Making Learning Irresitable for Over 25 Years. Making Learning Irresitable for Over 25 Years.
June 20, 2005

Health

6th Grade Health
In 6th grade Health, students study Nutrition and the function and benefits of the six nutrients. Students will learn to choose eating patterns that enhance energy, growth and heatlh. Lessons on Safety enable the student to identify threats to personal safety, identify and explain hypothermia and the approproate strategies for prevention and treatment. In the unit on Drug Abuse, students will analyze the impact of the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs on the individual and the community.

The Disease unit covers communicable and non-communicable diseases and their risk factors. Family living and Mental Health topics help the student resist persuasive tactics and learn to build healthy relationships with peers, parents and others. In the Human Growth and Development unit, students will be able to identify methods to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. They will be able to identify basic anatomy and learn about abstinence. Parents will have an opportunity to preview Human Growth materials during Parent Conference Week in the Fall.

7th Grade Health
The 7th grade curriculum is designed to teach students good health and safety habits and how to assume resposibility for their own health decisions. In the Drug unit, students will analyze the effects of drugs on the immune, nervous, and reproductive systems. Students will develop counter arguments to tobacco, alcohol. and other drug advertisements.

The Disease Prevention unit identifies HIV/AIDS as a sexually transmitted disease and explains ways HIV is transmitted. The Safety unit concentrates on first aid procedures and students will have the opportunity to become CPR certified through the American Red Cross portion of the class. When learning about Mental Health and Family Living, students will discuss strategies to manage stress, resolve conflict, recognize peer pressures, and promote positive self-images. The Human Growth section at this grade level covers abstinence, prevention methods of pregnancy and std's, and the names and functions of the parts of the reproductive system. This information is available for parental preview during the Fall Parent Conference Week.

8th Grade Health
The eighth grade Health curriculum builds on the topics taught in prior years. The depth and detail of these units is quite extensive at this level. The Drug Abuse unit assesses the consequences on the fetus and child of using alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Students will practice countering aggressive behavior by refusal skills.

The Disease Prevention unit enables the students to describe the cause, effects, an prevention of communicable diseases. Learing ways to identify persuasive tactics and analyzing physical, social and emotional changes that occur during maturation will be covered in the Family Living and Mental Health units. Suicide prevention is also a part of this curriculum. The Human Growth and Development section covers HIV/AIDS transmission and associated myths, recognizing the importance of abstinence, effectiveness of prevention methods, effects of dating, and setting personal goals for improving health and lifestyle. This material is available for parent preview during the fall Parents Conference Week.

Posted by Dr. Tyson

June 11, 2005

Reading

In 2003, the state of Georgia eliminated requiring a specific course of study in reading from the middle school curriculum. However, at Mabry, reading education is alive and well. In fact, improved literacy skills is one of our school's academic achievement goals. We have a reading skill that is announced every 2 weeks. Teachers focus on that reading skill in every subject.

When the state eliminated the reading course requirement, they implemented a new requirement: all students in grades 6 - 8 are required to read 25 books (150 pages qualify as a book) or 1,000,000 words per academic year. The emphasis is placed on reading non-fiction. This requirement went into effect for the 2005 - 2006 school year. At Mabry, we began implementation of the required reading during the 2004 - 2005 school year.

At Mabry, students are required to read 3 books during the summer (see the summer reading list requirements). These books will count toward the 25 book requirement. Additional summer reading is encouraged and will count toward the 25 book reading requirement if documented correctly on the student's reading log.

At the end of this school year, the top reader in each grade level was awarded an iPod. Combined, these 3 students read a total of 307 books in the 2004 - 2005 school year! See their picture and read all about their accomplishment.

If you have questions about the reading program or how parents can support developing their child's reading skills, feel free to contact , Mabry's reading coordinator.

Posted by Dr. Tyson

Presidential Fitness Award

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Posted by Dr. Tyson

Fitness Lab

Mabry received a grant in 2003 which brought a state of the art fitness center to our school. LA Fitness doesn't have anything on us!

7th and 8th grade students have the opportunity to use the Fitness Lab as part of the Physical Education program. Under close supervision, students rotate through the Fitness program. They learn correct form and how to use the workout equipment appropriately. Each student's physical fitness and progress are closely tracked through a computer system.

