Archived Story

Ellis transitions to success

Published 5:22am Friday, March 14, 2014

Jason Senne

Ellis Principal

Middle school is typically a transition time for many students across the nation. This year, Ellis Middle School has taken on its own transition with the recent addition of I.J. Holton Intermediate School. The transition from a grade six to eight building to a grade seven to eight building started in the fall of 2012 with the Ellis Redesign Committee discussing scheduling, teaming and building layout.


The first decision focused on the daily schedule for students. Ellis staff and administration researched a variety of scheduling options including block scheduling, six and seven period days and alternating days. After months of discussion and research, the team decided to maintain the current seven period instructional day. This schedule allows Ellis Middle School students exploratory educational opportunities in music, art, woodworking, metals, plastics and foreign languages.

The second decision focused on “to team” or “not to team.” Department chairs and Redesign Committee reviewed student performance data and trends in education. This information guided our decision to become a department-focused building. The department focus has allowed us to be more flexible with the schedule and increase the number of sections of honors level courses. The department focus also allows teachers to collaborate daily and create common lessons and assessments.

The final decision focused on the building layout. The movement of 14 teachers to I.J. Holton meant an opportunity to relocate classrooms that were in closets or storage rooms. Each department submitted a building map to administration based on their specific needs. The decision was made to group classrooms together by department with special education and English Language teachers to be embedded into the departments.

The year started smoothly with 724 students entering Ellis Middle School. Students and staff spent September adjusting to new locations and reviewing expectations. The Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) team introduced quarterly school celebrations in an effort to continue to build positive relationships. The celebrations promote friendly competitions between grade level advisories by competing in a variety of activities including a costume contest, talent show, and athletic competitions. The annual Ellis Fun Night was held Feb. 7 with a variety of basketball games pitting the girls against the boys and the eighth-grade boys vs. Ellis staff. It was a well-played game with the students winning 47-43.

Ellis will continue to transition during the 2014-15 school year as we begin to integrate 1:1 student laptop computers. University of Minnesota continues to partner with our schools by providing ongoing staff development and technology integration. It is an exciting time to be a student of Ellis Middle School and the Austin Public Schools.

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