Middle School Academics
There is no doubt that the Middle School Program at St. Mary’s Academy is dynamic. Innovation meets tried and true again and again as the teaching staff and leadership research, synthesize, create, measure, and reflect on how best to open the hearts and minds of their students. The educators at SMA live the learning process that they bring to their students thus inspiring their students’ openness to thought and action.
The Loretto School Values of faith, community, respect, and justice serve as the foundation for the Middle School Program. Warm and genuine relationships among teachers and students provide a sense of intellectual freedom and safety in which to explore and question. Depth and reflection are valued over breadth and a hurried pace to cover.
The most effective traits of project-based learning, an integration of science, technology, engineering and math with the arts, music, theology, and humanities, and an appreciation of the differences in learning modalities, result in the dynamism that makes this program unique and just right for middle-school-aged learners.
- Language Arts
- Social Studies
- French, Spanish or Tutorial
- Visual and Performing Arts
- Elective Choices
- Physical Education
- Sports Teams
- Community Action Team
- Community Teams
- Office Hours
- Community Service
- Social-Emotional Support
- 6th Grade Mathematics
- 6th Grade Language Arts
- 6th Grade Social Studies
- 6th Grade Science
- 7th Grade Mathematics
- 7th Grade Language Arts
- 7th Grade Social Studies
- 7th Grade Science
- 8th Grade Mathematics
- 8th Grade Language Arts
- 8th Grade Social Studies
- 8th Grade Science
- 6th Grade Computer Science
- 7th Grade Computer Science
- 8th Grade Computer Science
- Theological Studies
- Interscholastic Athletics
- Physical Education
- Fine Arts, Music, and Theatrical Arts
- Additional Information
- Academic Support
- Service Learning, Other
Sixth grade mathematics builds upon students’ previous experience and developmental readiness to deepen their understanding of the language of math and to strengthen their mathematical skills and automaticity. Reinforcement of previously learned concepts is complemented with the introduction of new material supported by using a spiraling approach. Exploring the relevance of math in daily life and learning to apply concepts are integral to the curriculum. Interdisciplinary units include hands-on activities, integrated projects and simulations. Ongoing development of critical thinking and logical reasoning are essential to the course.
Big Ideas is used throughout middle school, focusing on an exploratory approach to engage students through in-class problem solving and real-life situations. Threaded through the program, students make connections through cohesive, consistent instruction. Lessons are balanced, using discovery learning and scaffolded instruction.
This course focuses on The Number System, where students explore decimals, fractions, percents and integers. Students extend their knowledge to Ratio and Proportional Relationships, Expressions and Equations, Geometry, and Statistics and Probability.
Big Ideas is used throughout middle school, focusing on an exploratory approach to engage students through in-class problem solving and real-life situations. Threaded through the program, students make connections through cohesive, consistent instruction. Lessons are balanced, using discovery learning and scaffolded instruction.
This course focuses on Pre-Algebra, Percents, Rational and Irrational Numbers, Algebraic Expressions, Equations, and Inequalities, as well as Geometry and Probability.
In seventh grade math, students are being asked to move from concrete representations to abstract thinking. A variety of online math tools are available as students consider how to approach problems. Student collaboration is promoted in the classroom to reduce stress, encourage the sharing of knowledge, and increase engagement.
Students will further their exploration of American history, from the Antebellum Period to the beginning of the new millennium. The course fosters and encourages critical thinking skills to better understand the role of history in our lives. It also invites students to explore historical events from a variety of perspectives. Students are invited to discuss, synthesize, challenge, evaluate, analyze and critique facts and ‘isms”, and ultimately to grow as learners. They are also encouraged to find the “story” within the history.
The course is also organized thematically, with three overarching themes serving as the umbrella for the course content: “The Great Divide” - an examination of those forces and events that serve to separate and isolate people; “Justice Denied” - an exploration of examples in history when one or more groups sought to dominate and/or discriminate against those people they felt to be inferior; and “Power and Social Change” - an investigation of those powerful moments in history that initiated an obvious and substantial change in the status quo.
Big Idea: “History is a study of hats”, which alludes to the various roles, perspectives, agendas, etc. that people bring to their presentation and study of history. How one views history is often dependent on the “hat” one wears.
Environmental Biology emphasizes inquiry and hands-on learning as we explore both the smallest and largest aspects of the biological sciences. We begin by studying ecology and environmental science, before delving into cell biology, genetics & DNA, and evolution. Current events feature prominently, such as the biology of Covid and its vaccines. Central to our learning is the building of scientific skills such as testing a hypothesis, analyzing and graphing data, and communicating results.
Some of the questions we wrestle with include:
What is life? How do we know if something is a living thing? How might we recognize alien life?
How can we determine the size of a plant or animal population?
How do humans impact other species in our ecosystems? What choices do we make that can affect this impact?
