Sonora Middle School embodies the principles stated in Turning Points, which includes eight major recommendations to improve the education of young adolescents (1) create small communities for learning, (2) teach a core academic program, (3) ensure success for all students, (4) empower teachers and administrators to make decisions about the experiences of middle grade students, (5) staff middle grade schools with teachers who are experts at teaching young adolescents, (6) improve academic performance through fostering the health and fitness of young adolescents, (7) re-engage families in the education of young adolescents, and (8) connect schools with communities. SMS strives for developmental responsiveness to students' needs, challenges every student to reach their full potential, empowers students to take control of their lives, and provides equitable learning opportunities for all students. We have various collaborative opportunities and structures to achieve this vision.
One organizational structure we have that supports the middle level philosophy are teams housed in a pod, each with their own identity and sense of community. Every student is assigned to a small advisory classroom on their team. Students begin and end each day with their advisory teacher, who is an advocate and support for them as they transition from elementary to secondary. Interdisciplinary teams of teachers get to know their shared students and help to identify if anyone needs additional supports, guidance, or services to help them thrive. Advisory provides an opportunity to focus on relationships, social emotional learning, and academic guidance.
We have various leadership groups and committees to collaborate on changes and action steps to improve our school programs. The Guiding Coalition inspires, supports, and leads our initiative to becoming an effective professional learning community. Our Team Leaders focus on needs for advisory, teacher-student relationships, school community, and interdisciplinary learning. Our School Leadership Team ensures our school operates safely, efficiently, and effectively. The Parent and Family Engagement Committee and Parent Teacher Organization partners the school with parents, families, and community members. The SMS Social Committee coordinates events for the staff members. Events include staff member celebrations (retirements, births, marriage) or support services for staff members experiencing illness, death in the family, etc. Student Council is the student-elected representatives for each team/grade and provide student voice on the various committees. Joint Council is a district curriculum committee that coordinates curriculum alignment. SMS has two representatives on the Joint Council.
Teachers meet weekly on disciplinary teams to go through the teaching and learning cycle. They agree on essential standards, design assessments, analyze student data, establish goals, and plan for interventions/enrichments. SMS teachers understand how important it is to provide curriculum that is challenging, explorative, and connected to the real world. They also understand that grades should reflect learning and empower a growth mindset, which is why the school has a standards-based grading model.
We strive to ensure that all students learn at high levels (grade level or higher). In addition to high-quality instructional practices, we provide WIN (What I Need) time, which is time every morning to provide instruction based on individual student needs. Teachers have an opportunity to call in groups of students through our Primetime system and provide intervention or enrichment on essential standards. We also provide Level Up classes for students in need of more foundational skills and support in reading, mathematics, and/or language.
SMS and SPS devote resources to content-rich professional development, which is connected to reaching and sustaining the school vision and increasing student achievement. Staff development is an integral component of SMS. SMS trains and supports both new and experienced educators. Our main areas of focus are to continuously strengthen knowledge of the middle school philosophy and professional learning communities. A major learning goal in most professional development is to ensure all students are provided with the skills and resources to be successful in academics and life.
Students attending SMS participate in a variety of programs designed to improve students' social and academic skills. We have various athletics program, such as cheerleading, track, cross country, football, soccer, basketball, and volleyball. We also offer Band, Choir, EAST, Gifted and Talented, Drama, Robotics, Art, and other electives options. We support our language learners through Constructing Meaning strategies and English Language Development (ELD) curriculum. Our weekly Clubs are self-selected by students and provides them a connection to a group of peers with similar interests and hobbies.
SMS connects with the community in many ways. We have an on-site social worker, Ozark Guidance counselors, and Parent Liaison. We have partnered with various organizations and local businesses, such as University of Arkansas, Arkansas Coalition of the Marshallese, and Camp War Eagle, to provide educational opportunities and resources for our students.