6th grade students do not use the Fitness Lab. For more information on this unique middle school program, contact .

Posted by Dr. Tyson

Instrumental Music

In Cobb County, students may begin instrumental music (band or orchestra) in 6th grade. Unfortunately, we do not offer beginning instrumental music in 7th or 8th grades. About 75% of our 6th grade students participate in the band or orchestra programs.

During the first several days in 6th grade, students are introduced to these programs and get to see, hear, and try a variety of these instruments to see if they would be interested in learning to play an instrument and which instrument would be best suited to them.

Detailed information about these programs is given to all sixth grade students at the beginning of the 6th grade year. Additionally, a information meeting is held in the evening at the beginning of the school year for parents. The meeting provides parents with all of the information they need to know to make decisions about their child's participation in these programs.

One final note: Symphony meets in the mornings before school. The orchestra director, , will communicate more information about this program to students and parents once the school year is under way.

Posted by Dr. Tyson

The PE/Connections Block

At Mabry we offer instrumental music, choral music, general music, and the visual arts as part of the Connections classes. Additionally we offer Business Education, which, while not generally considered arts or music education, is offered in this same block of time.

The instrumental music classes offered at Mabry are Band and Orchestra. A student can only participate in one. Each of these programs meet all year.

A typical 6th or 7th grade student will spend 4 periods in academic classes and 2 periods in Connections and/or PE classes each day. In 8th grade a typical student will spend 5 periods (because of the possibility for Foreign Language study) in academic classes and 2 periods in Connections and/or PE classes each day.

Health is offered for 1 nine weeks. When a student is not taking health, most students participate in Physical Education. A typical student's schedule during the PE/Connections block would be:

  • Health and Physical Education for 1 period
  • Connections (rotating through nine weeks of study in non-instrumental music, Art, and Business) or participating in instrumental music all year for 1 period

Posted by Dr. Tyson

June 10, 2005

Student Assessment

Students in Cobb County have a variety of assessments of progress. Sometimes understanding all of the assessment types and the information they yield can be a bit overwhelming. Here is a broad-strokes overview of the kinds of assessments.

Nationally Normed Tests
We have two types of nationally normed tests:

  • tests that measure how much you know about a subject area
  • what your ability is

These two types of nationally normed tests compare student progress or ability to other students in the nation as a whole. One typically gets results like: "I scored better than 82% of the students my age that took this test." For ability tests, one might get a result that indicates "I have slighlty better ability than the average student." I just made up these examples.

Our students typically take 2 nationally normed tests:

  • the ITBS, which measures achievement (or how much you know in a given subject)
  • the CogAT, which measure cognitive ability (aptitude)

Remember that nationally normed tests offer a good comparison with how an individual student compares to students of the same age on a broad national level.

Criterion Referenced Tests
These tests test how much students know related to a specific criteria: the state-mandated curriculum. The test given in Georgia is the CRCT. This test is very important as the results determine if a student is below grade level (a score less than 300), on grade level (a score between 300 and 349), or above grade level (a score of 350 or higher).

These tests are given each year in middle school in each subject. Presently, if a student in 8th grade does not earn a score of 300 or higher, by state law, the student will be retained in the 8th grade. These scores are used by the federal government to determine what schools are labeled as "passing" or "failing."

Local Assessments
The final type of assessment are tests that are given locally. These tests and quizzes are most frequently made and given by teachers to determine if the students know the state curriculum the teacher is teaching.

In Cobb County we also give another local assessment that the county pays for, the Performance Series, a nationally normed test that provides teachers with immediate feedback about a student's progress on more broadly defined curricular objectives. Complex formulae have been used to predict from these scores what students may need remediation in order to help ensure they pass the 8th grade CRCT.

Posted by Dr. Tyson

Georgia Science Curriculum Standards Links

You may view a thorough overview of the new science curriculum approved by the State Board of Education by clicking on the links below.