What does DNA look like? How does its structure determine and allow its function?
Why are some traits passed down generation to generation, while others blend, skip generations, or appear anew?
How does natural selection work to change populations over time, including in the example of the Coronavirus?
Pre-Algebra introduces students to variables, algebraic expressions, equations, functions, inequalities, and their graphical representation. The goals are to reinforce previously learned skills, develop an understanding of Pre-Algebra with algebraic connections, to focus on new learning and provide students with a solid math foundation so that they can achieve success at the next level. The students develop the ability to: explore and solve mathematical problems, think critically, work cooperatively with others, and communicate mathematical ideas clearly. Ongoing development of critical thinking and logical reasoning skills are integral to the course.
Algebra 1 establishes the foundation for all future math courses. Students in Algebra 1 build conceptual understanding and gain procedural fluency of concepts that are required for more advanced math subjects. The students develop the ability to: explore and solve mathematical problems, think critically, work cooperatively with others, and communicate mathematical ideas clearly. The course is built around the active engagement of students in problem-solving.
Important Note: Developmental readiness, first, and dedicated study, second, are the two most important determinants of middle school and high school math placement. SMA cannot guarantee a student will continue into Geometry in high school or that a student completing pre-algebra in eighth grade will continue into Honors Algebra I in high school. Most high schools require that entering students take an advanced math placement test in the spring of their eighth-grade year to qualify for advanced placement.
The Grade 8 ELA class fosters confidence, depth, and clarity in writing, critical thinking toward literature, and positive habits of listening and discussion. The fundamental values in 8th grade ELA are choice, process, and community. These values are integrated through a lens that focuses on the idea of power.
Big Idea: Power. Unit 1: “Power of Our Story”; Unit 2: “Power of Others”; Unit 3: Power of Our Actions”; and Unit 4: Power of Our Legacy”
How does power change people and institutions?
What power do words, stories, and spaces have?
What is power’s role in justice?
Can a memory hold more power than the actual past?
The purpose of the World Issues class is to help students better understand the world and their place in it, as both global citizens and agents of change. World Issues introduces students to shared global systems. Students explore issues found on the front page of the newspaper and develop an understanding of where the issues occur, who they involve, and why they are happening. Each student takes on the role of a Foreign Service Officer and receives an appointment to a bureau, based on the U.S. Department of State bureaus, that will focus on one of six regions in the world. Students apply the skills learned in class to their bureau work and brief their classmates on the major issues affecting the region of their focus.
Midway through the year, students participate in a competition called the World Affairs Challenge. In this competition, students are challenged to address an authentic real-world issue based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Through research, communication and teamwork, students design impactful solutions to address some of the same issues that governments around the world are struggling with. Throughout this course, students develop an understanding of the relationship between social systems, economies, histories, geographies, and governments around the world.
Grade 8 Science is an integrated, multidisciplinary course designed to inspire and authentically connect students to the world around them. The course includes one semester of chemistry and one semester of physics, with a focus on environmental issues. Engineering, mathematical modeling, and data capture are applied in consistent hands-on discovery labs and activities. Students further their analytical thinking skills, develop processes for engaging in observation and reaching conclusions, and begin to realize connections within the universe.
Spanish IA is designed to develop the student’s ability to communicate in the Spanish language. Students will learn to interact at a mid to high-novice level – orally, through dialogues, with role-plays, in presentations, and through reading. Communication, grammatical structure, and cultural aspects of the language are introduced, reviewed, and expanded upon. Students learn the significance of Spanish within the United States and globally and understanding Latino and Hispanic customs and culture. Students connect grammar concepts with those of the English language. They interact with each other and the teacher in Spanish to gain facility with sounds, accents, and idiomatic expressions.
Spanish 1B is a Novice High- and Intermediate Low-level course. This program is a sequential language acquisition class. Students develop the five skills of language acquisition, writing, reading, speaking, listening, and grammar through diverse methodologies and approaches. Culture is an integral part of meaningful language use and learning. Students will immerse in activities to learn the Spanish-speaking world's community, geography, and culture and the enhanced opportunities for real-life usage of the language situations.
Grade 8 Spanish II
Grade 8 Spanish II is a comprehensive course that focuses on the foundations of the Spanish language and the understanding of the diverse cultures of the Spanish-speaking world. The course objectives are to increase and reinforce students' reading, listening, writing, and speaking skills in Spanish so that they have the confidence to put their language skills into practice outside of the classroom. In addition, students will gain knowledge and appreciation of the variety and richness of Spanish-speaking cultures. Through the study of Spanish, students will be able to use the language to interact within and beyond the classroom setting, make connections across disciplines, and increase their skills and confidence as learners.
