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Centennial Middle School is serious about putting students first and it shows in the efforts taken to improve its academic supports. Kyle Bates, the new principal at Centennial, is continuing the efforts started by Centennial’s previous principal Gaye Gibbs. “My vision for the school is really pretty simple. We will continue to develop a laser-like focus on student achievement, furthering the work started by Miss Gibbs. We will work tirelessly to reform and refine the systems we have put in place over the last two years in order to provide the time, support, and resources necessary to ensure that all students learn at or above grade level in math, English, and science. We will place a special emphasis on closing the achievement gap for all students, especially those populations most at-risk.”
This vision for Centennial is what is needed to accomplish Provo City School District’s goal of improving graduation rates. According to Superintendent Keith Rittel, “We are getting every kid ready at the end of their prospective grade. This is what every teacher can do and this is what every elementary and middle school principal can do. If we do this all the way through 12 grades, we accomplish the graduation rate.”
Centennial efforts to support its students academically can be seen in the following ways.
5×5 Block Schedule
The 5×5 block schedule was started by Principal Gaye Gibbs and continues to grow in its success with Principal Bates. The schedule consists of five periods each day with an A and B day. Previously, the school ran seven periods of class each day. This allows more time in each class and more available classes. Students who are struggling in essentials such as math, are now able take two math classes. One math class is instructional and the additional math class reinforces that instruction and supports the student. Comparing it to having baseballs thrown at you one after another, every second, Principal Bates stated, “If you were not a skilled catcher it would seem overwhelming to have baseballs thrown at you every second and you would not be able to catch the baseballs. The extra support class is like extra time to catch each ball before the next one is thrown your way.”
Through the 5×5 block schedule, students are not only given the extra academic support they need, but are also given the chance for more electives. The extra room in their schedule allows more time for classes like band, choir, orchestra, dance, art, and physical education electives. This provides students more incentive to come to school every day. By re-calendaring the school year and cutting back assemblies and passing periods, Centennial was able to regain almost all of the instructional time that they had in a seven-period schedule with the added benefits of longer class periods and additional academic support.
English Language Learners
Over 110 students at Centennial are designated as English language learners (ELL). By targeting this at-risk population, and ensuring these students attain English proficiency, Centennial hopes to improve its overall success. This year, several changes have been implemented to ensure every effort is being made in assisting ELL students. Centennial has doubled its number of ESL teachers from one to two and classes from two to four. Three of the classes are traditional classes focusing on the acquisition of English and supporting students’ academic pursuits. The fourth class is much like the English, math and science support classes for students in need of extra support. Centennial has also tripled the number of ESL aids from one to three and made sure that there is a bilingual tracker in the tracking office.
Transitioning from elementary school to middle school, and then from middle school to high school, can be a scary and difficult time for students. Centennial recognizes that aiding in this transition is crucial to helping students achieve success. The school works closely with its feeder schools to make sure students are properly prepared.
Each spring, Centennial invites 6th graders from each of its feeder schools to visit for a day. Around that same time, Centennial also invites the parents of sixth grade students to a 6th grade parent night. The school works very closely with Timpview High School to facilitate the 8th grade students as they transition from middle school. Each year, counselors from Timpview come to Centennial to visit with the students and help them register. Timpview also hosts a Freshmen Orientation night for Centennial 8th graders.
Principal Bates wanted to reiterate the school’s ongoing commitment to putting its students first. “Our conversations always revolve around what is best for kids. You can see in the way the faculty and staff think, the things they say, how they behave, and what they do that they are very serious about putting kids first.”
Centennial has a caring and supportive faculty and staff working to ensure all students are learning the material they need to reach grade level standards and find academic success. Principal Bates is proud of the work happening at his school.