Three FDMS committees return with new year

Fort Dodge Middle School is bringing back three committees started last year and designed to enhance student instruction and faculty conversation.

The Building Leadership, Dodger Time and Multi-Tier Support System committees help give direction to the school, Ed Birnbaum, FDMS principal, said.

“The goal is that whether you’re a student, a parent, an educator from a different school district, it doesn’t make any difference. When you walk into our building, within four to five minutes you can figure out the culture of the building is this, that we hang our hat on student learning,” Birnbaum said.

The Building Leadership Committee helps to create a dialogue between faculty members and serves as a bridge to administrators.

“I have how I see the school and how it’s operating as the building principal through my lens, but sometimes that lens is not the same as how the teachers see how the building is operating,” Birnbaum said.

The team meets several times during the school year to look at student performance data and conduct walk-throughs of the school.

The dialogue inspired by these meetings have been beneficial to the school, Birnbaum said.

“Through those sometimes difficult conversations, it surfaces what’s working and not working, and from there you can determine as a team, where do we go from here?” he said. “What kind of professional development do we need to bring into our school to ensure we’re accomplishing what we want to accomplish?”

During Dodger Time, a parallel to the program offered at Fort Dodge Senior High, teachers collaborate with each other in professional learning communities, or work with students in an advisor-advisee capacity.

“Our teachers will have a group of students, anywhere from 15 to 21 kids, and go through social, emotional types of skills,” Birnbaum said. “It’s just those pointers and conversations from teachers to students on different lessons on just building good character.”

The Multi-Tier Support System is equal to the district’s Response to Intervention efforts, which helps students target areas of deficiency or provide enrichment.

“All students need different things in order to understand and be able to do those power standards,” Birnbaum said. “What we’ve done at the middle school is, opposite lunch, every student will have a half hour in which they will be assigned to a classroom teacher. That teacher will have a group of students with similar needs with that power standard.”

MTSS also allows the school to more clearly define its learning environment.

“It’s a way of thinking ‘this is what we do in this building.’ It’s what we need to develop as a culture in the middle school,” Birnbaum said. “What we do here is student learning. With that said, you need to identify what it is that students learn. MTSS is saying, this is what we want our students to learn.”

The MTSS committee helps to define these standards.

“That’s going to be an ongoing process for us,” Birnbaum said. “We have to get it organized so it’s clear in our teachers’ minds, so they know exactly what they want their students to know and how we’re going to assess that. Once we do that, then we start that process and create that quality environment in a classroom where students are provided the opportunity to learn those power standards.”