The Heritage Spanish course is designed for advanced, bilingual, and heritage speakers. Students explore linguistic variation, bilingual communities, and the cultural diversity of the Spanish-speaking world while utilizing their own knowledge, skills, and experiences with language and culture. Students enhance their communication, reading, comprehension, and writing skills through the use of authentic materials, literature, grammar study, intellectual discussion, various styles of composition, and personal reflection.
Introduction to French
This a beginning French class that teaches foundational aspects of communication in French and an introduction to the varieties of cultures that exist within the francophone world. Students build confidence in expressing themselves in French as they create skits and play interactive games.
French 1A builds upon the skills developed in Intro to French. Students focus on developing a greater fluidity and ease with oral expression. They have opportunities to participate in hands-on activities, such as cooking and baking, which enhance their understanding of the importance of food in French culture.
Students will develop computer skills that are critical to enhance efficiency and productivity in the digital world. Students will understand that there are various ways in which technology impacts everyday lives, demonstrating digital citizenship, while understanding there are ethical and societal impacts of computer usage. Using programming in Swift, students will solve real problems.
The course is designed to help students understand there are a variety of tools for data analysis, communicating and presenting.
Unit 1: Digital Citizenship; Unit 2 All Things Google; Unit 4: Project Based Learning; and Unit 5 Coding with Swift
Grade 7 Computer Science contains three main themes: 1) general tech skills 2) coding concepts and the Python coding language, and 3) building independent learning strategies.
Within the first theme, the students will focus on mastering the use of an iPad in an academic setting, G Suite skills, and Digital Health & Wellness. During the second theme, students will complete a series of mini-projects designed to teach the basic syntax, structure, and process of writing programs in Python. These projects will include data-types, variables, conditionals, loops, lists, functions, algorithms, and debugging. Students create a final project at course completion.
The third, and most important, theme is helping the students to find and build their own strategies for independent learning and problem solving. Computer science and coding is an essential tool in helping current students solve future problems. Problems they will face when there is no teacher to tell them the answer, and which direction to turn when they have a question.
Computer Science and Computational Thinking
Students will learn key elements of computer science that will be demonstrated through Python coding, while developing problem-solving skills through computational thinking. The course is designed to be fun, exploratory, relevant, and partially unplugged to devote learning time to creativity, communication, and critical thinking.
This elective course is composed of units lasting approximately two weeks each: Unit 1: Introduction to Computer Science and Computational Thinking; Unit 2: Data Representation, Number Calculations and Digital Space; Unit 3: Decision-Making and Logic; Unit 4: Problem-Solving, and Unit 5: Hardware and Coding Circuits.
In theological studies, the rich history and biblical traditions of Catholicism serve as a curricular grounding within which students are encouraged to develop and reflect on their personal faith journeys. Prayer, reflection, and study of traditions from a variety of religious faiths animate the courses. Students are encouraged to seek an understanding of their part in the greater whole. In sixth grade the study of the Old Testament forms the foundation of the course. Living the Gospel Values grounds the seventh grade course during which students study the parables and explore examples of human beings who have lived and died for peace and justice. The eighth grade religion course, Morality and Ethics, explores ethical choices based in moral reflection and grounding, and include consideration of personal and global issues. Connections are made with other subjects – language arts, social studies and science.
Interscholastic athletics are an extension of the classroom and an integral part of the educational process. Athletics provide not only an avenue for the development of athletic skills, but for the development of the total person. The goal is to promote values and teach life skills such as integrity, leadership, perseverance, and teamwork. Inherent in this experience are the Loretto school values of faith, community, justice and respect.
The middle school students have the opportunity to engage in interscholastic athletics on school sports teams in place of physical education. The practice sessions take place during the regular school day and games/meets are scheduled after school. The seventh and eighth grade team rosters are filled using a lottery system; students are not selected on the basis of ability. Each trimester, the students who are not placed on a team or those who do not elect to play a sport will participate in a coed physical education class.
The following sports are offered in seventh and eighth grade:
Girls’ Field Hockey
Students are placed on the 6th grade athletic teams based on available space rather than on the basis of ability or experience. Most students receive their first choice and many could also receive their second or third choice. Each trimester, the sixth grade students who are not placed on a team or those who do not elect to play a sport will participate in a coed physical education class.
The sixth grade students will submit their sport choices in the order of preference from the following selections:
Girls’ Field Hockey
As a member of the Association of Colorado Independent Schools, St. Mary’s Academy adheres to the philosophy regarding interscholastic sports developed by members of the ACIS:
Middle school interscholastic athletics are an essential element of the education of students because they foster the development of character, life skills, sportsmanship and teamwork. In addition, our athletic programs strive to develop positive self-image and encourage physical activity as a part of a healthy lifestyle. Educational athletics serve as a source of school pride and maintain positive relationships between schools and communities. While schools recognize pride in winning, it does not supersede the educational goals of middle school athletics.
Grade 6 Physical Education
The Grade 6 Physical Education program promotes student participation, individual skill development, team play, game strategies, and sportsmanship.Students participate in fun games, activities, challenges, and sports units.
