Marblehead Veterans Middle School address students’ social-emotional growth


One of the top middle schools when it comes down to test scores in Massachusetts, Marblehead Veterans Middle School is focused on meeting the needs of their student’s social and emotional growth.

“We have an increased need with our students, to support our students with a social emotional growth,” said Matthew Fox, principal of Marblehead Veteran’s Middle School.

Less than two weeks ago, Marblehead Veterans Middle School presented its budget needs at the School Committee meeting where their request for two new positions would be added, a social worker and a data intervention coach.

The school currently has two school psychologists who are busy with testing and other duties that restrict them from seeing students more frequently, “we’re at the point where our guidance counselors are having to pick up individualized school counseling, which they are both qualified to do, but it’s really not their position because they manage an entire grade. So, I have one guidance counselor per grade, so their caseload is really 200. They deal with all students and the ups and downs of middle school social life,” said Fox.

“So, it’s hard to schedule them into specific things that kids might need. So, we really have a need for a social worker we had one years ago, when we had this need before, and we’re just we’re coming back to realize we really need this position,” he added.

To address social-emotional needs, an advisory discussion is offered in groups of 10 to 12 students per teacher that meets a few times a week, throughout the entire school year. Where a combination of social-emotional learning and fun activities where respect, responsibility, kindness, and citizenship are essential in how to school is run.

According to Fox, having students monitor their own behaviors and feelings and being able to express them appropriately relative to self respect,  values, and judgment as part of their social-emotional learning and to open doors to assisting students in new ways.

When it comes down to test scores, Marblehead Veterans Middle School continues to outgrow other middle schools in the area with outstanding scores, placing 19th out of 487 middle schools or any school that has an eighth-grade including kindergarten through eighth grade and eighth grade through twelth grade schools.

“If we look back at the MCAS (state comprehensive assessment) scores from last year, our ELA (English Language Arts) scores were in the top 10 percent of the middle schools in the state. Our math scores were in the top 12 percent in the middle schools in the state. And in fact, if we delve down into that a little bit more like our eighth-grade math was tied for 19th highest in the state for meeting and exceeding expectations,” said Fox.

When it comes down to English, the school was placed 11th highest in the state of Massachusetts for meeting and exceeding expectations. while being placed fourth highest in the student growth percentile, outgrowing their testing peers.

For the writing portion of the MCAS (Massachusetts comprehensive assessment tests), the school placed third in the state of Massachusetts.

According to Fox, that’s the result of teaching students, proper grammar, and sentence structure while developing and exhibiting their own voice, “I think we do a great job of teaching students. There is a formula to writing but there’s also a way to do that and still have your voice in it,” said Fox.

When it comes to idea development, the school placed top three in the state, which according to Fox, is a result of the conventions, conferences, and writing workshops for students to understand and meet requirements while showcasing their unique voice in their writing which shows in the result of their test scores.

“We don’t try to make robots, we try to make good writers and good writers are all a little bit different,” added Fox.

Two years ago, the school invested in iReady benchmark assessments, to track student progress in English and math throughout the years.

According to Fox, the online program helps identify the students that need assistance, providing teachers with significant data where they can continuously monitor students’ thought time with that data provided.

“That’s why a data interventionist coach can really help us sort of manage that and then help us by pushing into classes and helping teachers really modify and make sure every class is successful, everybody in that classroom,” added Fox.