By B.C. Manion
Martinez Middle School will serve as a model site for schools throughout the nation that are implementing the College Board’s SpringBoard curriculum.
The school was notified of its selection in a June 24 letter to Principal Shaylia McRae from Pamela L. Nelson, vice president of SpringBoard.
The middle school is among the inaugural group of schools to be designated for the distinction. Strawberry Crest High, located in Dover, received the designation for high schools.
The two Hillsborough County public schools were the only schools in the Tampa Bay region to be among the 14 finalists considered for the distinction.
The award carries $10,000 worth of SpringBoard professional development services and also may include opportunities to pilot new and innovative products and services.
McRae is delighted by her school’s honor and she gives considerable credit for the achievement to her staff for the collaborative work they have done.
“It’s the teachers that are doing the work, day in and day out. They’re doing the planning, they’re monitoring the progress of students. They’re putting together all of the work that needs to be done,” McRae said. “They work together in professional learning communities, every grade, every subject.”
The essence of SpringBoard is to deliver a rigorous curriculum in a student-centered learning environment, McRae said.
Teachers do “backward planning” which involves looking at what they want students to know and figuring out how to get there, she said.
“We definitely have a very collaborative culture at the school. That’s what makes it work,” the principal said.
“You’re not on an island by yourself as a teacher. You’re working together, on a team of professionals to help the kids.
“They recognize each other strengths and they really build on that. They’re not afraid to help each other. They’re not afraid to share. They’re not afraid to get help,” said McRae, giving her staff 90 percent of the credit for the school’s accomplishment and granting 10 percent of the credit to herself for her leadership and support.
SpringBoard’s Nelson commended Martinez Middle in her letter: “The integration of SpringBoard into your school’s professional learning communities received high marks from our site selection team, and is representative of the quality of your implementation.”
SpringBoard aims to prepare students to perform well in Advanced Placement courses, in college and in other postsecondary experiences.
“The focal point is student learning, with high levels of student engagement with a rigorous curriculum. It starts right with sixth grade,” McRae said.
SpringBoard’s curriculum is the foundation for the Hillsborough County’s middle school and high school language arts program and serves as a supplement to the mathematics curriculum for those grades.
The curriculum includes numerous strategies that are intended to help students become more effective learners.
For instance, in language arts, one strategy involves making predictions about what information will be presented next. Another strategy calls for summarizing or paraphrasing material, and a third strategy calls for conducting timed writing exercises.
The “predicting” strategy “helps the reader to be actively involved, interested and mentally prepared to understand ideas,” according to SpringBoard materials.
The “summarizing or paraphrasing” strategy “helps students to comprehend or recall text.”
And, the “timed writing” strategy “accustoms students to writing under time pressures” which the student will encounter in state testing, placement exams and real-word situations, the SpringBoard materials state.
“It really is a good curriculum,” McRae said. “I know it was met with some hesitation. It is a little bit more prescribed than what we had been used to doing. It does take away a little bit of the autonomy. But, it’s a great curriculum.”
SpringBoard is the foundational instructional component of the College Board’s College Readiness System and is used by more than 1 million students in more than 1,000 schools nationwide.