Off to a great beginning, a middle school starts the year with much activity, as students settle in and learn about making choices in what they study.
Choices are a hallmark of the Delta Program middle school in State College PA. It’s a nopn traditional public school program which operates with input from parents, teachers, and students on curriculum and activities.
In a scene typical of many middle schools around the country, Gabe Hernández walked into David Rockower’s third period English class and paused just inside the entrance as other students surrounded the teacher to find out where to go for their next class.
Hernández, in seventh grade, pulled his slightly crinkled schedule out of his new notebook, scanned it intently and waited for the crowd to thin out before he showed it to Rockower.
“Is this my class?” Hernández said to Rockower, who nodded.
Hernández did a double fist pump as he smiled and picked out a nearby seat.
Delta Director Jon Downs said the alternative program for State College middle school students — the complement to the established secondary school — operates on a democratic model where students and their parents have as much of a voice in the curriculum and new hires as teachers and administrators.
“It gives students a greater choice of what they take and study,” Downs said. “They approve their schedule, suggest courses and help hire teachers. That’s a lot of involvement. Our goal is to empower students to make some decisions and to be responsible for their decisions.”
One reason for the expansion was the district wanted to retain students in light of an increased interest in charter schools among families. Downs said 80 students are enrolled in the Delta middle school, the cap set for its inaugural year, and that 20 more are on a waiting list.