Grade 7 Physical Education
This Life's Leisure Lawn Games course is all about embracing life's leisure pleasures. Students will enjoy socializing with their friends while participating in active fun at their own pace. Students exercise choice in game selection and an abundance of activities, including corn hole, horseshoes, kanjam, spikeball, bocce ball, badminton, pickleball, frisbee, foursquare, and more. It's a wonderful way to decompress at the end of the day.
Electives offer daily experiences in a variety of areas. Students experience three one-trimester courses each year that meet in multi-age configurations with the goals of providing opportunities for self-discovery and appreciation for art, music, performance and/or design.
In all of our musical arts classes, students are given an option to learn a new instrument or delve more deeply into one they already love. They can do this through performance ensembles like choir, orchestra, or band and through non-performance classes like guitar or piano lab. We offer rich, diversified, personal instruction in each class. Each student will develop skills in performance and a greater understanding of music theory and history. The goal of all performance classes is to create empathetic humans who are empowered in full self-expression and are strong collaborators.
Concert Band: This is a two-trimester class (trimester I and II) for brass and percussion musicians (flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, baritone) who have at least one year of instrumental lessons or have completed the SMA emerging-musicians class. Students learn music theory and a little about the history of jazz. Classical, rock and jazz band tunes are prepared and performed in a culminating formal performance.
Orchestra: This is semester class (spring) for musicians of stringed instruments (violin, viola, cello, bass) who have at least one year of lessons or have completed the SMA emerging-musicians class. Students develop more sophisticated knowledge of music theory and how to play in concert. Differing genres of orchestral music are prepared and performed in a culminating formal performance. Field trips to hear professional musicians and to play for the elderly at Meridian occur each year as well as participation in the CHSAA Large Ensemble Festival.
Honor Orchestra: Auditioned group that meets twice a week before school for the academic school year. This group gives 4 concerts a year as well as participating in the CHSAA Large Ensemble Festival and assembly performances for the middle school. Students learn more difficult repertoire, scales and ensemble playing. To audition, students must have two prior years of ensemble playing experience as well as private lessons.
Show Choir: This trimester course is for male and female students. The choir learns a variety of classical and pop songs while studying basic music theory and ear training. Auditions are not required. Enthusiasm for singing is the prerequisite. There is one formal concert per trimester.
Honor Show Choir: This is a one trimester elective with two prerequisites: 1) previous enrollment in Middle School show choir and 2) a strong motivation to delve more deeply into performance techniques such as vocal strength and music theory. The group often sings at prayer services as well as performing in two formal concerts during the trimester.
Boys Choir: This elective focuses on the voice development of MS boys in a group. Exploring rhythm, timing, vocal dynamics, projection and breath control, boys learn to call and respond to military cadence chants and a cappella arrangements of songs and raps.
(Note: Seventh and eighth grade students enrolled in any trimester of choir are eligible to prepare and audition for the Colorado All State Middle School Choir and should contact Mrs. Hamilton-Griggs as soon as possible in the fall. Preparation begins before the end of the first trimester for choir students in any of the three trimesters of choir.)
Guitar Ensemble: This course is designed for advancing students who have previous guitar experience including the beginning guitar elective. Students learn and play songs together complementing one another to create full-bodied performances of classical guitar music.
Rock Band: This third trimester elective is open to students with intermediate skill playing guitar (electric or acoustic), bass, keyboard, brass instruments or drums. Basic understanding of music theory and the capacity to read notes are recommended skills. The student enrolling in the class provides his/her own instrument with the exception of keyboard and drum set, which is provided by SMA. Vocal musicians with musical performance experience are welcome to enroll as well.
Beginning Guitar: The guitar is introduced to students who have had little or no experience with the guitar. The fundamentals of music are presented as well as basic note reading and music notation. Students are taught basic guitar techniques such as strumming, note reading, tablature, chording, and melodic playing, and they are introduced to music-recording software. Textbook selections are learned from a textbook, pop binder, and Internet.
Advanced Guitar: This course is designed for advancing students who have previous guitar experience including the beginning guitar elective. Students will be expected to complete more advanced textbook selections, more difficult popular song samples, and to learn new techniques such as finger picking and improvising. Students will have the opportunity to record their own songs using the computer-recording stations.
Emerging Musicians for Orchestra: This elective offers the opportunity to start at the beginning to learn violin, viola, cello, or bass, or to refresh your skill. No previous experience is required. You will learn to read music and play the instrument within the trimester in a small group or individually allowing the choice to join SMA’s Extreme Orchestra for Middle School students.
Emerging Musicians for Band: This class is offered for those students who have never played a band instrument or need a refresher on their current band instrument. Instrument choices include: flute, clarinet, alto saxophone, trumpet, trombone, baritone horn and percussion. Students will receive individual and small group instruction with the choice to perhaps join the Concert Band.
