By Yasmin Bhatia, Uplift CEO
Uplift Education‘s nine middle schools are projected to serve 3,880 students in grades 6-8 in this school year. We know these are crucial years, as scholars shift from building core skills to developing the content knowledge and analytic abilities necessary for high school work and college preparation. With many new-to-Uplift middle school students, our data shows this is a particularly challenging transition. We must simultaneously work to help scholars make up for less rigorous elementary instruction at lower performing schools while also establishing high expectations and pushing for college readiness. An added challenge is the need to fully engage scholars in this environment of stepped-up expectations and deeper content through a period of great personal development. Understanding the “middle school mind” is essential in fostering their academic growth and achievement.
One of the first initiatives we’ll be starting with the funds from Communities Foundation of Texas will be a teaching fellows training program that will pair fellows with our mentor teachers to share their experiences and demonstrate best practices for our newer faculty members. Mentor teachers will have the opportunity to demonstrate exemplary instruction through sharing planning, modeling best practices, and leading peers in formal and informal settings. As an element of the fellows program, we will establish middle school “lab classrooms” in four of our middle school math classrooms to serve as models of successful teaching practices. Fellows will also receive extensive training before entering the classrooms as well as throughout the school and work with specific groups of scholars to show growth.
I am excited to share the beginning stages of this innovative program with you and see the growth our middle school scholars will show as we bring more of a focus to these crucial years.