Conrad Ball Middle School is located in Loveland, Colorado, a part of the Thompson School District, in the middle of a neighborhood where many of the students live. Loveland is a growing arts community so the involvement of the school in the community is very relevant as seen through the annual sculpture show as well as a community “chalk walk” where students participate in street art. The school itself has a very unique community of its own. The schools’ website offers a mission statement that reads: “Conrad Ball Middle School is located in Loveland, Colorado, and everything that we do reflects our school’s motto: SOAR (Service, Ownership, Achievement, Respect).” The SOAR motto is repeated in every classroom reminding students of how they should strive to act. Each student is provided with an iPad, which is something very unique to this school. The kids are trained in how to use these and be good internet users. How the students use these are dependent on the class- some use these as a learning tool everyday while some prefer to use them just to check grades on Schoology or Infinite Campus.
The school also has a variety of clubs and sports including gamers club, art club, no place for hate, volleyball, and track. This is really significant for this age of students as kids can find something they enjoy to do while connecting with kids their age in a positive way. At Conrad Ball, any student can find somewhere to belong.
The school is majority Caucasian but also has a significant diverse population. There is about 30% Hispanic/ Latino population in the school as well as small percentages of Asian, African American, Native American, and Hawaiian students. The school has 680 students 55% male and 45% female. The school is also 51 % on free and reduced lunch. Conrad Ball is the only middle school in the district with resources for ELL students and it is also the largest middle school program for ESS.
Conrad Ball is known for its expansive special needs population and programs which assist those students. ESS, Exceptional student services, IEP’s, ELL’s, and Para Professionals are a few of the programs which provide a strong support system to the Conrad Ball student demographic.
The art room at Conrad Ball is unique in many ways. The most obvious of these is that instead of using the fluorescent lighting familiar in many classrooms there are lamps placed around the room to provide more pleasant lighting. There are 8 large tables for students to sit around, a kiln in the back of the room, and a teacher’s desk at the front. There is little spare space in the classroom with fire code at 48 and many of the class sizes at 40 or above. Students are familiarized with the classroom policies at the beginning of the semester, each day students get 10 points for meeting all expectations, they lose four points for being unprepared, 5 points for little distractions, and 10 points for major interruptions. Students know from the start what is expected from them, which makes class flow more smoothly. Each day students enter the classroom and complete a “do now”- which was a part of drawing challenging for the time I was there. Students all know where to find materials so on workdays students just grab what they need to in order to get to work.
School Wide Policies
The schools master plan is empower to learn, challenge to achieve, inspire to excel. Conrad Ball is a “Positive Behavior Intervention Support” (PBiS) which means behavior is explicitly taught and defined. The purpose of this is to establish and maintain effective school environments and maximize academic achievement and behavioral competence of all learners. The Thompson School District website states components of this approach as:
- Administrative leadership
- Team-based implementation
- Define and teach behavioral expectations
- Acknowledge and reward appropriate behavior
- Monitor and correct behavioral errors
- Uses data for decision making
- Builds parent and community collaboration
Conrad Ball uses the school’s motto SOAR (Service, Ownership, Achievement, Respect) to reinforce this behavior.
The Gifted and Talented Program in Thompson School District is structured to meet the unique, high ability learning needs of students so that they may realize their “lives of great promise.” It is based on referral for consideration and subsequent assessment. The Thompson School District working definition of gifted and talented aligns with the State of Colorado definition which identifies gifted and talented children as “those persons whose abilities, talents, and potential for accomplishment as so exceptional or developmentally advanced that they require special provisions to meet their educational needs.” Gifted and talented students are capable of high performance, exceptional production, or exceptional learning behavior by virtue of any or a combination of the following areas:
- General or specific intellectual ability
- Specific academic aptitude
- Creative or productive thinking
- Leadership and human relations abilities
- Visual arts, performing arts, spatial or musical abilities
The district also offers English Language Acquisition services. The English Language Acquisition (ELA) Department serves students who have Limited English skills in speaking, listening, reading and writing and speak a language other than English in their homes. The ELA Program’s primary goal is to develop English language learners’ English skills to support academic achievement towards the ultimate goal of high school graduation.
The Special Education Department provides services for students identified with a variety of disabilities including learning, emotional and physical. The department provides specialized instruction for students to minimize the impact of their disability and to maximize opportunities for the student to participate in the school environment. Special Education Services are prescribed and defined by the federal IDEA act and are also addressed by the Colorado Department of Education.
Special Education support services include:
Continuum of Services: Special Education provides a continuum of services for identified students, ranging from in-class resources to fully contained classroom settings.
Direct and support staff: In addition to classroom special education teachers and paraprofessionals, support services are also provided by the following areas: nursing, social worker services, speech and language, occupational therapy, physical therapy, adaptive physical education, parent liaison and psychology.