Friday, June 15, 2007
Carlisle's fifth grade moves to "middle school"
Starting next fall, fifth graders at the Carlisle School will switch classes, alternating between two teachers for different subjects, and as the new teaching format was announced at the June 6 Carlisle School Committee (CSC) meeting, Chair Nicole Burkel said, "We've assigned fifth grade to the middle school."
Carlisle School Superintendent Marie Doyle, speaking for Middle School Principal Paul Graseck who was ill, explained the fifth grade's new dyad structure to the committee. The fifth grade will have two teams of two teachers, with each teacher responsible for two subjects, such as language arts and social studies, or math and science. After homeroom, students will move to classes, similar to the school day for upper middle school classes.
Doyle said that the teachers are excited about the change, because it gives them the opportunity to "master the curriculum." Science teacher Al Ticotsky has volunteered to move to fifth grade, Doyle added, because he "likes teaching two subjects." The traditional structure of fifth grade has been self-contained classrooms, taught by one teacher.
Committee member Chad Koski noted that the new structure "sounds like a good transition step...." Doyle said the "two-person team is a nice stepping stone to a four-person team," the structure in sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
Committee member Dale Ryder, while agreeing that the dyad structure will ease transition into the middle school, said the way the change was communicated to parents initially "diluted" the benefits. She learned about the new structure through the Carlisle School online newsletter, the Buzz, and then learned of an orientation meeting for parents of incoming fifth-graders. She said, "In the future when we have this kind of a major change I would hope there would be some kind of communication in advance so we don't find out about it in the Buzz.
In an e-mail, Graseck explained the timing of the notification was delayed because future staffing levels were uncertain until after the town voted on the budget override in May. He said the Middle School Task Force discussed the structure "early in the year, and then tabled it until we knew who our teachers would be."
Doyle agreed with Burkel that the new format brought fifth grade in line with the middle school. She noted that in the past, the fifth grade has been the grade in the middle, not quite in either the elementary level or in the middle school. "We're making attempts to include the fifth grade," she added. Graseck addressed this in his e-mail, saying, "This solidly moves the fifth grade into middle school: no more self-contained classroom, same schedule as sixth, seventh and eighth. I think it will work well."
About 40 parents attended and brought questions to the fifth-grade parent meeting held on June 11. Next year's fifth grade will be taught by: Jen Reinhard teamed with Kendra Katz, and Jennifer Putnam working with Al Ticotsky on the second team. Reinhard has taught in Carlisle for eleven years, Katz one year, Ticotsky has been teaching at the school for thirty-two years, and Putnam for eleven years. "We've been talking about this [new structure] for a number of years," Putnam said.
In regards to report cards, students will receive their grades from the teacher who taught the specific subject. The two members of each teaching team will have side-by-side classrooms and the students will travel from class to class for their subjects. On Carlisle School's Move-up Day, the future fifth graders will go to their assigned homerooms, and will also visit the classroom of the other teacher on the child's team.
At the CSC meeting committee member Michael Fitzgerald asked if the change would impact the Special Educator assignments. Director of Student Services Karen Slack said two Special Educators have been working with the future fifth graders, and she envisions the same assignment, with one Special Educator sharing time with another grade. However, at the parent meeting they were told a single special educator would work with the class.
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