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Flexible Program at Eisenhower 'Changed the School's Culture'

Mid-morning period lets students get extra help, explore subjects, and according to Eisenhower Middle School's principal, children are more well behaved as a result.

Earlier this week, a few Eisenhower seventh graders were playing cards. They were having a blast — in class — and they were learning about integers.

For the past six months, Eisenhower Middle School has been using a new way to help children learn. In fact, a time period was built into the schedule just for that. Called Team Intervention Extension and Enrichment, this 35-minute, mid-morning period is designed to be flexible and reach the most disadvantaged students. TIEE is based on education guru Richard Dufour’s professional learning community model.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to target everyone in a 25-kid class,” explained Eisenhower Principal Chris Iasiello. “We know people are different and we make sure to provide time for teachers to meet with kids who are completely capable of learning but need extra help.”

“The question was how do we work that in and work smarter with the time we have,” added assistant principal Patrick Lee.

Dufour’s research pointed to the success of a dedicated time period. While higher achieving students don’t always need the extra help, struggling students could have one-on-one time with teachers who could use more targeted teaching methods.

“Dufour would say education has been about winning and losing for a long time,” said Iasiello. “It’s not just about teaching a lesson, testing, and either getting it or not.”

Using the philosophies of the PLCs, Eisenhower broke down each grade into three student teams. Each grade is overseen by four core teachers in social studies, science, math, and language arts.

“These teachers can control which kids go to teachers and where others go during this time,” said Iasiello. Core teachers asses children’s needs and progress. The small grade groups are also like “little families,” Iasiello said.

TIEE has also given birth to unique classes that are not always offered in the regular curriculum, such as animation, book clubs, music rehearsals, jewelry making, world languages, extra physical education and more. All children move in an out of these experiences, but when they need extra help they can get that too.

In addition, groups of 11 to 13 students from different grades meet twice a month. The groups are designed to foster social development and have resulted in a mentoring kind of environment.

“It has really changed the school’s culture,” said Iasiello. “Discipline is down by more than half. They really respect each other more and their teachers.”

However, it may take a few years to determine if the multi-grade groups are the reason why, Iasiello said. It is also too early to determine the impacts of TIEE on test scores.

TIEE has been more than a year in the making.

“A year ago we looked at restructuring our schedule,” said Iasiello. Soon after a staff committee was formed and a survey sent out. It determined students needed more remediation, or extra help and varied instruction. Educators were also interested in looking at the state’s most development-forward schools.

Wyckoff looked at Chester, Mendham, Montvale, Ridgewood and Summit in person, and schools in Oklahoma and Colorado online. Last week, educators from Butler and Mountainside visited Eisenhower to see how TIEE had been implemented.

Eisenhower chose to run TIEE in the middle of the day from 10:36 to 11:11 a.m. to make sure tardy students could take part. And while Wyckoff elementary schools are also using flexible time periods, only the middle school has one period school-wide.

Eisenhower’s administrators are happy with the progress of TIEE.

“For a good percentage of the students, they feel it is so vital to them to get the extra help they need, and access to resources and materials,” said Lee. It can also help calm down stressed students right before tests, he said.

The positive change in culture is what impressed Iasiello the most.

“It’s palpable, you can feel it in the halls and see it on faces and the teachers that are behind it,” said Iasiello.

Are you an Eisenhower Middle School parent or teacher? How has the TIEE program affected your students?

Have a question or news tip for Wyckoff-Franklin Lakes Patch? Contact editor Joseph M. Gerace at Joseph.Gerace@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox every morning, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Debbie February 07, 2013 at 07:58 PM
I am a Mom to a 6th grader who has benefited from this program and has even gotten ahead in some of his classes because of it! He talks excitedly about how it is so great to have this time during the school day!! From, one happy Mom! Thank you Eisenhower and Mr. Iasello! :)
YCOUGHER February 08, 2013 at 02:55 AM
My seventh grader finds the time very helpful. It offers her a chance to interact with teachers in a smaller setting, ask questions, and learn. Good program.

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