the ride. We engage our students so that they become self-motivated. When students graduate from PHA and move on to high school, they quickly make sense of lockers and bell schedules, but where they really shine is in the classroom. Their commitment to quality work and citizenship sets them apart from the crowd.
We appreciate your support and look forward to sharing the growth of our program, as well as the growth of your child. Have a great summer, and we’ll see you on the first day of school on July 28th.