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Sixth Grade Changes Aim to Help Students

A change in the way sixth grade is taught at Unadilla Valley Central School is designed to boost academic performance and aid younger students as they transition into the Secondary School grades.

Previously, sixth grade was incorporated directly into the Secondary School , which consists of grades 6 through 12, all sharing the hallways.

But this year, sixth graders are based in the Elementary School, although they will remain part of the Secondary School. Their classes will continue to be departmentalized – meaning they will have a homeroom teacher and separate teachers for their core and special classes.

The special classes, such as art, physical education and foreign language are taught in the Secondary School, while their homerooms and core classes – English Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies – are taught in their own wing of the Elementary School.  The sixth graders eat lunch with the rest of the Secondary School and follow the same bell schedule

Secondary Principal Frank Johnson said there was a mixed reaction about the change from sixth grade parents. But he said he’s hopeful the change, which was made possible in part to a renovation project that required moving classrooms around in the building, will be a net positive.

Elementary School and Secondary School have a sharp divide, with students facing a lot of changes in daily structure and routine. One of the biggest challenges for students is sharing the hallways with older, and often much larger, students.

“It’s drastically different,” Johnson said.

But the reorganization this year amounts to about half the changes sixth grade students experienced in the past, according to Johnson.

Organizational skills and maturity level are the biggest obstacles for new secondary school students, according to Superintendent Robert Mackey.

The new approach allows sixth grade students to get familiar with the methods and expectations they will see in later grades, yet allows them to be in a part of the building near their old classrooms.

“We’re trying to make it more transitional for them,” Mackey said. “This should help both academic performance and will allow them to adjust to the level of independence expected of secondary students.”

There is an emphasis on sixth grade on instilling note taking and organizational skills in order to allow students to build a foundation from which to progress – and excel – at the higher grade levels. By focusing more on the transition and phasing in of the changes and expectations for Secondary School in more gradually, a stronger foundation is possible, Mackey said.

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