Standard I: The School Maintains and Communicates a purpose and direction that commit to high expectations for learning as well as shared values and beliefs about teaching and learning.
The vision of Simons Middle School is to become a "School of Distinction." Our mission is to teach and guide today's learners into tomorrow's leaders. At Simons, our purpose is clear. We are committed to establishing and maintaining a culture that encompasses high expectations for learning based on shared values and beliefs about teaching and learning.
Teaching and guiding the future leaders of our community is a responsibility that we take very seriously. Additionally, carrying out this responsibility takes hard work and commitment. At Simons, we pledge daily to adhere to "The Cougar Promise": Learn Daily, Laugh Often, Lead Respectfully, and Live Responsibly. This promise is an affirmation of our commitment to student success and is our shared belief about what teaching and learning look like. Each school day we begin with morning announcements. Before wishing our students, staff, and faculty a great day, our principal reminds us of our Cougar Promise. This prelude to the instructional day reiterates the purpose and direction we share for high expectations for learning and our beliefs about teaching and learning. When a faculty and/or staff member witnesses a student demonstrating the characteristics of "The Cougar Promise", that student is awarded for their distinct behavior with a Cougar Pride Card. Awarding these cards to students who demonstrate their commitment to learning and leading has proven to be an effective process to clearly communicate the purpose and direction we have for student success at SMS.
In addition to awarding our Cougar Pride cards to students for their distinct behavior, we also send home Good News postcards to students who demonstrate their commitment to learning and leading at SMS. These quick "good notes" allow us to brag on students and communicate with parents. This process has also proven to be an effective way to clearly communicate our purpose and direction at SMS.
To ensure that our purpose and direction remain clear, we follow a continuous improvement plan known as "The Cougar Way". At SMS, we believe high student achievement is the product of having clear direction, engagement within the classroom, and an ongoing evaluation system to achieve results that will improve the classroom learning system. "The Cougar Way" is a 2-part approach to continuous improvement. The first part of "The Cougar Way" is our Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA) approach to classroom, planning, implementation, and assessment. Our PDSAs allows us to plan instruction and activities to target specific standards in collaboration with our students in every class. This system also allows us to analyze assessment data and plan for next steps in collaboration with our students. Student voice is a huge component of "The Cougar Way" and allows students to share in the learning and leading at SMS. The second part of "The Cougar Way" is the work we complete in our Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). To establish and maintain our purpose and direction, we have weekly PLC meetings for each content area. In these PLCs, summative assessment data is shared and analyzed, as well as specific, relevant observation data collected from administrators to improve the classroom learning environment, ensure that there are high expectations in every class, ensure that the learning environment is supportive, active, well-managed, that student progress is monitored and feedback is provided, and that digital learning is present in instruction.
To sustain the purpose and direction at SMS we rely on the work of our Leadership Team and SBDM (School-Based Decision Making). Our Leadership Team identifies areas of improvement within our school and comes up with solutions on how to use our time and resources more efficiently. It is made up of teachers in various content areas and school administrators. All decisions of the Leadership Team are based upon the commitment to establishing and maintaining a culture that encompasses high expectations for learning based on our shared values and beliefs about teaching and learning. Our SBDM is made up of administrators and elected teachers and stakeholders within the community. These individuals review all programs being implemented at SMS, read over and approve policies, and makes suggestions for change. The work of these teams is crucial to sustaining the culture of learning and leading that we have created at SMS.
As a school that recognizes the need for continuous improvement, we have identified areas in which we must improve to sustain and build upon the purpose and direction we have established. One area of need is to improve our methods of communication with parents and the community. We piloted a new type of Open House this fall that is more informative for parents and community members. This event consisted of various informational sessions about programs and systems at SMS. It gave parents and community members an opportunity to ask questions and make suggestions, as well as provided us with a chance to share our vision. Another avenue for communication is our annual Data Night. On Data Night, we share our KPREP assessment data with students, parents, and community members. Both events are vital to the maturation of the purpose and direction at SMS.