Virtual Music Creation: This course is under development. Students will use technology, students apply the science of sound, animation and media to compose and perform pop opera, group busking routines, jam sessions and so much more. History, drama and geography will be used to tour the world with projects based in cultures from Asia, Latin America and Africa.
Theatre and Dance
Through drama and musical theatre classes, the students explore a wide variety of theatrical literature. They learn theatre history, acting techniques, and dive into the technical aspects of production. Through solo and ensemble performances, the students learn that the theatre is a microcosm of the world and how the theatre impacts and enhances their everyday lives even when they are not on stage. One way they can develop is through video assessment. This way they can see and hear their strengths and are able to hone in on their trouble spots in order to evolve into better characters, on and off stage! The goal of all performance classes is to create empathetic humans who are empowered in full self-expression and are strong collaborators.
Drama/Theatre: The one-trimester drama classes explore improvisational exercises, acting techniques and voice-and-body awareness. Each trimester culminates with a mid-day drama production. The actors employ original scripts developed from everyday experiences, movies or literature or they perform classical theatre depending on the make-up of the class.
Musical Theatre: Musical theatre teaches vocal technique, dance styles, acting elements and technical theatre such as lighting and sound, and is appropriately designed for boys and girls. The end product is a short piece of musical theatre delivered informally during the school day.
Dance: Students learn to create, perform, respond and connect the dance experience to other contexts of meaning and knowledge. They are exposed to movement vocabulary from different historical and cultural dance genres. Each unit is taught and experienced through the dance elective website that includes photographs, YouTube videos and descriptions of the genres.
Grade 6 Visual Arts
Foundations in Art
This course provides Grade 6 students with an overview of the necessary artistic skills and craftsmanship to prepare them for the more focused work they will encounter within Explorations in Art in Grades 7 and 8. This quarter-long immersion course will help students learn how to develop the compositional techniques needed to communicate through art, while pursuing the fundamental applications within drawing, painting, sculpture, and printmaking.
Grade 7/8 Visual Arts
Explorations in Art
This course is designed for students in Grades 7 and 8 to explore and experience authentic creative expression, critical thinking and evaluation, and a greater appreciation for the Visual Arts. While learning about the advanced elements and principles of design within individual electives, students will further develop their drawing, through quarter-long painting, sculpting, ceramics, printmaking, and photographic courses. A broad range of influential and multicultural artists and styles from around the globe will be studied, and the “artist’s voice” and contextual understanding toward a diverse range of artwork will be deepened. Students use their Grade 8 year to further refine their own work, producing a final project incorporating concepts such as Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity (DEI), Living the Loretto Values, self-identity within society, and the experiences gained while attending SMA.
When a student is unable to progress academically and demonstrate his/her knowledge over time, communication takes place between school and home to discover and implement strategies and solutions. Consequences of academic failure include a letter of Academic Concern, Academic Probation and/or an Academic Contract.
Students whose averages fall below 65% in one or more subjects are considered for Academic Concern, Probation, or Contract. Consistent scores below 65% may result in having to complete summer assignments in order to re-enroll for the subsequent year or losing the opportunity to re-enroll. Decisions made in response to academic failure and challenges are made with the student’s present and future in mind and are not meant to be punitive in nature but rather supportive of the student’s progress and well being.
The textbooks that are issued to students are the property of SMA Middle School. Please cover, protect and return in good condition at the end of the school year. Personally owned copies of classroom textbooks can often be ordered online.
The SMA Middle School has a bank of desktop computers in the library and two rolling carts of computers for student use during the school day. As well, each student is issued a Chromebook for academic use. Every St. Mary’s Academy student and his/her parents/guardians are required to sign a contract at the beginning of the year regarding computer and Internet usage before a student engages with a computer at school. In addition, students and parents sign a Chromebook Use Agreement. Both agreements are available online at the stmarys.academy site under Resources.
Databases and Research
Students are encouraged to use vetted databases for research. St. Mary’s Academy offers two, each of which is designed to allow students to do research more quickly and efficiently, as well as to have more confidence in the reliability of the information they are receiving.
SMA subscribes to two databases: Infotrac and World Book Online. Infotrac is a slightly higher-level database, with more sophisticated information and more complex research abilities. World Book Online is provided by the makers of the World Book Encyclopedia and is more easily managed by middle school students. Please find login information in the list of Middle School Student Resources under the Community tab at www.smanet.org.
Eight Grade to High School - Application and Admission
The admission process to high schools is often a competitive one. Attention to academics and effort is important. Teacher recommendations weigh as much as percentages. Hard work, honest effort, and good behavior make a positive impression on admission committees.
Each student and his/her parents are encouraged to make an appointment in the fall of the eighth grade with the Middle School Principal to discuss the options and process for applying to high school. This conference allows school and family to work together for the benefit of the student in the admissions process.
