FUSD Transitions Sixth Grade Classes into Junior High schools
December 15, 2018
In the 2019 to 2020 school year, incoming sixth grade students in the Kennedy attendance areas will be moving into junior high schools, originally intended only for seventh and eighth graders, as part of the district’s larger plan to convert junior highs into middle schools. The district presented the change in response to the growing population in Fremont elementary schools, which had resulted in over 2,400 students overloaded to other attendance areas. The remaining FUSD middle schools will also adopt the change, and Horner is set to open in the 2020 to 2021 school year. Thornton and Centerville will transition in the 2021 to 2022, with Hopkins following in the 2022-2023.
Headed by the Middle School Instructional Task Force (MSITF) of FUSD school personnel, parents, and community members, the transition program has been in development for nearly two years. The introduction of the Measure E bond in 2014 granted California schools funding for renovation, and repairs and opened up the possibility of changing the original junior high school system. The transition was not only created to tackle overcrowding, but also to align with the California Common Core state standards, which go from third to fifth grade, sixth to eighth grade, ninth to tenth grade, and eleventh to twelfth grade. By moving the sixth grade class into junior high schools, the district hopes to follow the the sixth to eighth grade framework of the state standards.
“Less than three and a half percent of California districts have the standard seventh to eighth grade model,” said Mr. Cain, Horner’s Middle School Transition Program Manager when asked about how the transition aligned with the current CA state standards. “Roughly ninety percent of school districts have the middle school sixth-seventh-eighth system, so having one in the standards is a no brainer in that sense.”
The sixth grade class will have a six-period schedule, but the curriculum will not change. The honors system will not start until seventh grade, and students will still continue to take the 6th grade math placement test that determines their math class for the next year. GATE-identified students will be taught by GATE certified teachers, but these students will not be put into a special class and will take normal classes with their peers.
Perhaps the greatest change is the introduction of the CORE system, where two subjects such as Math and Science or English Language Arts & Social Studies would be taught by one teacher for two consecutive periods. The goal is for elementary school teachers to transition with the students into junior high schools, where they will continue teaching sixth graders through the CORE program.
“We want to keep our teachers here at Fremont,” Cain said. “In the sixth grade model that we created, it’s really meant for a multiple subject credential teacher to teach it. . . [such as] an elementary school teacher.”
Sixth grade students will also have an electives “wheel”, which will expose them to the study of different languages, introductory music, arts, computers, design, civics, creative writing, programming, and other subjects. In total, students will have around four teachers, and Special Education students or English Language learners will have five.
Elementary schools have worked towards helping students adjust to the transition. In Warm Springs, teachers have worked towards familiarizing students with a six-period schedule.
“In my own class, I try to have students prepare a notebook and folder for each subject and block out times for the different subjects,” said Ms. Chou, a sixth grade teacher at Warm Springs.
Through the change, the district hopes to lessen the overloading at elementary schools and improve students’ middle school experiences.
“Junior high has a lot going on with each and every student,” Cain said. “You’re going into these uncharted waters where six other elementary schools are there too. By just having the two years, by the time the teachers start to know the student and you as an individual begin to grasp who you are, you’re already going to high school. Having you for the three years is really going to help support the social and emotional needs of students. It’s going to help build relationships on campus with each other.”