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Middle School FAQ

How does tefillah work?
Currently our girls daven in one group and our boys daven in another group.  Midyear we will begin davening with a minyan all together.  We use the Koren siddur created for middle school students.  

Are you having a KYMS student shabbaton this year?
Yes!  We are excited to do a lot of programming this year, and are just getting started!  Our shabbaton is a full shabbos shabbaton in the Lower Merion community.  It is the weekend of December 1-2.  Save the date!!!

What will “homework” look like?  
Students will be bringing home work that they did not complete at school to complete at home.  For example, students will be given time during Skills and Seminar to practice skills independently. If, for a variety of reasons, the student did not complete his/her work during that time.  The student would be expected to complete his/her work at home.  Another example might be if a student or teacher feels he/she might need additional practice of a skill or content to ensure mastery.  In this case as well, a plan would be made for the student to practice that skill at home.  Finally, students will be working on long term projects during the Project Block. It is expected that in order to meet different deadlines during the project’s  timeline, students may choose or need to bring home project-related work.  We have not begun doing specific work at home and will let parents know at the point that students may start doing work at home.  

How do we manage student behavior to facilitate learning?
We believe that conflict and disruptive behaviors happen as a result of “something.” We work with our students to be reflective -- to understand what that “something” may be, to try and understand the other person's perspective, and to consider alternative responses for the future.  We include parents in this conversation when we feel parents can help by continuing the conversation at home.  This might be at the point we feel it is a repeated behavior and we need to inform parents and implement a specific consequence or collaborate to decide on next steps to help a child work to change his/her behavior.

How is progress defined at KYMS?
We believe in the importance of both growth and achievement.  We therefore measure students in all subject areas - both General and Judaic - on a continuum of skills that spans all grade levels, rather than looking only at grade-specific benchmarks.  Our goal is to ensure that each  student, no matter where he/she starts, is constantly being challenged to move forward on their learning journey in a developmentally appropriate fashion.
What is a continuum of skills? 
A continuum of skills is similar to benchmarks and standards, as it clearly articulates learning outcomes we want our students to master.  It differs in that it breaks “grade level” outcomes into the actual skills needed to achieve that standard or benchmark.  It also differs in that it is not organized by “grade level” but by competency statements.  This ensures that students are always given the opportunity to move forward in the learning of new skills and are never “stopped” at the “wall” of a particular grade level.  

How do you track progress without giving grades?
All work that students complete is assessed through the Alt School Platform.  Each learning experience/piece of work has milestones/skills attached to it that are assessed by the teacher. This allows us to capture a wide variety of data regarding both academic and social-emotional growth in a low-stakes, anxiety-reduced manner.  The Alt School Platform also collects other assessment data from additional tools we use such as our Fountas and Pinnell reading assessments and our Ten Marks math program and integrates it with the other data generated by teacher evaluation of student work.  This robust set of data allows us to pinpoint areas of strength and weakness for all students, allowing teachers, students, and parents to partner in personalizing a learning plan that maximizes the growth of each individual student.  
In addition to the data collection built into the Altschool Platform,  we also continuously check student achievement against national norms. We use the Measures of Academic Progress® (MAP®), an online adaptive assessment tool,throughout the year to help determine each child’s instructional level, to measure academic growth, and to inform individualized instruction in reading, math, and language. As KYMS is committed to equipping students with the skills necessary to succeed in the ever-changing world of the 21st century, students  also take the College and Work Readiness Assessment (CWRA) which measures 21st century skills such as critical-thinking, problem solving, scientific and quantitative reasoning, writing, and the ability to critique and make arguments.  

How do you know if a child is mastering the skills at the rate appropriate for their age and grade?
The progress of all children is monitored by the teachers and administrators through the Alt School Platform.  In General Studies, progress is monitored against Common Core Standard/ Next Generation Science Standard bands of expected performance.  For Ivrit, the milestones are aligned to the standards created by ​The​ ​ACTFL​ ​World-Readiness Standards​ ​for​ ​Learning​ ​Language.​  For Limudei Kodesh, bands of appropriate progress are set in conjunction with our High School Limudei Kodesh faculty so as to ensure that the trajectory will sufficiently prepare them for high school Torah study.

What happens if they are not mastering skills at a rate appropriate for their age and grade?
When students fall outside of the appropriate growth curve, teachers will confer with their teaching team and with the student’s parents to discuss why that may be and what can be done to remediate.  A plan that likely involves intervention both in school and at home will be collaboratively created with a point person designated in the school to monitor and communicate progress.

How will I be able to monitor my child’s progress?
You will get updates through the parent stream, be able to check goals through the Parent Portal, and you will get overall reports at parent and student led conferences, and a written report midyear and end of year.  We are always here to check in, and will involve you early and proactively in any plan regarding your child’s progress.  If you have questions about your child’s progress you can reach out to specific teachers who teach that curricular area or any other team members.  

How does my child know how he/she is doing if there are no grades?
At KYMS, one of our guiding principles of learning is that “Self-Awareness Fuels Progress”.  We believe that when students take ownership of their learning, their levels of interest and confidence skyrocket. Learning becomes a fun and engaging process, whether a student is working to address a knowledge gap, or seeking out a new challenge. To that end, our educators continuously collect and analyze data on both progress and achievement, share data with students so they can build their capacity for metacognition and self-reflection on where they are in the learning process, and where they need to be.  Goal setting is an important part of this process, where students meet with teachers and set next goals.  These goals are documented in the platform and their growth documented.  Through this process, students are taught to take responsibility for their own learning, assess their progress, set their own goals, and revise their work and goals accordingly.   

How are students leveled (broken into groups or assigned personalized work based on skill mastery) during Skills and Seminar?
During Skills and Seminar students begin with a pre-assessment by their teacher to find out where they currently are on our continuum of skills in each particular subject area.  Then teachers group students with other students who are ready to learn similar skills (are on a similar level) for direct instruction and for collaborative/independent learning.  Teachers instruct and plan learning experiences for that group of students at that level.  Teachers reassess to check for progress and mastery of skills, and students are taught to self-assess and monitor their own progress as well.  This cycle happens every few weeks, ensuring that students are learning in the “just right place,” and that students are both challenged and supported. Even within a period of time that a student is in a specific leveled group, he/she may progress faster or slower than the rest of his/her group and the work assigned to his or her playlist may be different than that assigned to other members of their group.