Academics at Willard?

I toured Willard Middle School recently, and came away mildly baffled and slightly alarmed about the academic program there. The principal seems like she has it together, but throughout the tour, academics seemed to take a backseat to all the other stuff, like community building, discipline, etc. Those are important, I don't deny it, but the lack of information or engagement with the school's academic mission seemed like a red flag to me. When I asked specifically about the curricula in English and History, I got an answer that was mostly just the names of the various programs selected, and little more. Even more alarming, there was not one word about how the school approaches STEM education. I don't know what to make of this, whether it's just a personal quirk of the principal or what. I'd really appreciate some insight from current or recent Willard parents about the academics there. What was the English/History/Math/Science/etc. program like, and what did you think of it? Was it project based or worksheet based or exam driven or what? Seriously, after a tour that lasted about an hour and a quarter, I came away knowing only barely more than I did when I walked in, so any insight at all would be very helpful.

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RE: Academics at Willard? ()

Although my kids went to a different public middle school, all public schools are supposed to adhere to the state curriculum standards, https://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/cf/cimegasubjectareas.asp. Thus, your kids should be taught what they are supposed to know by the end of each school year.

That said, both of my kids' middle and high school science teachers said that the amount of lab work the class did was completely dependent on the behavior of the class. The better behaved the class, the more hands-on experiments the class did. This was true in my kids' experience in all subjects. Perhaps that is why the principal did not address specifics, because how interesting the teaching and learning is depends on how receptive the students are, and that cannot be predicted in advance.

Oh, and I'll add that class size plays a role in this too; my daughter's best classes ever were an AP English and and AP science that got added on to the end of the school day and has fewer than 20 kids, all super engaged. So sometimes it is just the luck of the draw, not necessarily the school itself or anything the principal can actually control.

RE: Academics at Willard? ()

My information about Willard is four years old (my son is a high school senior) but since you didn't get any other replies about Willard I thought I would chime in -- probably the same teachers are still there. Our experience was that the science and math programs are a strength at Willard. I'm not sure why you didn't get this information on your tour. The science teachers in particular are smart and enthusiastic, relate well to young teens, and come across as sincerely committed to giving every child a love of science as well as a firm foundation in the sciences.  They use novel techniques to make sure kids stay engaged and will have the facts at hand they need to progress to higher levels of the sciences, such as combining very structured guided note-taking for lectures along with videos and hands-on experiments.  Our son has always gotten very average grades but he left middle school saying that math and science were his favorite subjects.  He is not academically oriented, and has taken no AP classes in high school, but he has chosen to take 4 years of math, along with bio, chemistry, and physics, and he's enjoyed all his classes. I attribute that love to the groundwork that was laid at Willard.  Despite a lackluster GPA in high school (we're talking 2.6), he scored above the 95% percentile in science on the ACT which has made him competitive for college, and he is planning to major in one of the biological sciences.