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Traeger Middle School

Grade Level
Middle School

Working Together to Create Deliberate Alignment

Carl Traeger Middle School’s (Oshkosh Area School District) overall philosophy of pushing in the same direction can be clearly seen when the leadership team shares the school’s experience of implementing an equitable multi-level system of supports. “Instead of going in our individual directions, we’ve pushed together as a whole school on each thing we’ve tackled,” Erin Cernjar, cross-categorical teacher, explained. According to Principal Jill Pascarella, there is deliberate alignment between the school goal and individual professional development goals.

The team set an ambitious school goal for the 2021-22 school year: 100% of students will show academic growth as a result of increasing engagement and meeting the needs of all students. They began by surveying staff, parents, and students to create a comprehensive understanding of what engagement looks like in every setting of school. This was valuable to teachers as they worked on lesson planning and helped them keep the school-wide goal at the forefront of their minds.

Focus on continuous improvement

Beginning with the authenticity and honesty modeled by the leadership team, Traeger’s school culture provides an ideal environment for a focus on continuous improvement. Peer observations provided opportunities for colleagues to learn from each other. During professional development time, teachers showcased strategies of how they worked engagement into their lessons. “We all are learning from each other and that’s very empowering,” Carree VanOss, eighth-grade literacy teacher, said.

Staff at Traeger are committed to the importance of meeting the needs of all students in an inclusive general education classroom. To do this, the team has focused on universal design lesson planning and challenged themselves to deeply examine how to differentiate instruction.

The school invested in deeply training co-teaching teams to change the environment and normalize a variety of ways students access and provide information. “I think it helps students feel safer in the classroom,” Cernjar added. “When you feel safer, you’re able to make more growth.”

Teachers believe that keeping the IEP goals of students in mind benefits the whole classroom. “If we have specially-designed instruction that I know meets specific IEP goals,” Cernjar explained, “we have general education students in that classroom who have that incidental benefit of being a part of that group.”

According to their most recent report card, students with IEPs at Traeger are showing higher than expected growth in achievement.

Traeger’s middle school students are learning about the power of having an educational goal. In the words of one student: “When I felt like I didn’t want to work on a task, it helped me to remember that I was the one that set the goal and I didn’t want to let myself down.” Teachers and students talk about student-identified strengths and areas for improvement. “Ownership for kids in middle school is key,” VanOss said.