6-8 Science Descriptions: Approved (25 Kb)
Sixth Grade Science: Approved (51 Kb)
Seventh Grade Science: Approved (54 Kb)
Eighth Grade Science: Approved (41 Kb)
Benchmarks Alignment (22 Kb)

Posted by Dr. Tyson

Georgia Math Curriculum Standards Links

You may view a thorough overview of the new math curriculum approved by the State Board of Education by clicking on the links below.

6th Grade Mathematics: Approved (130 Kb)
7th Grade Mathematics: Approved (67Kb)
8th Grade Mathematics : Approved (71 Kb)

Posted by Dr. Tyson

6th Grade Social Studies

In the sixth grade, students begin to study: the United States, Canada, Latin America, Europe, Australia, and Oceania. Students will learn about essential historical events that will help them develop a better understanding of specific regions and their position in the modern world. Each region develops differently due to its location, climate, physical characteristics, and natural resources.

Each student will learn how the geography of a region impacts population, industry, human environment, and government. Different economic systems will be introduced, and students will describe the factors that cause economic growth. Students will also examine the presence or absence of the factors in each region around the world across time. Comparing and contrasting the cooperation and conflict of these regions will develop a better understanding of each region's political and economical systems.

Posted by Dr. Tyson

Foreign Language

Mabry has a very strong foreign language study program, offering Spanish, French, German and Latin. The first year of study concentrates on the learner acquisition of basic oral, written, listening and reading skills and comprehension. The German and Latin programs of study are offered before school. The Spanish and French courses are offered during the normal school day. All language courses are the full first year of language study from the high school. Therefore, these are rigorous high school courses being offered in middle school.

The typical topics covered in beginning language study are greetings, expressing emotions, making requests, asking and giving basic directions, and asking and responding to questions regarding basic topics such as self, family, school, daily activities, weather, etc. Practice allows students to develop proficiency with respect to proper pronunciation, intonation and writing mechanics. Through the study of culturally authentic materials, students learn to interpret verbal and non-verbal cues to understand simple messages in the target language.

Study of the target culture allows students to understand the customs and traditions of other people and to make connections and comparisons between the target culture and the native culture. At Mabry, foreign language teachers use a variety of realia including, but not limited to dialogues, skits, poetry and songs to teach language construction and to pass on to students more about the targeted cultures.

Posted by Dr. Tyson

Language Arts

Language arts focuses on the development and improvement of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and viewing. Our subject develops the skills involved in expressing ideas, both orally and written, as well as understanding the written and spoken ideas of other people. Language arts is all about assisting students in becoming successful as they communicate with others.

Our newly revised and strengthened curriculum will provide guidelines for teachers, students, and parents. These guidelines are called "Standards" and are based on best practices that have proven to be effective in high performing states and countries. Our new Georgia Performance Standards assure that skills taught in language arts classes throughout the state of Georgia are aligned with state and national standards. The state's language arts curriculum provides guidelines for instruction that help teachers, students, and parents know what topics must be covered and mastered in each year of school. The purpose of a rigorous language arts curriculum, guided by the new GPS, is to assist students in becoming successful readers, writers, speakers, listeners, critical viewers, and researchers as they apply, transfer and apply the strategies and skills they learn to all of their other classes.

The Cobb County language arts curriculum is designed to elicit evidence of students' language competencies through their writing products. Therefore, at each grade level, students produce developmentally appropriate pieces of writing. Students keep selected pieces of writing in a portfolio and often review their writings and reflect upon their personal growth as a young author. In the language arts classroom students will experience a balanced reading, writing and speaking program. The aim of a rigorous language arts program is to provide instruction that helps all students meet the standards that will not only prepare them for the next year of study but for life.

posted by:
Cathy Worthington,
Mabry Middle School,
Language Arts Subject Area Coordinator

Posted by Dr. Tyson

New Math Curriculum

As many of you are aware, the state of Georgia is phasing in a new math curriculum. The first year of implementation at the middle school level will begin next year with our rising 6th grade students. Each year thereafter the new curriculum will be added, first in 7th grade and the following year in 8th grade.

