Summary: At Seattle Public Schools, advanced learning services are changing so that every student has access to advanced learning options.
SPS middle school science ‘goes further’ than ever before
At Seattle Public Schools (SPS), advanced learning services are changing so that every student has access to advanced learning options. One example of these changes can be seen within middle school science.
While most students thrive off the mainstream science curriculum, others find excitement in an extra challenge — known at some schools as “going further.” Students who choose to “go further” are given the opportunity to push their learning to the next level with more complex activities.
“I’m a big proponent of ‘all kids should have to struggle with content,’” said Leah Van More, Jane Addams Middle School science teacher. “You do have to struggle and wrestle with content and process in order to develop those skills of resiliency within your education.”
“Going further” includes additional aspects of a project that hold a student’s work to a higher standard. From increasing technical writing and computer skills, to separate, more rigorous tests and assignments, students are given the chance to access advanced learning options.
Although this has been a part of Van More’s curriculum since about 2016, SPS formally began providing examples of work — which includes ideas on how to get students to dig deeper into a topic—for all middle school science teachers during the 2021-22 school year .
Before “going further” was an option, elementary advanced learning science students automatically transitioned to high school level science courses in middle school. This was done to address their advanced learning needs, but it eventually became apparent that students were unprepared for the high school level coursework.
“That was problematic because students didn’t get the foundational science they needed in elementary [school],” said Alisha Taylor, SPS Science Curriculum Specialist. “By the time they got to seventh grade, they were taking high school chemistry and physics and they just weren’t ready.”
The program was also falling short in providing access to equitable learning experiences for every SPS middle school student.
This led Advanced Learning to partner with the SPS Science department to transform the previous system to support the brilliance of every student. The new type of instruction for middle school science is flexible enough to provide advanced lessons where appropriate and, at the same time, address a student’s need for grade level support in other areas.
The model of learning also acts as a bridge to higher-level science courses and provides advanced learning opportunities at a level that is more suitable for middle school students.
“I want every student in Seattle—with a special focus on kids furthest from educational justice, our Black boys and teens — to have access to everything that is amazing, that our teachers and schools can bring to kids right now,” said Deenie Berry , SPS Advanced Learning program manager. “They deserve it, and we have a moral imperative to provide that in every school in the district.”
Currently, middle school science teachers meet monthly to share tools and resources, and to discuss new ideas and types of instruction that consider the needs of the whole child. This will ensure equitable access to advanced learning opportunities for every student.
Advanced Learning also plans to hold a 2022 summer institute for teachers to dive deep into new teaching concepts.
While changes are being made, it’s important to note that advanced learning isn’t going away, it’s getting better.
“With ‘going further,’ every student has the opportunity to learn about science in greater depth and more rigor,” Taylor said.
The transitions in middle school science are an important part of SPS’ new advanced learning service delivery model. The shift will ensure every middle school science students receives sufficient, grade-level instruction — and that advanced learning services are accessible to all.