What follows are suggestions and considerations for parents of eighth-grade students:
Because each student has his/her own profile and each school offers a different set of strengths and it’s own unique environment, take the time to discuss high school choices with your student. Consider where your child would be most comfortable and able to achieve his/her goals. Is that public or private? Is it large or small? Is it art or athletic? Does your student need a school that accommodates learning differences? Does the school provide an AP or IB program?
Have your student shadow at the schools where he/she has an interest. Visiting classes and experiencing a school day provides significant insight about whether or not a school offers the right fit.
Attend school open house events as a family.
Register for the Catholic High School Placement Test (HSPT) – Online registration is available for this test, which occurs the first Saturday of December.
Have your student register for and take the High School Placement Test even if there is only a small chance he/she will apply for admission to a Catholic High School. Boys register to take the test at Regis, Mullen or Machebeuf.
Students are encouraged to take the test at their first-choice school and no penalty exists should they opt differently though schools often say there is a penalty.
When taking the test, students record their first-, second-, and third-choice schools. The possibility of being placed on a waiting list is possible but not probable for second and third choices. The purpose of listing is to ensure that the HSPT scores are sent to those schools.
To be considered for a merit scholarship from SMA, the HSPT must be taken at St. Mary’s Academy High School.
Students with identified learning differences and/or special needs that are noted in current professional testing may qualify to take the test with extended time (not untimed). Extended time is provided at SMA for girls and Machebeuf and Regis Jesuit for boys. Extended time testing occurs on Friday before the test at SMA and in different testing rooms at the other two schools. Please contact those schools for details and possible changes. Please request extended time if current testing specifies the benefit to your student.
Practice for the High School Placement Test will take place in language arts and math classes. At times, additional practice times are offered after school. The dates and times of those practice sessions will be published.
Have your student sleep in his/her own bed the night before the test. A sleepover is not recommended. Provide breakfast and a positive morning so that your child arrives confident and ready.
Complete admission packets on time. The number of openings in non-public schools is far fewer than the number of applicants.
Ask for eighth-grade transcripts and teacher recommendations within three weeks of the due date. Teachers give thought and effort to writing meaningful and supportive recommendations. If the recommendation form is due the next day, they are at a disadvantage. They will wait until the final weeks to complete the forms to ensure they know you and can speak confidently about you.
Call or do a web search of prospective Independent Schools for information on tests specific to their schools’ admission process.
Call or do a web search of prospective school districts and independent schools to learn more about the school’s AP or IB offerings.
Instructions for parent and student PowerSchool registration is available in the Middle School office.
PowerSchool offers views of student assignments on a calendar (all subjects with work due on a given day) or on a schedule of classes (per subject for the week or weeks for which assignments have been entered). An absence/tardy record and scores for completed assignments round out the portal information. Links to other teacher’s course Google sites can be found on PowerSchool. One of many useful communication features is the teacher’s ability to append a comment to an unexpected or unusual score. School events and attached class assignments and messages may be found on the opening page of the portal and can also be found in the inbox on that opening page.
Progress reports are posted on PowerSchool at the six times each year.
Standardized achievement tests (Terra Nova) are administered to all Middle School students in the spring. The results of the tests are shared with parents and used by the teaching staff as one of many tools for assessing curriculum and individual student needs.
Students returning to the St. Mary’s Academy Middle School are assigned summer reading and online math quizzes that are to be completed before the first full day of school at the end of summer break.
Students who would be at a curricular disadvantage without summer remedial assignments will be given tailored assignments to complete in the summer in addition to the summer reading and online math quizzes.
These pre-and-early adolescent years are marked by significant developmental changes, which create unique academic challenges. The middle years are ideally when students begin to discover how to learn specific to their personal strengths and weaknesses. A key goal of Middle School teachers and program is to help students learn how to apply their strengths to advantage and compensate for their weaknesses and to realize that often our greatest strengths are also our greatest weaknesses. Another key goal is to guide students in the discovery of their passions for particular academic subjects, the arts, sports, and/or service. Passion sparks motivation, purpose, curiosity, and fortitude. The most significant contributor to successful learning is emotional and social factors.
Nearly every middle school student encounters some degree of academic difficulty and challenge. Most difficulties are resolved in context through the academic support provided by classroom teachers during regular class time or outside of class time before or after school or during office hours. Occasionally, SMA recommends that a student work with a tutor to receive targeted support. Additional resources and support are made available to students with professionally diagnosed learning disabilities wherever compatibility exists between the prescribed accommodations and St. Mary’s Academy’s program.
Middle School students are guided to consider these essential questions:
- What are my strengths and weaknesses?
- How do I learn best?
- Who at SMA can help when I need support?
- How do I ask for help?
- How do I get the help I need but become an independent learner?
