Middle States Strategic Plan

Goal Statement #1

By 2016, 100% of students in grades 3 through 8 will be competent in the specific expository writing text patterns of summarization, comparison, description, cause/effect, and problem/solution.  Competency is defined as 80% performance measured by the rubrics for the six traits of writing. By 2021, as per the Common Core State Standards, narrative, expository, and opinion/argument writings will be incorporated routinely into lesson/unit plans across the curriculum.  We will review and revise our writing goals through the designated annual reviews.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has incorporated the Common Core State Standards into our curriculum, and Sacred Heart is in the process of implementing them.  CCSS offer a focused educational framework which expects students to become strong critical thinkers and capable communicators.  The Standards require that reading focus needs to move away from reading to accumulate information, to reading to discern ideas and concepts and analyze texts critically for reasoning and perspective.  This is done in a staircase fashion with masteries acquired each year.  Writing is given equal weight with reading not only in ELA, but also in the Content Areas.  As the Sacred Heart faculty works to craft lessons that  incorporate the skills, strategies, and understandings  students are expected to master, they recognized the importance of a student’s ability to articulate his/her thoughts in writing in an organized and clear manner.

Recognizing the need to increase the amount of writing across the curriculum, the faculty chose to be as specific as possible.  Our focus over the next three years will not be limited to expository writing, but will focus most intensely in this area.  Our belief is that if we can have students organize their learnings into well crafted sentences or a paragraph or three to five paragraph essays or five page papers, they will truly become stronger critical and analytical thinkers.  Our goal is to get them to write using specific text patterns and as per the Standards to have students writing across the curriculum.

The faculty chose to adopt the six traits of writing in order to create consistency throughout the grades.  While some teachers are familiar with this format, it is new in our content areas. As expected the teachers are going through a learning process themselves as they incorporate meaningful writing assignments in all subject areas.
All teachers (except Music and Art) are gathering samples of student writings with the expectation that they will meet to discuss successes and struggles.  While this has been done informally, we plan to meet each trimester to discuss student progress and needs.  (This winter has not been kind to us, and we have not been able to meet yet.  There is a faculty meeting on March 10th and this is expected to be one of the topics.)

Creating and standardizing rubrics will be another task that will take possibly two years.  Teachers are creating, borrowing, and sharing many types and styles of rubric.  Our goal is to have student friendly rubrics, which the students will also eventually use for self-reflection.  We will be evaluating and assessing many rubrics and plan to have at least one common rubric for a grade band (primary, intermediate, and middle school.)

This leads to measuring the competency that we expect in our students.  Our goal is to have students ready by the spring of 2016 to take on performance assessments designed for all Archdiocesan students.  The expectation is that the assessment will have students read the task requirements, perform the necessary objectives, and reflect on, analyze, and/or evaluate the topic in some way.  Students in grades 3 to 8 will be expected to complete the assessment independently, with the teacher acting more as facilitator.  Primary grades will determine the level of independence that their students can manage.  The faculty believes that students need multiple opportunities to become successful writers, and that this process requires time, not only for students to practice and hone the craft, but also for teachers to create or implement critical thinking and writing lessons and develop meaningful rubrics.    The teachers will assess the student writings in 2015 against our measured goal. We expect to understand better the demands that these assessments place on our students, and determine how we can insure a high mastery rate with all or most aspects of the performance assessment being completed independently.

Regarding the years beyond 2016.  It is difficult for us to say precisely where our attention will be focused.  We will evaluate our progress in 2015, and again formally in 2016.  The results of 2016 will guide us in determining actual student readiness and what we can do to improve or advance.  The faculty is committed to Common Core and as such, need to also focus on narrative writing, as well as, opinion/argument writing.  Incorporating these writing types into our curriculum is also an ongoing effort.  While the focus currently is on expository writing, we are also having students write in the other styles.  Should we be successful in achieving mastery as per our stated goal, we will begin to focus our efforts on maintaining this mastery and expanding our expectations for the opinion/argument writing.

As per Common Core State Standards, over the next seven years we will be focusing on specific areas which will likely overlap time wise.

  • Continued professional development in writing in the content areas
  • Incorporating more non-fiction reading and writing across all grade levels (K – 8)
  • Increased emphasis on opinion/argument writing
  • Developing integrated lesson plans and unit plans which allow students to study topics across the curriculum.
  • Focus lesson plans on higher-order comprehension instruction, thus aiding our writing program.

Goal Statement #2

By 2016, the faith life of all students will have been nurtured in all grades, in helping all to reach their fullest spiritual potential by learning, internalizing, reflecting, and applying the teachings of the Ten Commandments and the Works of Mercy.  Ongoing assessment will be realized by the quality of completed Religion contracts relative to the Ten Commandments and the Works of Mercy, in the merit of the implementation of performance assessments, and in the number and intensity of participants in service activities that demonstrate these Catholic teachings in daily living.

In the years beyond 2016, our specific focus will develop naturally depending upon the children we are teaching and the needs of our school and Church. Listed below are topics we expect to include.  We will follow the same pattern of study as noted on p 170 – 172 of our Self Study.

  • The study of the virtues and how we can meet them
  • Focus on respect and acceptance of one another. Incorporate a Respect Program.
  • Reviewing the Social Justice Themes. To find them in action and to seek ways to live them.
  • Exposure to different types of prayer. The meaning of prayer.