Middle School Academics

Students at Dunn Preparatory will be both challenged and supported on their academic journey.  We use a variety of multi-sensory techniques to meet the needs of all our learners.

In our elementary grades, we strive to provide students with a strong educational foundation. We do this by creating a classroom environment that provides a high level of student support that emphasizes small group instruction and a curriculum tailored to the needs of the individual learner.

The focus of our middle school is to teach students to use critical thinking skills such as collaboration, digital literacy, and problem-solving. This will allow them to thrive in high school and beyond. In elementary school, we use small group instruction to meet student needs. However, for middle school we provide separate classes for both core and advance instruction, depending on the needs of the learner. If your child will require additional support to achieve success in the classroom, we will provide targeted interventions. There will be an additional fee for any remedial programs that your child may require in order to keep pace.

Our standards-based instruction will be highly engaging and relevant with an emphasis on the arts, sciences, technology, and will continue to include a strong Biblical foundation.



Reading Workshop
We utilize a balanced literacy model that emphasizes student choice and authentic literature, along with high quality direct instruction that is delivered in both whole group and small groups.  Time is built into our day for independent reading, where students choose “just-right” books and teachers conference with the children about their reading lives.  In addition, students talk about books during whole group read-alouds and during small group guided reading instruction or book clubs in the upper grades.


Writing Workshop
Each classroom provides daily writing instruction.  Children are encouraged to write about topics of their choice while they learn techniques that writers use.  Classes spend several weeks in each unit of study, including narrative writing, informational writing, and opinion writing.  In the upper grades, students also use technology as they develop research skills and present using a variety of techniques including Power Points, speeches, and videos.


Illustrative Mathematics
We use Illustrative Mathematics for our middle school. Illustrative Mathematics is a problem-based core mathematics curriculum for grades 6-8 that develops students' mathematical thinking skills through questioning, discussion, and real-world contexts and connections.

With state standards as it's foundation, Illustrative Mathematics supports learning and achievement for all students with built-in differentiation for accelerated learners and those below benchmark. It also fosters learning at home with comprehensive resources for families. It's a mathematic curriculum for the 21st century - a curriculum that will prepare students to solve problems, reason, communicate and think critically in the classroom and beyond.


Standards Based Grading
Traditionally teachers focus on teaching, the attempt to deliver knowledge. In SBG (standards based grading) they also measure student learning, to understand the effectiveness of instruction. Instead of a single overall grade, SBG breaks down the subject matter into smaller “learning targets.” Each target is a teachable concept that students should master by the end of the course. Throughout the term, student learning on each target is recorded. Teachers track student progress, give appropriate feedback, and adapt instruction to meet student needs. Figure 1 shows example report cards that highlight the differences between traditional and SBG. 

Traditional Report Card
Class 1
Q1
Mathematics
3
Standards - Based
Report Card
Class 1
Q1
Mathematics
3
I can define a number sentence
2
I can solve number sentences that have brackets
2
I can solve number sentences that have braces
3
I can solve number patterns using two rules
3
I can estimate the answers of number sentences
2
I can find the the sum of two 2-digit numbers
3
I can find the difference of two 2-digit numbers
2
I can find the product of two 2-digit numbers
2
I can find the quotient of two 2-digit numbers
3

Figure 1: Examples of Traditional and Standards-based Grading

Traditional grading and SBG also use different grading scales. In traditional grading, students are primarily measured by the percentage of work successfully completed. The assumption is that higher completion rates reflect greater mastery, and earn higher grades. Often 90% achieves an A, 80% a B, etc. 

In SBG, grading is based on demonstration of mastery. Students attempt standards-aligned activities (projects, worksheets, quizzes, essays, presentations, etc.). Teachers assess the student output and choose the appropriate mastery level that was demonstrated. 

In standards-based education, teaching is responsive to learning. When starting a new target, teachers present introductory lessons. As students progress, they are offered more complex material. They continue working and learning until they reach the target.  Teachers regularly provide feedback, reteach, and offer additional opportunities to reach the next step. SBG is powerful because it provides a framework to regularly measure student progress. When teachers have continuous understanding of students’ mastery, they can adapt instruction to better meet students’ needs. This causes education to be more effective and engaging. 

In SBG environments, better feedback accelerates learning. Instead of simply giving scores like 9/10 or 85%, teachers give feedback about the task performed and skills used. This helps students understand their current areas of improvement, and helps them reach the next level. This positive environment speeds learning and students reach higher levels of achievement -- all while being deeply engaged and enjoying school.