White Cliffs Middle School: Opening Global Gateways for Rural Students

White Cliffs Middle School
White Cliffs Middle School

The integration of international curricula in rural schools is a deliberate effort to break down geographic barriers. It signals a departure from the notion that opportunities are confined to urban centers. By providing access to a globally recognized education, these initiatives acknowledge the untapped potential within rural communities and aim to equip students with the skills needed for success in an interconnected world.

In an environment where international opportunities may seem distant, White Cliffs Middle School has taken a bold step toward global connectivity. The initiative lies in the adoption of the Cambridge program, an educational pathway that serves as a gateway to the broader world for these rural students.

White Cliffs Middle School opened in 2006, with the Cambridge Program beginning in 2012. When crafting the mission and vision of White Cliffs Middle School, administration and faculty took direct inspiration from Cambridge’s curriculum and methodology across grade levels at 6th grade in addition to the application-based program. Its mission to develop citizens who positively impact the world directly relates to the Cambridge curriculum’s commitment to being both inspiring and international in approach.

The vision is crafted around the Cambridge attributes as the school strives to have students who are confident, responsible, reflective, innovative, and engaged global citizens. Both its mission and vision are directly implemented in the school’s history and mission through the commitment to fostering global citizenship through individual responsibility and community engagement.

Broadening Educational Exposure

White Cliffs Middle School is a rural, Title 1 school with many of its families falling below the national poverty level at an average annual income below $30,000. Due to these constraints, its students have limited access to areas outside of the region to broaden their exposure to state, national, and global perspectives.

Cambridge is not only taught to White Cliffs students who’ve applied and been accepted into the accelerated program but has been enveloped into most of its school’s classrooms, with teachers choosing to use the curriculum across the board, including in non-core classes such as physical education. Additionally, all the students at White Cliffs take the course “Global Perspectives,” which broadens their scope and understanding of how others live and experience the world.

Addressing Gaps and Celebrating Success

Within the Cambridge program, its teachers commit to daily team debriefings to discuss students and curriculum, as well as weekly data meetings to address gaps and celebrate successes.

One hour a day is dedicated to closing gaps with remediation and enrichment for targeting interventions, and after school tutoring is offered to support students in math and reading.

White Cliffs students have engaged in multiple community service projects such as local trash cleanups, providing trick-or-treat experiences to their sister elementary school, Desert Willow, food drives, local animal shelter supply drives, earning seed packets for communities in Asia and Mexico and work with local Veterans.

This year the seeds are going to an orphanage in South Africa outside Johannesburg. WCMS Cambridge students have participated and placed at the state levels in competitions for the National Geographic Bee, Spelling Bee, Math Counts Competitions, First Lego League Robotics, and National History Day. The school has even had some students go on to participate in competitions at the National level for National History Day and National Geographic Bee.

Maintaining High Standards

White Cliffs Middle School consistently tests well above the state average on mandated state assessments. High success has been seen in the Cambridge Checkpoint exams, with many students testing into the top range at the highest level of achievement every year. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school’s math scores were consistently at or above the national and international averages. Its 95 percent of students take Cambridge classes at the high school from 7th grade to 9th grade.

The Cambridge attributes are embedded into every classroom as well as into the culture of the entire school. In its Cambridge classrooms, typically, 20-30 percent of the class time is spent on delivery and 80 percent on student action, whereby students apply their knowledge to real-world situations.

Students likewise learn to take ownership of their own learning by emphasizing accountability. White Cliffs Middle School encourages them to be citizens of the world not only through the curriculum and ancillary resources but also through seminars, research, debate, and dialogue. Students work collaboratively to solve problems, conduct research, and develop student-led questioning.

Strive to Reach the Highest Potential

Innovation is emphasized through argument-driven inquiry labs, project-based learning, exploration of high-interest topics, and making room for teachable moments. Con_idence is built through personal accountability, re_lection, and responsibility. In Cambridge classrooms, the teachers works with students to help them reach their highest potential.

Due to the low socioeconomic situation of the community and, consequently, the school, resources are limited. This, however, does not impede its teachers from being resourceful. Many of them receive grants, fellowships, and awards that help offset the school’s limited resources. In addition, the school district has provided Chromebooks for all of its students and a sound network system to allow all of the students access to technology and research.

Broadening Educational Understanding

Kingman is a largely rural population without much diversity and resources. This prevents and limits students’ access to knowledge about the world. In order to balance this, White Cliffs Middle School has implemented the Cambridge course, Global Perspectives, for all of its students in grades 6-8. Through this course, students have grown in their empathy and broadened their understanding of their place in this world and their connections to other places and cultures.

All the teachers are provided opportunities for online professional development courses through Cambridge. The school also offers gifted program training through state and national conferences. In addition, it provides in-house training to all of its staff in the areas of assessment, metacognition, and engagement on a regular basis.

The school assesses and measures student growth and progress through the Cambridge program and the use of progression tests, unit tests, CEM testing, and end-of-year Checkpoint tests.

Communication as Consistent Commitment

White Cliffs Middle School sees communication and partnership with families and the community as a continuous and consistent commitment. With that central tenet in mind, it strives for continual communication through an open-door policy at the administrative level and transparent, timely communication with teachers.

Likewise, the school partners with local and international organizations to ground the curriculum in the classroom with their real-world applications. It partners with different clubs and organizations, youth programs, and local businesses to optimize parent feedback and engage students in the local community.

Within the Cambridge program, the school offers reteaching, tutoring, goal contracts, and opportunities for student re-election. Parents are highly involved in the Cambridge program. Communication is high and frequent including regular meetings with individual families to work together in planning for student success. In addition, the school meets 8th-grade students and their families to plan for high school success moving forward.

Gateway to International Understanding

In a small, impoverished, rural community, the awareness of living in a global society and the potential for international opportunities can be easily overlooked. In this rural enclave, the Cambridge program is not just an academic initiative but a beacon of possibility. It symbolizes a commitment to breaking down barriers and providing students with the tools they need to navigate an interconnected world. Through this program, WCMS is not merely a small institution in a rural community; it becomes a gateway to international understanding and a testament to the belief that education knows no boundaries.

At the end of 8th grade, students leave the WCMS Cambridge program with increased confidence in their abilities to think critically, perceive globally, and act compassionately. They are prepared to research and articulate complex ideas and solutions while still making space for thoughtful and respectful disagreement. WCMS Cambridge students leave school ready to be strong leaders in their local community and to make a positive impact on the global stage.

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