Middle School IOAPA: One School’s Perspective

This is part one of a three-part series on implementing our new above-level online middle school courses.  You can also read parts two and three.

As we’ve announced, IOAPA’s middle school program will be available state-wide beginning next school year (2015-2016). We’ve already discussed some of the requirements for students interested in these programs, but what should schools and teachers interested in middle school IOAPA classes do to prepare? Laurie Wyatt is the learning support coordinator at Southeast Polk Middle School, one of our pilot IOAPA middle schools this year. She shared some of the strategies they used at their school to make middle school IOAPA a success:

Use upper level courses as a substitute for core classes.

“Students are taking the middle school IOAPA classes instead of other core classes. We did not try to add them ‘on top of.'”

Think about which classes will best benefit your students’ needs, now and in the future.

At Southeast Polk, Laurie and other staff used the information they had to create schedules that both worked with existing curriculum and allowed students to explore areas of interest. She also worked to ensure that the IOAPA course was part of a larger plan to continue offering upper-level coursework to these students:

“One 6th grader is taking the IOAPA creative writing instead of second semester of 6th grade language arts. Next year she will skip 7th grade language arts and take 8th grade language arts as a 7th grader.”

“One 7th grader is taking the IOAPA US History to the Civil War rather than the second semester of 7th grade geography. He is a TAG student, very high CogAT scores, loves social studies, and has very high Iowa Assessment scores…As an 8th grader next year, he will enroll in another middle school IOAPA class rather than 8th grade US History.”

“Two 8th graders are taking IOAPA US History to the Civil War rather than the second semester of 8th grade US History. Again, these are very advanced TAG students who already go to the high school for several classes. Next year they will be at the high school and can take a variety of advanced social studies classes.”

Create additional means for evaluation when appropriate.

Laurie’s students who are taking US History to the Civil War keep a portfolio of their work and present to the social studies staff at their high school at the conclusion of the class.

Determine how middle school IOAPA classes can work with your school’s schedule.

“After trying this out, we want to give more students wider, appropriate opportunities, so here is what we are thinking for next year [for 8th grade]:

  • We have 8th graders eligible to take geometry. Normally they walk to the high school for this class, but next year we will enroll them in the IOAPA Geometry course and keep them at the junior high.
  • 8th grade students who meet our criteria will be eligible to take IOAPA Creative Writing second semester instead of regular 8th grade language arts. Our criteria will include data from CogATs, Iowa Assessments, history of course grades in ELA, teacher and parent recommendation, any above-level testing. A portfolio will be required.
  • 8th grade students who meet our criteria will be eligible to take IOAPA US History to the Civil War second semester instead of regular 8th grade US History. Our criteria will be much the same as the ELA criteria and a portfolio will be required.

We already have an advanced math pathway in place. If we have exceptional students at 6th/7th grade, we will discuss them on a case-by-case basis and use the middle school IOAPA to provide for them.”

Communicate with other school staff to maximize student benefit.

“Our principals are really good about coming together and planning for the needs of students, and that is key. This would not work without their support. The other key component is that this has to be offered ‘instead of’ and not ‘on top of.'”

Have other questions about middle school IOAPA courses? Check out our website!

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