Skills and topics imbedded within the MS Program:
- Self-awareness of learning styles
- Study skills and learning strategies
- Planning and organization
- Accommodation, intervention, and remediation for learning disabilities
- Assistive technology tools
- Classroom Teachers – Classroom teachers are the front-line and first-line of academic support. Students who are having academic difficulties should directly contact the teacher who is leading the class in which those difficulties are experienced. St. Mary’s Academy teachers are available to work with students during office hours and by appointment before or after school in addition to the critical time during the scheduled class. Sometimes, a student would benefit having a parent or other mentor coach or model for him/her the most effective time and manner to advocate.
- The Lower School and Middle School counselor is also available to students to help him/her navigate a social or emotional challenge.
- Private Tutors – Parents of students with ongoing academic difficulties which are not related to specific learning difficulties might be advised to engage a tutor to work with the student as a supplement to support the classroom teacher. A recommendation for tutoring comes from the Principal of the Middle School or the Middle School Program Liaison in a conference with the student and parents.
Please note: There is no time during school hours when tutoring for academic difficulties not related to professionally diagnosed learning disabilities can be scheduled. If a tutor works on the SMA campus at any time, there are two requirements: 1) he/she receives an orientation with the Program Liaison and 2) he/she is approved through the SMA business office after a background check.
Please note: Effective tutoring leads the student toward independence rather than dependence. Care must be taken to ensure the tutor does not inadvertently edit or modify the student’s work in a substantive way.
- Academic Accommodations for Learning Disabilities – Students with professionally identified learning differences have and do thrive in the Middle School’s rigorous academic program. Keys to success include the student’s determination and commitment, the family’s support of the student, and collaboration with the faculty. St. Mary’s Academy does not provide a learning specialist for remediation of learning disabilities. Instead, the SMA Program Liaison coordinates the design and implementation of classroom accommodations in consultation with the family, educational evaluator, and classroom teachers. The Program Liaison can also help the family find an appropriate learning specialist or tutor.
Accommodation plans are individually developed and may include extra time on tests, specific seating, oral testing and use of assistive technology. When the educational evaluation recommends waiving or postponing the study of a second language, a tutorial is scheduled for the diagnosed student instead. During the tutorial, students sometimes meet with privately contracted learning specialists for remediation or they join others scheduled in tutorial under the guidance of the Program Liaison. The tutorial under the guidance of the Program Liaison provides general academic support relative to accommodation plans, including extended time for classroom tests.
- Educational Evaluations and Testing – Families applying to SMA are encouraged to share during the application process any educational testing their student may have completed. If testing has been completed in between the time of application and the time the student starts in the Middle School, please forward the testing to the Middle School Program Liaison. Occasionally, if no testing exists, the Middle School recommends educational testing when they note academic struggles that are ongoing or outside of the developmental norm. A recommendation for educational testing comes from the Principal of the Middle School or the Middle School Program Liaison in a conference with the student and parents.
- Academic Accommodations for Special Circumstances – Academic accommodation plans are also developed for students with chronic medical conditions or other special circumstances such as for students for whom English is a recently added language.
Homework assignments help reinforce and extend the learning that takes place in the classroom by allowing students to process, practice and reflect. The length of time that it takes for one student to complete assignments in a given evening may be more or less than another student. Personal learning styles, developmental differences, and varying skills in time-management and organization will contribute to the differences. Please contact the school if homework is regularly taking more than two hours and/or becomes stressful.
- Predicted homework and class assignments are emailed or posted on or before Sunday by 6:00 p.m. via PowerSchool and/or on each teacher’s Google site to support planning by families. A parent with his/her student is encouraged to fill assignments into the student’s planner and a family calendar on Sunday. Include athletic and social commitments.
- Students are provided with and encouraged to use a planner. Posting to a planner before the school week begins allows students to anticipate the week and is associated with reduced stress and greater academic success.
- Commit a set time each weekend to complete specific assignments that are regularly assigned week to week such as Wordly Wise, Mathmates or current event summaries.
- Students are requested to work no more than 1.5 hours each night on school work: thirty minutes of language arts, thirty minutes of mathematics, and 30 minutes of second-language study. Social studies and science are completed during the school day.
- After or during an absence, refer to the teacher’s Google site and PowerSchool for details of missed assignments. Upon return, promptly meet with individual teachers to obtain more specific direction in regard to missed assignments as needed. Ask another student for missed notes and a summary of what took place in a given class.
- Be bold and meet with teachers before and after school for clarification and help on specific homework assignments or with more general skill building. Teachers are available before school from 7:25-7:50 a.m. and after school from 3:20-3:45 p.m. (with exception of teacher coaches) to support students. Teachers are often able to make alternative arrangements when contacted in advance.
- Parental review of a student’s planner, course Google sites and PowerSchool at intervals is recommended.
