The History of East Irondequoit Middle SchoolIn the fall of 1998, East Irondequoit gained more than 200 students, an increase that was far higher than projected and far higher than the average annual growth.
The school district formed a broad-based Community Facility Study Committee to review instructional space needs throughout the district, as well as renovation needs. The district invited representatives from all school and community stakeholder groups to join the committee, which also was open to all interested parents, staff and community members. Approximately 50 people volunteered to join, overall. The committee found that schools were operating beyond capacity, due to rapid enrollment growth since the mid-1980s, the need for space to provide newly- mandated support services and new instructional program demands.
After extensive study in 1998 and 1999 of all possible options to add instructional space, the committee made its recommendation to the Board of Education in September, 1999. Options studied ranged from renting space to adding more classrooms to existing schools. After reviewing pros and cons of all the options identified, in areas from finance to instruction to community needs, at a series of brainstorming and study meetings in 1998 and 1999, the committee recommended the construction of East Irondequoit Middle School on the district’s Densmore Road property as the best option to provide for current and future students.
What is Middle School Philosophy?
East Irondequoit middle level students attend a building with a program that is dramatically different than either the elementary or high school models. Middle schools are designed to meet the unique needs of learners at the early adolescent stage of development. These schools differ from junior high schools which function as ‘miniature high schools’ with departmentalized instruction.
Under the middle school concept, teams of teachers work closely together with the same group or ‘team’ of students to deliver instruction in ways that address learning patterns and social and emotional needs of young adolescents. Through this team approach, teachers can create the nurturing environment students need as they transition from child to adult. Teachers also can coordinate their instructional programs to provide lessons that tie together different subject areas, so that activities in each subject support learning in other subjects.
Middle schools are staffed with counselors and teachers who are well-versed in the psychology of the early adolescent and who offer a strong exploratory program to help students discover and develop their talents. Larger middle schools are divided into ‘houses,’ to place students in a ‘school within a school,’ where they are well known by, and know well, a group of adults and mentors.
The East Irondequoit Middle School program was designed carefully to meet the needs of the sixth, seventh and eighth graders who would walk through the school’s doors on September 4, 2003. Teams of teachers and administrators, led by the Middle Level Design team, worked for more than two years to develop a program for the new school that reflects all the best thinking and research available nationwide on successful middle school philosophy and practices.
While East Irondequoit instituted many middle level program improvements over the final two years at the Eastridge Junior High School, planners also realized that systemic reform could best be achieved after seventh and eighth grade students moved from the facility at Eastridge Junior High School to our new East Irondequoit Middle School, and equally as important, after sixth grade students moved from intermediate buildings to the middle school.
Six grade students now benefit from a well-aligned three-year program delivered by common teams of teachers, working to individualize instruction to help students succeed on the state eighth grade assessments and to provide a solid foundation for studies in high school.
In keeping with the middle school approach, East Irondequoit Middle School includes two houses, named “Blue” and “White” after the school district colors. Each house includes two sixth grade teams, one seventh grade team and one eighth grade team. The white house also includes a combined seventh and eighth grade team. White house teams are based at the northern end of the school; blue house team classrooms are at the southern end of the school. Six grade teams are on the first floor; seventh and eight grade teams are on the second floor.
Sixth grade teachers work together in teams of three with a common group of students. Periods are 47 minutes long. Teams can use the time periods flexibly, for regular instruction, special projects and presentations. Each member of the team works with a smaller group of students in their individual classroom or “homeroom.” Every teacher offers a double period of instruction in ELA to their home base students.
Within each team, one of the three teachers specializes in Math, one in Social Studies and one in Science. Students move among the three teachers to receive instruction in these three areas. This allows each teacher to develop greater expertise in one specific core content area and to use strategies to integrate ELA skills into instruction in their core area. Sixth grade teachers can collaborate with the seventh and eighth grade teachers who teach in their specific content area.
Sixth graders also benefit from access to a broader range of more challenging ‘special area’ subjects, in addition to art, music and physical education, including Family and Consumer Science (formerly known as Home Economics or Home and Career Skills), Technology Education and Languages Other than English (LOTE).
Seventh and eighth grade teachers will follow their students from seventh to eighth grade through a system called “looping.” Teachers are able to develop a more seamless two-year instructional program tailored to the individual needs of each student.
The middle school instructional schedule allows the district to offer a more comprehensive package of courses that engage students in a more rigorous approach to subject matter and support for the mastery of critical thinking and literacy skills. New courses include combined Math/Science/Technology, a course that gives students a chance to use math and science skills as they tackle technology projects, Information Science and Critical Health Issues.
The new building and schedule also allow the district to support a more rigorous program for advanced students with new offerings in accelerated math and science and to offer an academic after school support program.