A few important items of note:

  • The new math curriculum will raise expectations for learning math for all students at all grade levels.
  • Repetition of topics found in the current curriculum have been eliminated to provide more time for teaching for understanding and mastery.
  • At the conclusion of 8th grade all students will be expected to have developed skills with rational numbers as well as understandings of important concepts in Algebra I and Geometry.
  • After the 2006 - 2007 school year, the need for the stand alone course of Algebra I and Geometry will no longer exist.
  • Because of the new elevated math content, the need for accelerated math courses in middle school will be greatly reduced.
  • Students can progress further with the new on grade level curriculum than they presently do with our current accelerated programs.
  • The new on-grade-level math curriculum will provide opportunities for all students to study math at higher levels and to prepare for advanced placement (AP) math course.

For those few students who are highly talented in math and function at levels well beyond the new math curriculum, Mabry will offer an accelerated math program. This program will have strict and stringent placement requirements.

  • In 6th grade, accelerated math students will cover all of the 6th grade curriculum and half of the 7th grade math curriculum.
  • In 7th grade, accelerated math students will cover the remainder of the 7th grade math curriculum and all of the 8th grade math curriculum.
  • The 8th grade Accelerated Math I course will cover topics traditionally found in the latter parts of high school Algebra I and Geometry and the beginning of Algebra II.

As you can see, the accelerated math curriculum will be extremely demanding and rigorous. Placement decisions will be made by the Mabry Middle School staff during the summer and no later than the end of the first 9 weeks of the sixth grade year. We will share the placement criteria with you before the end of this school year.

If you would like to learn more about the new math curriculum, I would invite you to talk with our 6th grade counselor, Mrs. Cindy Jackson, and/or visit the State Department of Education's web site.

Posted by Dr. Tyson

May 25, 2004

NCLB (No Child Left Behind)

Reflections from our Principal
In January, 2003, the federal government passed into law sweeping legislation, No Child Left Behind, that I believe will fundamentally change public education in the United States. The law has been described in any number of ways, from the religious right's attempt to get vouchers for their private schools, to an assault on "the soft bigotry of low expectations" for minority groups and the economically disadvantaged, to "either the most brilliant idea or most absurd nonsense to ever come out of Washington. We just don't know which yet.". Regardless of one's personal views, the law is without doubt a complete overhaul of our nation's concept of public education and school accountability with implications that are substantive and long-term.

The Criteria
As I understand the law at present, and I hear and read conflicting information almost daily as people try to make sense of all of the facets of the legislation, NCLB required individual states fashion accountability legislation that meets federal criteria. The federal criteria includes: All students in all public schools in the United States have to be on grade level by the year 2014, and all states are required to grade all middle schools (the criteria differs based on grade level) as either passing or failing based on:

  • 95% participation in a standardized criterion reference testing program related to state curriculum In Georgia the CRCT is used for all middle schools.
  • Demonstration of Acceptable Yearly Progress (AYP) for Academics based on the results of the standardized criterion reference test for all students who meet an enrollment criteria referred to as Full Academic Year (FAY) The AYP is measured not by school but by subgroups with 40 or more students within the school
  • One additional criteria. The second criteria, as chosen by the state of Georgia, is attendance: having less than 15% of the school absent 15 days or more.

Subgroups
An interesting and novel facet of the federal legislation is the requirement that all of the above indicators for passing and failing be measured by subgroups within the school and not the school as a whole. In other words, if the entire school meets the AYP indicators and the attendance requirement devised by the state, but the Hispanic student population or the students with disabilities do not, then the school is labeled a failing school. Success is measured at the individual subgroup level. If the subgroup has a population of 40 students or more within the school, the subgroups listed below are the subgroups used to determine if a school passes or fails:

  • Asian/Pacific Islander
  • Black
  • Hispanic
  • American Indian/Alaskan
  • White
  • Multi-Racial
  • Students with Disabilities
  • Limited English Proficiency
  • Economically Disadvantaged

Below is more detailed information about each of the three criteria used by the state of Georgia to meet the requirements of the federal legislation.

95% Participation

This indicator is rather self explanatory. Each school is required to test at minimum 95% of the students who attend the school by subgroup. If 40 or more students are enrolled in a school subgroup and fewer than 95% of the students in that subgroup take the test, then the school is labeled a failing school regardless of success in all other indicators.