- A public or semi-public location for completing homework in the house promotes focus. Parents are encouraged to check in with their student and provide structure and guidelines.
- Parents are highly encouraged to free their student from devices during homework time. Social networking while completing homework is not recommended. Maintaining a text or video interaction focused on schoolwork is difficult. In most cases, social issues distract from the purpose of the assignment – building skill through repetition and/or inspiring creativity and critical thinking.
- Establish regular breaks from sustained homework focus. Students in the middle years are most productive for about 25 minutes at a time.
- Homework is not given over extended or weekend holidays.
ESTIMATED HOMEWORK TIME
Language Arts 30 min daily
Math 30 min daily
Spanish or French 30 min daily
Electives sometimes require home time for practicing a musical instrument, learning lines for a theatre performance, or practicing a song.
Commmunity Action Team – CAT
The purpose of the SMA Middle School multi-grade CAT program is multi-faceted. One goal is to provide opportunities for students to meet regularly with and develop knowledge of students in other grade-levels. CAT also provides an ongoing opportunity to build and strengthen the SMA Middle School community through service to others, discussions and team-building activities. Mindfulness and leadership are explored and practiced to strengthen students’ confidence and capacity in the face of challenge and decision-making.
Students are assigned to a new CAT teacher each year in Middle School. The average ratio of teacher to advisees is 1:12. CAT meets two to three times each week for approximately 20 minutes.
Middle School students, with the help of committed teachers, serve the community outside of St. Mary’s Academy in on-going projects where relationships are developed with those whom are served. Community Action Teams leave school during the middle of the school day to help young children learn to read and to visit and entertain the elderly in area retirement communities. Also, through the CATeams, food is prepared for the homeless. Sometimes, individual CATeams implement service projects of their own design.
The Middle School eighth-grade students serve at St. Elizabeth’s weekly to provide food for the homeless and work in the kitchen. The eighth-grade class travels to the Cochiti Pueblo in October each year to build a collaborative relationship of service and community with the eighth-grade class at the Cochiti Middle School. Camping, science, serving and teambuilding, students grow in knowledge and understanding.
These service opportunities reveal the courage and compassion that are such an integral part of middle school students’ quest for social justice and sense of belonging and contributing to the whole.
Collaborative Leadership Service Trip
An optional international trip to Peru is offered in the spring of each school year. Students spend time in a community in Peru where they will help build a school as well as study issues related to water, work, health and education. During their time, they will explore leadership styles, visit Machu Picchu and establish relationships that can be further developed in Middle School classrooms in the coming year. In preparation, students will present information to the Middle School student body about the community they will be visiting and the student body will earn money during spirit week to dedicate to a collaborative service project in the Peruvian community. Each individual student is responsible for raising money outside of the school community for the service project, as well. This extraordinary trip is personally rewarding as well as being a significant connection for the entire Middle School community.
Middle School teachers and principal seek to develop trusting relationships with students and their families and are available to listen and guide as needed and appropriate to the situation. In addition, The SMA Lower and Middle School counselor, Donna Sullivan, is available to assist students and parents during the day with emotional and social issues.
In addition to belonging to a community action team CAT, each student also belongs to a grade-level group, which changes each of the three years. The goal of the grade-level groups is to provide a place and time to address specific academic issues facing students. With few exceptions, the teacher who serves as the grade-level guide teaches the students he/she guides. The grade-level guide facilitates communication among a student’s teachers and parents on academic issues. The guide also monitors study halls and encourages time management and study skills practice.
Library Media Center
Middle School students have access to a rich library inventory throughout SMA through the MS library. There is also a dedicated librarian on staff. Students are taught how to use and care for the resources.
Twice each week, students are scheduled so that they can plan meetings with teachers when they have been absent, need further clarification on a topic presented in class or have missed that day’s instruction for a sports or community service commitment. If they do not need to meet with a specific teacher, the time is dedicated to collaborative work or assigned individual work.
Students in the Middle School begin the year with a two-to-four-night tent-camping trip. The sixth and seventh grade students camp on the border of Wyoming and Colorado at Diamond Tail Ranch. This expansive working buffalo ranch in northern Colorado offers an ideal locale for team building, camaraderie, challenge and outdoor education. The eighth-grade class camps for four nights at Cochiti Lake where they have the privilege to learn about history and art from the Cochiti Pueblo, speak with rangers from the Army Corp of Engineers, engage in high desert field work at Tent Rocks National Monument and complete collaborative service work alongside of the local community.
Reflections, Prayer Services, and Liturgies
The entire Middle School community gathers regularly in the Commons to reflect on social issues and experience less formal prayer services as well as traditional liturgies. Leaders of the gatherings include students, teachers, the principal, or invited priests or speakers as appropriate to the purpose of the gathering. The social time together builds a sense of community and provides a forum for students to experience public speaking by observation and participation.