Coolidge and Middle Grades Feedback and Updates

We spent the month of February visiting Coolidge’s four feeder education campuses: Brightwood, LaSalle-Backus, Whittier, and Takoma, to meet with parents and staff about the planning process for Coolidge and the new middle school. At each of the eight meetings, we provided background on the project, planning process, and gathered input on a few key questions:

  • What are you excited about?
  • What are you concerned about?
  • How should DCPS support families through the transition? What do you want to make sure we’re thinking about?
  • What do you want to see DCPS do to support EC staff members in the middle grades if they are not continuing with their EC, and specifically if they’re interested in transitioning to the new middle school?

Presentation from parent meetings is below:

We got a lot of helpful feedback from parent and staff communities. Below is a summary of what we heard:

  • What are you excited about?
    • Middle school and elementary students each having their own space. More space in the feeder schools for enrichment and other activities.
    • Traditional middle school experience for 6-8th graders. More space for both elementary school students and middle school students.
    • With a larger middle school enrollment, more comprehensive offerings that come with a larger budget – sports, advanced course offerings, world languages, electives, extracurricular activities
    • New facilities
    • One middle school for the neighborhood instead of four small ones can improve alignment with the neighborhood high school.
    • Currently many of the middle grades teachers in the EC’s have to teach across multiple grades or content areas. If they transition to a more comprehensive middle school they are likely to be able to focus more on one grade level and content.
  • What are you concerned about?
    • Crowding in the area with an elementary, middle, and high school in close proximity. Safety, parking, crowd control.
    • Proximity of the middle school to Coolidge High school. What will potential interactions and shared spaces look like?
    • Transportation, especially for further away schools like LaSalle-Backus
    • Programming at MS – what will it look like? Advanced offerings? SPED?
    • Transition challenges of bringing together four different middle grades and their own cultures
    • Teacher support – what will DCPS do to help middle grades teachers who may be out of a job post-transition? How early can these supports be communicated?
    • Will there be limited space or enrollment?
    • Potential to lose positive elements of each individual school’s culture
    • Support for families, particularly Spanish speaking families (but also Amharic speaking) who may need extra attention navigating the transition
    • Support for the EC’s as they transition to elementary schools – how will their budget be impacted? Will they be able to have the same offerings?
  • What thoughts or ideas do you have to make the transition successful for students, families, and teachers?
    • Lots of opportunities for parents, students, and staff to collaborate and build relationships on the front end – can parents get together and begin forming a PTA before the school opens? Can they begin collaborating on school culture and climate?
    • Communicate early and often to staff about what the transition will look like, what support they will have, and when they will have it.
    • Think about how can students from the four schools begin to build culture before the school opens – barbecues, retreats, sporting events or other extracurricular collaborations.
    • Home visits to EC feeder students or enrolled students
    • Bring students in to visit the new school before it opens

We’ll be continuing our engagement of the Coolidge community and its four feeder communities over the next two and a half years. In the more immediate term, we should have a proposed staffing policy for EC middle grades teachers public this spring, and will be at the Ward 4 Education Alliance meeting on Thursday, March 9th at Whittier EC at 6:30pm to discuss Coolidge’s planning process and building modernization. Join us!

As always, feel free to get in touch at DCPS.Planning@dc.gov.

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Eliot-Hine Staff Feature: Ms. Harrington, 8th Grade Physical Science

 

EH Sci. Staff_Harrington
Ms. Harrington, 8th grade Physical Science teacher
  • Where are you from and what experiences led you to where you are in education today? I am from this area and went to Virginia Tech. After college, I came back home and have been teaching at Eliot-Hine ever since. My mentor is my 9th grade biology teacher. She is remarkable, made science fun, and we still have relationship to this day! Relating lessons to the real world made her class so interesting. That is what I try to do in my classroom: connect and make every moment count
  • How long have you been teaching at EH? Six years. I started my teaching career here at Eliot-Hine.
  • How would you describe Eliot-Hine students? Inquisitive. They are always exploring, asking questions, seeking answers, and constantly learning. They love being here! They are appreciated and very loved in this safe space.
  • Share something about Eliot-Hine staff: No teacher or classroom here is alike. You will find teachers here come from such diverse backgrounds- those with a doctorate degree or some seeking teaching as a career change, etc. All our various attributes bring something different to the classroom.
  • EH Science Classroom
    Science learning profiles

    This is Eliot-Hine’s first full year as an IB MS. How does this IB framework shape your teaching? We really emphasize the IB learner profiles. These are attributes I would like them to have when they leave my class. A test does not strictly define capability. We focus a lot on the whole student and project-based learning. They’re so creative and excel when they’re asked to apply what they’ve learned. You’ll see a lot more discussion-based classes here. Also debates that challenge their mindset and expose them to various ways of thinking about something.

  • What are some new Science initiatives at Eliot-Hine this year? We have new lab spaces and equipment! There is a grow lab (an indoor gardening station) in the back of the 7th grade Life Science classroom. We also recently created a pollinator garden to help preserve the health of bees, butterflies, birds, and other pollinators.
  • What is something people do not know about Eliot-Hine? We are a Flamboyan Family Engagement Partnership School. Flamboyan Foundation works with four DCPS schools as Middle School Family Engagement Partners to implement high impact family engagement strategies that build strong relationships and engage families as partners in their student’s academic success. This allows us to do a lot home visits. We also have student-led conferences and goal setting is also very student-driven.
  • Describe Eliot-Hine in one word. Change. Middle school years are the years of transformation. We help with the precious transition into becoming  a middle school student and build up their character for their transition into high school. Our students become very resilient and acquire many life skills to help them adapt to change.

Stop by Eliot-Hine to check out their neat pollinator garden or meet passionate staff like Ms. Harrington! We will feature more staff members and their pollinator garden in the coming weeks.