Mouths dropped as a young contortionist bent over backwards, smiles spread throughout the...
Dixon Middle School has fully aligned with Provo City School District’s increased focus on improving graduation rates. Since becoming principal this past summer, John Anderson and the staff at Dixon have worked diligently to tailor the school to meet the needs of its students and parents, all while preparing their students to succeed at Provo High School.
Dixon has set up their schedule to provide opportunities for increased student success. By doing so, a system is in place where every student in the school is provided a framework that leads to achievement. Additionally, each student is provided opportunities for any extra help or instruction that may be needed.
Dixon has created different tracks for each of the essential classes such as English or math. Students are placed on these tracks depending on their mastery level of each subject. Each class, as would be expected, has a set of essential standards that must be met before advancing to the next class. By placing students in the track that best suits them, and then focusing on the essential standards for each class, students are provided a clear path to know what needs to be done in their current class as well as the class to which they are preparing to advance.
Additionally, the administrations at both Dixon and Provo High School are working closely to ensure that students are prepared as they transition to high school. The high school is able to provide information to Dixon to show the areas where students are struggling as they move into ninth grade. In turn, Dixon is able to begin to address those areas at the middle school level to better prepare students for the transition. Both administrations are working extremely hard to make sure that the needs of all students are being met.
Morning Advisory Block
As briefly mentioned earlier, Dixon has worked to identify opportunities to provide students with additional instruction and help as needed both during the school day and after school. These efforts lead to the institution of an advisory block. This block is 35 minutes each morning where students can receive extra help they may need to learn an essential standard. The advisory block was first instituted six years ago and has been refined each year since. According to Principal Anderson, this year is the most refined it has been.
Preparation for the advisory block begins on Monday mornings before the students even arrive at school. Each Monday morning, the different department teams meet to discuss their classes. In these discussions, teachers identify students who may need some extra instruction or extra help in a given subject. They then discuss where these students need to go during their advisory block each day to receive extra help. In their homeroom class on Monday, these students work with the homeroom teacher to know where they need to go each day during their advisory block. Additionally, as a student goes to one of their essential classes, their teacher can put a stamp in the student’s planner which would override any plans made with the homeroom teacher and require the student to come to their class during advisory block.
In addition, students are given a grade slip during their Monday homeroom class. The students who still need to plan out their advisory block schedules then work with their homeroom teacher to plan out where they will go during advisory block each day. Enhancement opportunities are also provided for any student that doesn’t need additional help in their essential classes.
This is a weekly process. Each Monday, all teachers meet to discuss the students in their classes and a new plan is made for students in need of help.
Planners are an integral part of a Dixon school day. Each student at Dixon is given a planner at the beginning of the school year, which serves multiple purposes. Each Monday, students are given a grade slip that is stapled into their planner. This provides parents an easy way to see weekly updates on their student’s grades. It also helps students work with their homeroom teacher to plan out their advisory block schedules. Parents are also able to communicate with any of their student’s teachers through this planner. Additionally, these planners serve as a hall pass for students and help the students learn organizational skills.
Dixon Way of Learning
Dixon has closely aligned with the district and implemented the Visible Learning standard at the school. As part of this, they have created “The Dixon Way of Learning”, which is a list of school wide expectations for all students:
- Learn from mistakes
- Evaluate work based on success criteria
- Ask questions and accept challenges
- Receive and respond to feedback
- Never give up
- Effort matters
- Reach goals
- State what I am learning
Posters reminding students of these expectations are posted around the school.
Dixon is participating in the district wide PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention System) effort. As part of this effort, the school has created “The Dixon Way,” which states,
As Dixon Panthers, we commit ourselves to the Dixon Way of doing things…
- I Can Statements
- We work until we pass all I can Statements in every class.
- We treat all students, adults and property with care and respect.
- Bullying is not acceptable at our school.
- We use our planners everyday to be organized and prepared. Having a planner is the only option!
- We arrive at class on time and are prepared everyday, every class period.
- We use iTime effectively every day to pass I Can Statements.
- We come to school each day dressed for success and follow the school dress code.
- We use appropriate language at all times. Abusive or foul language is not acceptable at our school.
- We promise to follow the technology pledge and be good digital citizens.
- We take responsibility for our learning.
As a school, Dixon is very aware that they must help the facilitation of students as they come from elementary school and as they leave for high school. These transitions can be scary and difficult times for students and Dixon does anything it can to help students transition smoothly.
Every March, the Dixon faculty visits the sixth grades at each of the six elementary schools that will be transitioning to Dixon. They provide a snap shot of what the registration process looks like and what middle school is like. At some point later in March, the six elementary schools visit the middle school. They spend a couple of hours at the end of the day where they rotate through their advisory class, meet their teachers and walk through what a school day will look like. That same day, Dixon invites the parents of sixth grade students to come back to school with their students to see what their student saw. Principal Anderson was clear that the school reaches out in every way they can to the sixth graders and their parents to help prepare them for the transition to middle school.
Dixon also works very closely with the high school to facilitate the eighth grade students as they transition to high school. Each year, counselors from Provo High come to Dixon to visit with the students and discuss the registration process with them. Information about registration is then sent home to parents for students and parents to fill out together. The high school counselors then return to Dixon to collect the registration information. The eighth graders also have an opportunity to visit the high school to see what it is like and walk through the hallways.
As principal, John Anderson is fully aware of the importance of the work happening at Dixon. The work happening at the school is vital to preparing students to graduate and, in turn, to help achieve the district’s graduation goal.
Principal Anderson said it best when he stated, “We are all about preparing our students to succeed at Provo High and, in that process, prepare them for beyond. We want to tailor the experience, to the extent that the system allows, to parents’ and students’ needs and we will make every accommodation we can to do that. It is the community’s school.”