For example, if a school with 1,200 students has 42 students in the subgroup "multi-racial" and 3 of those students are absent during testing, the school would be labeled a failing school even if those were the only 3 students absent in the entire school because those 3 students represent 7% of the multi-racial subgroup (only 93% of the subgroup would have been tested). Even if every student in the school exceeded all of the AYP criteria, the school would be labeled as failing based on this indicator.

Demonstration of AYP for Academics

In 2003 each middle school is required by the state of Georgia to meet the following criteria by subgroup for all subgroups with 40 or more students if the school is to attain a passing grade on the Demonstration of AYP for Academics criteria:

60% or more of the students in all subgroups of 40 or more students must attain scores on both the Reading and the Language Arts CRCTs of 300 or higher. A score of 300 - 349 is considered "on grade level" by the state. A score of 350 or better exceeds the state definition for on grade level academic performance.

I am told that the Reading and Language Arts CRCTs are averaged together to determine if the criteria is met on this indicator.

50% or more of the students in all subgroups of 40 or more students must attain a score on the Math CRCT of 300 or higher. The same scoring criteria for on grade level performance are used on this test as are used in Reading and Language Arts.

The above percentages, 60% for Reading and Language Arts, and 50% for Math, will increase each year (about 4% for Language Arts and about 5% for math per year) so that the state of Georgia will have every child on grade level within 10 years. In other words, next school year all middle schools in the state must have about 64% of all students in every subgroup with 40 or more students at or above grade level in Reading and Language Arts and 55% of all students in every subgroup with 40 or more students at or above grade level in Math on the state CRCTs in those subjects. The following year the criteria will be about 68% for Language Arts and Reading and about 60% for Math. The criteria will go up every year until 100% of all students are expected to be on grade level in all subgroups of 40 students or more if the school is to be labeled a passing school.

School Attendance Criteria

The present attendance criteria is rather straight forward: less than 15% of a school's student population for every subgroup of 40 or more students can be absent 15 days or more.

If a school does not meet these basic criteria as defined above, then the state applies a set of alternate criteria to the school's data to see if it will pass using one of these alternate criteria. If the school does not pass based on the standard criteria but could answer "yes" to any of the questions below (by subgroup of 40 or more students), then the school is labeled passing.

Confidence Interval: Using the standard error of measurement for the CRCT would the school pass?

Multi-year Averaging: By averaging the data for the past three years would the school pass?

Safe Harbor: Did the school make 10% or more improvement over last year's data?

Mabry's Data
How then did Mabry do with these criteria? Well, I am please to report to you that our school, without the need for using any of the alternate criteria, was labeled a passing school. Our students met all of the criteria set by the state and federal governments. We were among a minority of middle schools in the county that were labeled passing. About 48% of the schools in the entire state were labeled as failing schools. As you saw above, the criteria are many and stringent.If your school is labeled failing in only one criteria, the school is labeled failing overall. For detailed state reports about Mabry on each of the criteria, visit the State Department of Education links below.

Lest we become too confident, in 2003 about 12% of our white students, a subgroup that counts at Mabry, missed the attendance criteria. This is much too close to the 15% criteria set by the state for failing. More importantly to me, when students are not in class, they tend to not learn the QCCs that the CRCT measures.

Implications for the Future at Mabry Middle School
As one can easily see, students at Mabry Middle School score exceptionally high on the CRCTs. Our lowest scores are in the students with disabilities subgroup for math where 76% of the 99 students met the 50% criteria. About 24 children are below gradelevel in this subgroup.

Additionally, I would like to point out that the data reported by the Georgia Department of Education in the above links represents only 2 grade levels that were tested on the CRCTs. Many of our subgroups had fewer than 40 students and therefore were not counted toward labeling our school as passing or failing. However, some of these subgroups may have 40 or more students in them when all 3 grade levels are tested this year on the CRCTs.

At Mabry, the NCLB criteria are not our impetus for accountability. We would want every single child, whether there are 39 other students in their subgroup or not, to achieve at his or her highest levels. Labeling our school as passing or failing is not our motivation for helping every child attain. Our motivation is our unparalleled professionalism, our love for children, our passion for our subject areas, and our commitment to making the future so bright, ya gotta wear shades!

Posted by Dr. Tyson

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