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New Programs Debut at Huston Middle School

New 6th Grade Math Curriculum Among Highlights

The beginning of the new school year has ushered in several significant changes at Huston Middle School, including the introduction of a new “Big Ideas Math” curriculum for sixth-graders.

Principal Brian Ferra says the district moved to “Big Ideas” in part because it is the only sixth grade math text written exclusively for the new Common Core Standards. He adds that the complete textbook is available to students online, and the “Big Ideas” website offers interactive resources for students of all ability levels. He is also excited about its potential to be implemented into seventh and eighth grade in the future. “The professional development support has been great, and I think that part of the reason why is that it was developed by a Pennsylvania-based company.” Big Ideas Learning is based in Erie, PA.

According to assistant principal Ken Pruitt, “Big Ideas” emphasizes inquiry-based instruction in the classroom. “These students are coming from the Stewart School environment of inquiry-based learning, and it is our responsibility at the middle school to keep building on that,” says Mr. Pruitt.

Upon recommendations from its parent advisory committee, Huston Middle School moved to discontinue the Math and Reading Acceleration programs of the past. In their place, the school has introduced new Math and Reading Labs that provide both remedial support and enrichment opportunities for students.

The new Labs aim at bolstering achievement for students who are performing below proficiency on the PSSA, as well as those who are already at proficient levels. “We opened the program to students who met the proficiency benchmarks on the PSSA because there is always room for growth, and the growth model is very important now in the State data,” says Mr. Pruitt.

The “Bring Your Own Technology” – or BYOT – initiative introduced at HMS last year will continue. Last year, the school created a usage policy and developed network infrastructure for BYOT, which allows students to use their personal electronic devices for educational purposes during the school day. Huston Middle School rolled out BYOT during the second half of the 2011-12 school year, and by year’s end about half of the school’s student population was participating. Internet access at HMS is filtered by the district to block unwanted content in accordance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).

Under the direction of Burrell police officer John Marhefka, the middle school DARE program has been updated to reflect changes in society. It now includes components on prescription drug abuse, cyber safety, and other contemporary dangers. Huston Middle School also introduced new boys and girls soccer teams this year.

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