In the middle schools at the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District, the mentality of “success in groups” can be seen as you walk the halls or enter any classroom.
“I like the feeling that you belong somewhere in school, and that you are part of something,” said Marissa Flores, seventh grade student at Vernon. “It inspires us to work harder and get better grades.”
The initiative that Flores is referring to is the practice of academic teaming, which is a method of student organization that divides each grade level into two teams. Each team has a designated set of teachers. The distribution of students into teams is designed to allow them to go through the year with the same teachers and classmates.
“Students like it,” said Esmeralda Valdez, seventh grade teacher at Vernon Middle School. “It helps them be a part of a team, and have that comradery within classes. It creates small learning communities.”
By creating small learning communities the goal is to help students retain more information and individualize their learning experience. Teachers will also have the advantage of continually working with the same students and team teachers to identify discipline or curriculum concerns in their classrooms.
With this collaboration, tactics are developed to combat any situation that may hinder a student from reaching academic success.
“Our teams allow us as teachers to provide a more focused and concrete learning environment for our students,” said Valdez. “We work together to give our students the best education that HCISD has to offer.”
The approach has had a positive impact on students. They credit the consistent class environment as a factor in their ability to remember class lessons.
“We get to do more things together, and have more time to absorb the information our teacher is presenting in class,” said Flores. “You have a closer relationships with your teachers. For me, having a better relationship with my teacher really helps me with my grades.”
Academic teaming is not only aimed at impacting students in the classroom; HCISD has tailored the design to get students thinking about their future. Teams are typically named after universities so that students can get an idea of the colleges they would like to attend, Valdez said. On some occasions, the college a team represents can be a driving force when thinking about what team a student would like to be on.
“I’d like to attend Texas A&M University when I gradate,” said Flores. “There is an Aggie team in eighth grade. I hope to be on that team next year.”
The teaming method is practiced at all HCISD middle schools throughout each grade levels. The district has implemented the teaming approach for over 15 years.