In yet another example of education officials de-emphasizing academic performance, Seaman Middle School is one of 12 schools nationwide to receive a School of Distinction Award from the Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE) despite having low, declining student achievement results.
Only 18% of Seaman seventh-grade students are proficient in math, and just 17% of eighth-graders, according to the most recent state assessment results. And in both cases, proficiency is significantly lower than in prior years. Similar declines exist for English language arts.
AMLE CEO Stephanie Simpson tells The Sentinel that assessment scores are provided in the application process, but they are not much of a factor:
“The program is neither an award nor a measure of academic achievement as measured by standardized testing scores (though that is part of the robust data the school provides as part of its application which is considered holistically by our evaluation team). Instead, the program recognizes schools that have outlined a continuous improvement plan and a commitment to middle grades’ best practices as outlined in AMLE’s landmark position paper, The Successful Middle School: This We Believe, now in its 40thyear of publication. It also provides schools with support and resources to help actualize their continuous improvement journey.”
Simpson says Seamen rated highly in other factors:
“Seaman Middle School stands out among other schools for strong commitment to middle grades best practices, but especially for fostering a school-wide culture of collaborative leadership and empowerment. We interviewed representatives across the school community, from cafeteria staff and secretaries to teachers, parents, and students, and every group felt valued and empowered as part of the leadership of the school. As a few of many examples, cafeteria employees shared how the school’s principal meets with them regularly to listen to their needs and learn how they could better be supported as part of the school community. The school secretary shared how she saw a need to offer another activity for students, proposed it, and was able to put her plan into action. Students shared how they know their voice is heard, that the adults in the school listen to them, that if there’s something they need, the school makes it happen.
“As part of the Schools of Distinction program, Seaman Middle School has committed to regularly assessing their practices and monitoring data over time, including academic performance, to ensure that their continuous improvement plan is producing the desired positive outcomes for students.”
First reported in the Topeka Capital-Journal, the school’s recognition is based on:
- Culture and Community
- Curriculum and Instruction
- Assessment and Leadership
Seaman officials celebrated their recognition. Middle School Principal Joshua Snyder says his students are meeting the challenges of more freedom and responsibility as they move from elementary to middle school:
“It reinforces the work we’ve been doing for a long time. All we needed to do was fine-tune a few things, and we did that, we took off.”
Newly-hired Superintendent Brad Wilson says student achievement improvement is a priority for him:
“There are many factors that impact student achievement including teacher quality and partnering with families. In addition to providing teachers with necessary resources and support, we will continue to work to recruit and retain the highest quality teachers while investing in their on-going professional learning. We are also conducting a building-by-building needs assessment, with the goal of ensuring positive outcomes for all students and keeping families engaged. Additionally, we are in the process of building a long-range strategic plan based on data and the feedback from our local community and staff which will be designed to ensure increased success for our students.”
High school results on the state assessment show Wilson is facing a daunting task, with more high school students below grade level in math and ELA than are proficient.