Principal's Page * Academic * Discipline * Student Activities * Social Issues * Parent and Community Involvement
How do teachers decide what students are to learn?
Teachers begin curriculum planning with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), which can be viewed at: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=6148 The TEKS include the state-required curriculum for each content area.
During the summer and in team meetings throughout the year, teachers work together to organize the standards into teachable units based on what students should know and be able to do. The district curriculum timelines are a work in progress as curriculum is constantly updated based on the needs of students.
How do teachers decide what instructional strategies, resources, and assessments to use?
After the curriculum timelines are established, the teachers meet together in departmental teams to discuss how they will teach the required content. Teachers collaborate and share ideas regarding ways to make instruction challenging and engaging for all students. Specific teachers’ daily work and homework assignments can be viewed at by going to the teachers' pages.
Teachers participate in professional development activities that deal with differentiation, technology integration, effective teaching practices, student engagement, and effective assessment practices. Departmental chairs then facilitate departmental planning times in which teachers discuss and select the resources they will use to teach their lessons. Teachers also discuss common assessments to help ensure consistency of learning standards and achievement across the grade level.
Why is there so much emphasis on state testing?
First, we need to distinguish between the TEKS and the TAKS. We align our instruction to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) because those are the necessary concepts and skills that all students must master. These TEKS are based on national and state standards. We teach to the verbs of the TEKS, which include critical thinking skills (identify, compare and contrast, make inferences, distinguish, summarize, etc.). We also look at the nouns of the TEKS to ensure our students are exposed to all types of formats and equipment they need to master (graphs, calculators, probes, literary devices, etc.). We use the TEKS as a framework for writing the district curriculum and planning daily lessons that are challenging and engaging.
The STAAR test is an end-of-year summative assessment that measures how well individual students and the school as a whole have mastered the TEKS. The STAAR test is a very public measure of our school’s performance. The accountability rating (currently EXEMPLARY for all HPISD schools and the district) affect the schools’ reputations, real estate values, and perceptions of the quality of the school district. The rating can even influence the support and enrollment of our schools. However, state testing must be kept in perspective. It does not drive instruction; it is simply a summative measure of how well students have learned the TEKS.
We strive for day-to-day activities and assessments that are meaningful and challenging, but those are not publicized like the state testing results are. Some examples of other types of formative and summative assessments we use are class discussions, oral responses, student projects, student presentations and products, written products, student demonstrations and other performances, science labs, student displays, and teacher-written quizzes and tests.
How do HPMS and MIS compare to other schools across the state and nation?
Both schools are exemplary schools and are consistently awarded the Texas Business and Education Coalition Honor Roll status, putting them at the top of schools across the state. Both schools earned Gold Performance Awards from the Texas Education Agency for the highest levels of commended performance and attendance. HPMS was also recognized as a 2005 National Blue Ribbon School, putting it in the top ten percent of middle schools in America.
How can I monitor my child’s academic progress?
Begin with accessing your child’s teachers’ notes on the website. You can also see your child’s grades, schedule, and attendance report through Skyward. Four times a year, teachers hold “Open Team Meetings”. I highly encourage you to attend this informal meetings to hear about the important learning your child is doing in the classroom. Each teacher will give an update on their subject area and a Q&A time will be held for interested parents.
Additionally, if you need specific feedback, or if you have a concern about your child’s progress, I encourage you to schedule a team conference with your child’s team of teachers. Contact one of your child’s core area teachers to set up a conference. Typically, the child’s advisory teacher will take care of the details in scheduling the conference.
As students enter middle school, parents need to help them begin to learn to monitor their own progress and responsibility levels. Have students access their grades on Skyward and talk about their continued progress. Help your child learn to be his/her best advocate. By middle school, students should take the lead in this process while the parent provides support and appropriate expectations. A former Director of Admissions at UT was recently asked, “What makes a successful freshman at UT?” She replied, “They know when they need help, and they know how to get it.” Middle school is a great time to let students try out the process of approaching their teachers and trying to solve their own problems, while parents are close by to provide support and communication.
What if my child is struggling in the classroom?
