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The little middle school that can

Article Date: 
2 November, 2012 (All day)

We’ve all heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” When it comes to education, that saying is absolutely true.
Morgan Middle School students come primarily from families who value education: the opportunities it creates for their futures and their ability to be informed, productive citizens. When I talk to family members and friends who teach or work in other school districts, they are consistently impressed by the level of positive parental involvement, high levels of achievement, and low level of problems we have in our school.
MMS also has a highly-qualified and devoted staff.  They spend hundreds of hours each year training in “best practices” to improve ourselves professionally. We have many teachers who hold advanced degrees and endorsements and share their expertise to improve our programs. We spend many additional hours beyond our contract times not only to prepare lessons and communicate with parents but also to provide extensions for learning, through assemblies, after-school programs, performances, etc.
At a time when Utah ranks last in the nation in per-pupil spending, Morgan ranks below even the state average. Yet, the schools and community again work together to provide our students with many of the same opportunities afforded by more affluent districts with larger tax bases like Park City.  We see teachers who regularly pay for materials, books, and incentives for their classes themselves. Many spend hours seeking and qualifying for grants, such as the science and engineering grant Brian Rutherford obtained last year, the Sam’s Club grant Heather Astle qualified for this year or the grants Nan Merrell secures every year for the eighth-grade’s Trax/Planetarium field trip.
Each week, parent volunteers work one-on-one with sixth graders to help improve reading fluency and comprehension. The PTSO regularly sponsors fund raisers and activities that pay for supplies, field trips, and achievement activities; the members also lead school improvement projects each year. Local businesses such as Deb’s, Steph’s and Ridley’s have and continue donate incentives for student achievement. Other businesses contribute directly to specific programs or offer incredible discounts to our school’s groups. Church groups have been generous in their donation of supplies.  
It seems that we constantly have our hand out and we do.  As state and federal support programs erode, it takes more from our own community to continue to offer our kids the programs that maintain the tradition of excellence in education we have come to expect in this district. 
The College Board, developers of the ACT, reported after studying students and schools from differing socio-economic groups that one of the best predictors of student success in high school and the first two years of college is student performance by the end of eighth grade. That study confirms what many of us already knew: the middle school years are challenging, but achievement here puts kids on the path to future achievement. 
Thanks to community involvement, our students rank in the top percentages at state and national levels in graduation and post-secondary education, regardless of our low “financial” ranking and rising pupil-to-teacher ratios.  
The success of any school depends on the commitment of everyone involved: students, parents, staff, and other community members. Our village, all of us, make sacrifices that reveal our commitment. We think we can. We think we can. And, we can.