When classes resume Aug. 7, Columbia County middle schoolers will continue taking a new set of ungraded courses implemented last semester.
Like high schools, which started offering similar programs about five years ago, middle schools now offer achievement periods, sometimes called power periods.
Within those achievement periods, pupils take part in acceleration, remediation or enrichment programs to suit their needs, said Director of Middle School Learning Sharon Carson.
Remediation courses give added instruction to pupils who are struggling academically.
“The focus is meeting the specific needs of each and every student, whether they need year-long remediation or periodic help,” Carson told the school board earlier this year.
Acceleration classes offer previews of upcoming topics.
“It can mean that the course has above grade-level content for those who have mastered the standard being taught, Carson said. “Or it can mean that new content is previewed for students who are struggling, so that they can be exposed to the content before they receive it in their regular class at a later time.”
Enrichment courses give excelling pupils a chance to broaden their interests. Pupils might learn Web production, publish a newspaper or learn about the practices of sustainable farming, Carson said.
“Teachers often lament that they have little if no time available to offer the learning opportunities that help students reach above and beyond the content standards,” she said. “The enrichment course offerings during (achievement period) can address this need.”
By shaving a few minutes off other classes, the pupils meet in 45-minute blocks each day for the achievement period. The pupils rotate through courses after about three weeks, Carson said.
The achievement period allows pupils to skip ahead or get extra tutoring without missing career connections courses.
In the past, Carson said, at-risk pupils had to give up a career connections class in favor of remediation courses.
Carson called that unfair to those pupils, who often excelled in career connections.
Unlike in high schools, middle-schoolers don’t get the option to pick the course of their choosing. Using teacher recommendations, report cards and results from the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, pupils are assigned into achievement period classes based on their academic strengths and weaknesses.
“Our primary focus has been and always will be what is best for students,” she said.