Adria G. Whitworth

Jefferson Middle School
Jefferson, Georgia

Best Practices

1) Student and Community Engagement in Learning:
Jefferson City Schools’ motto is “Exposure to Excellence promotes Excellence”. Implementing this in a real and practical sense requires that we focus on student engagement in learning. To be an engaged learner, many different facets have to be taken care of by the administrators and teachers in a school while partnering with our parents and community for total wrap-around student support. Students engage in the classroom when they participate in solving authentic problems through project-based learning and feel like they are part of a larger community of learners. We consistently seek to find ways to engage students intellectually, emotionally, socially, and behaviorally.

To engage students intellectually, we task them with exploring new concepts. The answer to a problem is not always black and white. Allowing students to become uncomfortable in the inquiry process is something we impress upon our teachers. We embrace getting uncomfortable and helping students through the process of solving their problem. Students build confidence when they have persevered through a task and begin to believe in their own ability to succeed.

We engage students emotionally on many different fronts. Students have many opportunities to choose projects centered around a common concept so that they are passionate about their research and that it further relates to their goals as a learner. In addition, we have weekly social emotional learning lessons that support the students overall character development and help build confidence in their own abilities as learners and young adults.

At Jefferson Middle School, students are engaged socially when they work in groups in class, when they participate in extracurricular activities, have friends at school, and feel a sense of loyalty and belonging to the school. We offer every sport at the middle school level that is offered at the high school level. Students take pride that we are all Dragons. We have a variety of additional extracurricular activities to build a place of community for all students. Our Fine Arts program is exceptional and students can take courses in Band, Chorus, Drama and Art. All of these courses have an extracurricular component and culminate in an annual Fine Arts Night. Our Drama Club, Outdoor Classroom Club, FBLA, and FF A are extremely active and many students choose to participate in more than activity. Our schools pride centers around a common goal to achieve excellence in all we do – on and off the field, stage, greenhouse, court, and classroom.

We believe that Jefferson Middle School students who are engaged behaviorally go to class prepared and actively participate. Students often seek assistance when needed and choose to take challenging classes. We have an energetic staff that is passionate about their subject area and their mission to educate middle school learners. Students know that our teachers want to be there and care about their future. The confidence in knowing you are wanted, loved, and cared for helps students continue to engage behaviorally in class because they care not only about their future, but also the relationships they have with their teachers.

2) Success and achievement for every student:
At Jefferson Middle School, we believe that all students can learn and achieve at high levels. We do not believe in failure and set high expectations for our students, which are continually reviewed. We support students who struggle in a variety of ways by reteaching, redoing the work, tutoring, and extra help and time. Our goal is for students to master the standards in which they are exposed. Students admittedly learn at varying speeds, but we focus on the achievement once they master the learning goal not the speed at which they master. Our students will begrudgingly admit that we do not let them get by without doing the work. We follow up with parent communication on a regular basis and continue to hold students to the high expectations we have set for them. When students struggle, we have a thorough Multi­Tiered System of Support (MTSS) process in place to identify students who need learning assistance beyond Tier I instructional strategies. We work together as a team with the parent to implement Tier 2 strategies and interventions to support a struggling students while letting students know that they are expected to continue their hard work and create learning goals for themselves.

Teachers use a student-centered and data-driven approach to ensure the success of every student through the MTSS process. We celebrate academic success and conference with students in ELA and Math twice a year to discuss student progress and set goals. JMS teachers use the data to group students in class in ways that will harness the learning strengths of each student. Teachers focus on setting SMART goals for students through conferencing to help scaffold their goals in a way that isn’t overwhelming. Students who need additional academic supports are identified early by our academic screeners and teachers who work closely with our MTSS coordinator. Many of these students are placed in Math or ELA literacy as a connections course for support. The literacy teachers work closely with the hallway content teachers to address specific learning gaps students have. All students have access to tutoring and after school study sessions offered by teachers. Now that we eat lunch in our classrooms, we have begun to offer lunch-and-learns for students who need to complete work or receive additional help within the school day. We believe that the time we have them is precious and strive to make the most out of every instructional minute in order to capitalize on their success and achievement.