Start with an email to the teacher letting him/her know of your child’s struggles. Many times small adjustments can be made that will make a big difference to the child. If the child still struggles, involve the counselor. We will closely monitor the child’s progress with you to see if we can pinpoint the cause of his/her difficulty and find a solution. If difficulty continues, the counselor may schedule a “Student Support Team” (SST) meeting to look more deeply into the cause of the student’s difficulty and to deepen the level of intervention. Some specific interventions that we may use are classroom and/or work adjustments, tutoring, small group instruction, increased attention to the student in class, and support classes in place of an elective.
During the SST meeting, a parent or staff member may recommend additional evaluation and testing to determine the source of the child’s difficulty and recommend appropriate placement in support classes. If regular educational services and differentiation activities do not help, a referral for dyslexia and/or special education testing may be needed. If you suspect that a special education evaluation needs to be made, contact your child’s counselor or the school’s special education coordinator (Debbie Morrison).
What type of schoolwide recognition is available for students who exhibit high levels of academic performance?
MIS and HPMS – “A” Honor Roll recognition; newsletter recognition for special events such as winners of contests, students exhibiting leadership, students who excel in some type of performance; postcards for various accomplishments
HPMS – National Junior Honor Society; 8th grade Awards Assembly. Students who exhibit a need for accelerated instruction may be tested for advanced-level coursework and/or talented and gifted services.
What about the average student who works really hard?
Remember, the “average” student makes up the bulk of society as well as our schools! We believe in providing a well-rounded education so that every student has the opportunity to pursue whatever school and career paths they choose in the future. We encourage every student to work to the best of their ability while we, the educators, work to provide lots of encouragement and an appropriate level of challenge for all students. Our “average” kids go on to experience very high levels of success in college and careers. Much of their success will depend on effort level, perseverance, drive for success, and passion for learning, rather than an IQ score.
What if my child complains of being bored?
Sometimes school is boring. Kids say this for a variety of reasons: the type of work they have to do doesn’t appeal to their style, the work is too hard, the work is too easy, they are tired, they have other things they would rather do. In today’s high tech world, it’s a challenge to keep kids highly engaged all the time. While we try to keep instruction as engaging as possible, sometimes students just have to buckle down and do the work because they are learning content or skills they simply must know in order to be successful in future courses. As the parent, use your knowledge of your child to determine if this is typical middle school behavior or something more serious. Contact the school counselor if you feel this is more serious.
How much time should be spent on homework?
Every child is different, and they will complete their homework at different rates. A good rule of thumb is that homework should not take more than 12 minutes per grade level (60 minutes in 5th; 72 minutes in 6th; 84 minutes in 7th; 96 minutes in 8th). In 5th and 6th grades, students have 70 minute class periods and a 35 minute advisory period. Don’t be concerned if the homework takes less time in these grades due to the longer advisory period. For 7th and 8th grades, students have 50-minute class periods and 26 minutes for advisory. If kids wait until the last minute to study, or to complete projects, etc., there may be nights where the homework seems particularly burdensome. Analyze the work environment at home. Are there too many electronics going around at once? Do your kids need a quieter environment in order to focus? Is someone monitoring his/her progress? If your child is consistently spending more than 2 hours a night on homework, I recommend a team conference with the counselor and your child’s teachers.
What is the difference between TAG and AP? What is Pre-AP?
Students are identified for TAG (Talented and Gifted) through specific district criteria. Fifth graders are served through Explorations and TAG math. Sixth, seventh, and eighth graders are identified by subject area for TAG classes. Teachers assigned to TAG classes are trained to meet the specific needs of TAG students. TAG classes are also offered in high school and are also designed to tap into the specific needs of TAG students (complex learning; accelerated learning).
AP (Advanced Placement) courses are open enrollment in high school. For AP courses, a specific curriculum is offered to students through the College Board. These courses are designed as college-prep and are aligned with the requirements for AP tests to be taken at the end of the course. High scores on these tests could result in the student receiving college credit. At HPHS, 80% of high school juniors and seniors take at least one AP course. Pre-AP includes courses leading to the AP sequence at high school (see Highland Park High School website for all high school
How does my child get into TAG? AP? Pre-AP?
TAG – There are forms in the counseling office; testing is required and is only scheduled at certain times of year (unless your child is a new student).
