Athletes reference it. So do successful corporations such as Apple, Google, and Ford.
It’s about making sure your middle — your primary business if you will — is as strong as possible. By making sure that is the case you can build on your success.
It’s the same concept that is prompting Manteca Unified to undertake what could be a year-long look at what it is doing right and consequently what it is doing wrong when it comes to educating students at the sixth, seventh and eighth grade levels.
Typically districts — including Manteca Unified in the past — examine the needs of sixth, seventh and eighth graders in terms of a middle school or junior high approach.
But, as Manteca Unified Superintendent Jason Messer noted, those are vehicles more than they are programs.
What he would like the district to do is look at Manteca Unified strengths in its curriculum and other offerings at the middle grade levels and then take note of needs.
A committee will be charged with the task. It will consist of 10 members — middle school teachers, administrators, and a board member that has a student at that age level. After they have finished their report, the committee will be disbanded and the report presented to the school board which will decide the next step to take.
Messer noted the district has put a lot of effort into strengthening the foundation years through the fifth grade including adding pre-kindergarten. At the same time they have strengthened academics at the high school level with more advanced placement offerings as well as rolling out the be.tech vocational academics to create pathways for students after their gradate whether it is to pursue higher education or directly enter the workforce.
“We have a lot of strong teachers at the middle level,” Messer said. “Because of that I believe we can effectively look at all options at (further improving) education at those levels.”
Messer compared the current approach to education in the K-12 format at a rubber band. Bids to enhance what happens in the classroom are typically concentrated on the elementary and high school levels with efforts being stretched in those directions.”
“We need to connect and energize students at the middle school level,” Messer said.
The superintendent said there are many students that the district is effectively doing that for now. Messer also noted many parents may be pleased with what is happening currently at the middle school level. But at the same time the effort may not be as effective in connecting with some members of what he referred to as “the X-Box generation.”
Messer said the end result could entail deciding one size doesn’t fit all and devising and implementing programs that are effective at reaching different students in different ways.
Messer noted that the board’s rethinking of the programs Manteca Unified Student Trust offers that they plan to bring back into the district’s fold is part of that examination of what works, what doesn’t work, and what is lacking to engage students more effectively at the middle school level.
MUST currently is an inter-school sports program. The district is pondering options that could replace it with fitness style programs or make is a combination of both approaches. It could even include non-sports clubs and such.
As for what options would be explored for middle school learning, Messer said everything is on the table such as potentially incorporating online courses in some fashion.