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Redwood Middle School and Silverado Middle School: The Best of Both Worlds
Posted 11/30/21

When does a large middle school not feel so large?  When it uses “teaming” to create a small school experience for all students. Redwood Middle School (RMS) has a long history implementing this model and Silverado Middle School (SMS) is ready to expand upon its current use of teaming in the 6th grade.

 

Bigger Can Be Better

 

Large comprehensive schools have real, practical, benefits for the students that attend them, such as the flexibility to provide expanded elective programming. Some parents fear that the benefits of expanded programming are outweighed by the risk that their child may get lost socially and academically in such a large environment. 

 

However, large schools offer the flexibility to create teams at each grade level. You might wonder, what are the benefits of teaming? In short, teams make it possible to create the benefits of the “small school” culture within a large school setting. It is such a powerful program tool that Chuck Dresel, a teacher at RMS for more than 20 years, recently celebrated teaming as RMS’ “superpower.” On a similar note, in a conversation about the redesign of middle schools, longtime SMS teacher Cathy Schillaci said, “Teaming has been an important part of our 6th-grade program as students make the transition from elementary school.” Through the teaming model, RMS and SMS have the best of both worlds. 

 

How Teaming Works

 

During a recent special board meeting, Mr. Dresel captured the power of teaming by explaining that it is “the glue that holds all other school programs together.” Each student is assigned a team with the same core teachers for math, science, English, and social studies. RMS principal Maryanne Christoffersen highlighted one of the benefits of teaming, saying that, “teachers are meeting in morning PLCs, in their respective teams, to develop best practices and support student learning outcomes with a particular focus on academic achievement and a strong emphasis on the developmental needs of all students.” 

 

RMS Team Hornets Teacher and Student

In a conversation about the redesign of NVUSD middle schools, SMS principal Jen Kohl noted that when teachers can meet together to talk about their team of students and their needs, they can “create a sense of belonging and tend to the students’ social-emotional needs.” From academics to social-emotional needs, teaming creates a “small school” culture, while also providing the elective program options that are only available in large schools. 

 

Positive Outcomes for Students

 

Students notice the impact of teaming, too. Ella G., an 8th grader at RMS, said, “it was helpful in 6th grade to share the same teachers on a team because it made it more like elementary school.”  Betsy Whitt, an RMS teacher of more than 20 years, presented student survey data to the board that underscored the impact of teaming in a large comprehensive middle school. In listening to student voices, she reported that 91% of 7th and 8th grade students are happy to be at RMS. In addition, 95% of students reported feeling safe and 96% reported feeling close to one or more students. At the same meeting, Ella G. shared, “one thing that makes Redwood special to me are the bonds that I have created with students, teachers, and staff members. It [Middle School] isn’t like the movies, for example, it isn’t as scary as you think, and once you find the right people to be around, it feels like your second home.”  


Since teams require flexibility, they also require large schools to be done well. “Although declining enrollment has made teaming harder in recent years as schools have grown smaller, I am excited that the redesign of our middle schools in the 2022-2023 school year will allow us to improve the structure of our teams and the programming we can offer,” said Ms. Jen Kohl. While Ms. Maryanne Christofferson emphasized, “We are excited about the amazing possibilities next year to use teaming to create smaller learning communities within a larger comprehensive middle school setting. It is one of the best ways we know of to create a caring and connected community of learners.” In fact, parents can be excited that the redesign of our middle schools will make it possible for NVUSD to improve its teaming models and offer the best of both worlds to our students.