AP – open enrollment; however students must meet course requirements; discuss high school AP options with the high school counselor; teacher input is recommended
Pre-AP – All courses at the middle school are designed to prepare students for AP success at high school, however only Algebra I and Geometry are considered Pre AP.
How does a student “skip” grade levels and/or courses?
Tests for acceleration (see district testing calendar http://www.hpisd.org/ for dates) are required. For students in grades 5-6, a 90% or above must be scored on all four core area tests in order to accelerate to the next grade level. For seventh and eighth grades, tests are given in each subject area. A score of 90% is required in order to accelerate beyond the course. A conference with the counselor is highly recommended before a student takes a test for acceleration.
How are students placed in 7th grade math?
Most students will continue the course sequence and be placed in 7th grade math. However, due to Pre-AP opportunities for Algebra I in middle school, at the end of 6th grade a math placement test is given to all students. Students who meet criteria (90% or above on math placement test, commended on state testing, five six-week grade averages of 90 or above) are accelerated to 8th grade math as a seventh grader. They will take Algebra I as an eighth grader. These students are typically stronger math students who will end up going through AP Calculus at the high school. If a student is not ready for Algebra I as an eighth grader, and they still want to take Calculus in high school, they can still do so if they take a math course in summer school or double up on math courses in high school.
Sixth grade TAG students who are already accelerated a year in math take a math placement test to determine whether they should continue the sequence and take 8th grade math (which most do) or accelerate another year into Algebra I as a 7th grader.
Why is 7th grade such a big transition year?
Seventh grade is the entry into secondary education. Teachers are trained in a slightly different way which sometimes contributes to a different approach with students. Teachers in secondary schools are trained to teach with a more content-specific approach, while elementary teachers are trained as generalists who teach all subjects in a more holistic way. Recent changes in the certification processes require teachers who obtain a certification in grades 4-8 to have a subject specialization.
More classes, shorter class periods, shorter advisory time, more extra curricular activities, increased level of student responsibility and independence, beginning preparation for high school, and developmental changes (physical changes, emotional changes, more peer interaction and increased attention to peers) all contribute to the transitions students are experiencing as 7th graders.
Mid-term and final exams are new to 7th graders. They must learn to retain the information and prepare thoroughly for these exams. Because this is a new process for students, mid-terms and final exams count 10% of the final grade in 7th grade and 15% of the final grade in 8th grade. In high school, mid-terms and final exams count 25% of the final grade. High school credit courses follow high school grading guidelines.
Important to Know (now and in high school): Keep quizzes, notes, and tests organized throughout the semester; they will come in handy when completing reviews and studying for exams.
What courses are available for high school credit in middle school?
Health/Speech; Foreign Language (grades 7-8); Algebra I; Geometry
Why would I want/not want my child to take those courses?
This is very dependent on the characteristics of your child. These courses are tough courses in which students earn high school credit. Many aren’t ready. Many are. If you are unsure about these options, seek out your child’s input, along with that of his/her teachers and counselor. Your counselors have years of experience with kids this age and with these courses. Listen to their advice. Use previous data and your child’s study habits and schedule as guidelines. Some students need the challenge and increased work load, some do not. Some are developmentally ready and some are not.
Advantages of taking these courses in middle school:
Frees up future choices in high school
Students receive early credits toward graduation
First year of foreign language moves slower, taking two years rather than one
Some students who are not ready experience frustration and even failure
Some students are not ready for the increased pressure
Students may miss some exploratory electives
For some students, a second year of language, instead of the first year, as a ninth grader adds increased pressure for the ninth grade year
Do these courses show up on the transcript? Count toward GPA?
Yes, the credit and grade appear on the transcript. No, the grade does not count toward high school GPA.
How many eighth grade students are currently enrolled in the following courses for high school credit?
Based on 2010-11 enrollment of 8th graders only (513 students total):
- Languages Other Than English (LOTE) – 336 students (66%)
- Health – 415 students (81%)
- Speech – 397 students (77%)
- Algebra I – 175 students (34%)
- Geometry – 20 students (4%)
How will I know what courses my child should take in ninth grade?
In the spring, high school counselors will meet with students to discuss academic planning for high school. Written information will be given to each student, and parent meetings will be held with the middle school and high school counselors. Students register for classes online in the spring.