Middle school now ‘Kids’ approved

In the fall 2013, students at the Middle School of Plainville took the Gallup Student Poll, a national web-based survey that measures their hope for the future, engagement within school, and well-being. The school district this month announced that students of MSP ranked in the top-quartile of engagement scores of all participating schools in the administration of the poll.
As a result of those scores, MSP will be recognized with a “Gallup Kids Approved” badge on the website of “GreatSchools,” a nonprofit that helps parents make decisions about where to send their children to school.
“It was humbling and rewarding,” said dean of students Tom Laudadio of the middle school. “It’s the teachers that are with the kids the whole time they are here—it’s the teachers that make students most engaged—those quality relationships the teachers are developing.”
Dr. Maureen Brummett, assistant superintendent of schools said that although the poll is just one source of information, it served as a great source to learn more about Plainville students. The Gallup Student Poll serves as a new measure that “tracks the hope, engagement, and well-being of public school students in grades five through 12 (nationwide),” reported Gallup Education Practice on its website.
“Positive responses got us to that higher level of ranking,” said Brummet.
Brummett said she feels thrilled that MSP is “Gallup Kids Approved,” as the district has fostered a positive school climate and student engagement through a number of ways, including a research based system of support called “Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports”, that was implemented at the middle school during the 2005-2006 school year. Under this framework, students have been positively reinforced for meeting school-wide expectations, which are “respect and responsibility,” and they are encouraged to meet these expectations.
Brummet said students have been positively reinforced through various opportunities, including the MSP Express to Success Tickets, which students receive when a faculty member, administrator or bus driver observe respectful and responsible behavior. The tickets can be entered in weekly raffles or used to buy items at the school store.
“We have been very active in behavioral supports,” Brummett said, adding this could play a role in students’ level of engagement in school.
The Gallup Student Poll defined engagement as the involvement in and enthusiasm for school, which distinguishes between high-performing and low-performing schools. This section of the poll listed statements that students responded to, such as “I have a best friend at school,” and “I feel safe in this school.”
Laudadio said whether thinking about how the Rachel’s Challenge FOR (Friends of Rachel) Club has helped students make friends, or how the MSP Ally Student Group that stands up against bullying helps students feel safe at school, the middle school has provided a variety of positive experiences that may play a role in the way youngsters responded to these statements.
“Those efforts about kindness, anti-bullying—all of those things contribute to those higher scores,” added Brummett.
The poll defined well-being as “how individuals think about and experience their lives” which examined how students are doing today and predicts their success in the future. Dr. Brummett also reported that 60 percent of students reported they are thriving, adding that students responded to questions such as “Were you treated with respect all day yesterday” and “Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday?”
The poll also defined hope as the ideas and energy students have for the future, which drives attendance, credits earned, and GPA of high school students. This section also provided statements for students to respond to, including “I know I will graduate from high school,” and “There is an adult in my life who cares about my future.”
Brummett reported that 95 percent of students responded they know they will graduate from high school, and 96 percent of students responded that they have an adult who cares about their future.
While 85 percent of students replied they could “think of many ways to get good grades,” Brummett said administrators and staff will look at the remaining 15 percent of students who could not think of many ways to receive good grades, focusing on how their success could be improved. She mentioned one way in which the district has focused on student success is through a study by one of the leading researchers in the field of motivation, Carol Dweck, P.h.D., who wrote a book about the idea of “growth mindset.” Under this concept, individuals with a growth mindset believe they can develop their basic abilities through hard work and dedication, which results in a love of learning and a resilience necessary for accomplishments, stated the psychologist’s website on “mindset.” Brummett said the idea of growth mindset will help students “believe that can do it.”
Laudadio said the next phase of work for MSP involves ensuring that students learn resilience and perseverance, especially with the implementation of the new Common Core State Standards.
“It is a life skill kids can take with them through middle school, high school, and college,” Laudadio said, adding learning is supposed to be difficult. “Just because you’re not good at something now, does not mean you won’t be good at it in the future—it’s a matter of shifting our mindset.”
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