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Making Plans for Student Success at Garfield Middle School

The Massachusetts Personalized Learning Network (MA PLN) is hard at work helping public schools transition to personalized learning programs that put student engagement and academic success at the heart of their curricula. Personalized learning helps students learn how to think critically and engage with the world they live in while embracing their individual interests and learning styles.   

In this three-part interview series, MA PLN Senior Associate Karen White talks to principals and headmasters participating in MA PLN cohorts about their visions for personalized learning. Today's entry features Samantha Meier, principal at Garfield Middle School, who speaks to Karen about the school's work using personalized learning to help students achieve goals and make good decisions.  

Garfield


Garfield Middle School is part of our first cohort of schools in the Massachusetts Personalized Learning Network. Garfield Middle, a Revere Public School, is located on Garfield Avenue in Revere, MA and serves 510 students. Garfield Middle has a diverse student body with 51% Latino, 33% white, 8% Asian and 4% African American. Garfield Middle School is looking to incorporate more personalized learning practices so students are prepared for seamless transition to Revere High School where personalized learning practices are standard.

Karen: What is special about your school?  

Dr. Meier: Garfield is a special place because both students and teachers are engaged in the learning process. We emphasize teaching the “whole child” by providing social emotional supports and co-curricular activities like debate and…our teachers are willing and encouraged to try innovative methods of teaching and learning.  

Karen: Why do you want to create a more personalized learning experience for your students? 

Dr. Meier: We believe that students learn more effectively when instruction is tailored to individual needs and interests. Students will be more engaged and vested in learning when they have voice and choice in what and how they learn. We also believe that if students feel safe and valued in the school community, they will experience greater academic success. Incorporating personalized learning practices will help teachers and students have a more positive and enjoyable learning experience.  

Karen: What are the personalized learning program focus areas for your school?  

Dr. Meier: We decided to focus on digital literacy, project based learning, and building a more effective advisory program that includes Student Success Plans. We want to build a more effective system that supports students as they learn to set academic goals and make good decisions. By introducing project based learning we aim to increase engagement of all students, especially those students who are not experiencing success in our current program.  

Karen: Which of the Six MA PLN Principles directly align to those program areas? 

Dr. Meier: We want to build our advisory and student success plans around the principles of Social-Emotional Learning and Academic Mindset. We know that digital literacy is just as important as the other core content areas because of the world our students live in today. Engaged Learning and Next Generation Curriculum and Assessment guide the development and implementation of the project based learning program.  

Karen: What are some of the challenges of this transformation to a more personalized learning school? 

Dr. Meier: Our biggest challenge at the moment is developing a deeper understanding of the Six Principles among all staff members. We are addressing that challenge by incorporating the Six Principles into our professional development. All staff members are on subcommittees for each program area to explicitly design how the programs will be introduced and what it will look like at Garfield Middle.  

Karen: What is the vision for Garfield Middle and personalized learning? 

Dr. Meier: Our vision statement. Garfield Middle School’s vision for a personalized learning school is one in which each student is supported academically, socially, and emotionally to take ownership of his or her learning. A student at GMS will set academic goals, monitor, and reflect upon his or her progress through the use of student success plans, under the guidance of an interdisciplinary team of teachers who knows the student’s individual strengths, passions, history, and challenges. Each student will receive academic and social-emotional support through a robust advisory program that is tailored to his or her individual needs. A student will exit GMS with a repertoire of skills, knowledge, and dispositions that prepare him or her first for high school, and then for college, career, and citizenship. 

To learn more about Garfield Middle School please visit their website or follow them @GarfieldMiddle

Read Parts 1 and 2 in this interview series: 
Developing Personalized Learning Pathways at Holmes Elementary
A Technology Rich Project-Based Curriculum: TechBoston Academy's Vision for Personalized Learning

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