Wiggs at a Glance
Location--El Paso, TX
Professional development activities at Wiggs were based on a schoolwide needs assessment. Training was conceived as long-term and integral to the school's vision, rather than a series of isolated, individual events. For example, Wiggs established a relationship with UTEP which allowed Wiggs teachers to participate in a Mathematics Institute that has helped restructure the school's mathematics curriculum; teachers who participated in off-site staff development activities returned to share their training with fellow teachers. Much of the in-school training in recent years had focused on implementing the middle-school concept, including effective use of student advisories, developing interdisciplinary units, and alternative assessment measures. Other target areas included multicultural education and language development.
As part of a technology grant to UTEP, twelve Wiggs teachers, designated as clinical technology teachers, received training in innovative instructional uses of computers. The teachers were assigned student teachers trained in instructional uses of technology, and their classrooms were equipped with state-of-the-art technology.
Using the flexibility conferred by site-based governance, the faculty at Wiggs designed a school-within-a-school structure, creating a series of units or "families" at each grade level. The LAMP program for LEP was housed in two families--one for beginning students and the other for intermediate students. Students in the LAMP families spanned the three grade levels at the school. The flexible structure allowed staff to move a student from the beginning LAMP family to the intermediate LAMP family when he or she was ready, as well as to accommodate newcomers arriving throughout the year. Students remained in LAMP classes only as long as it took to prepare them to succeed in the mainstream instructional environment; once students were ready, they were assigned to one of the mainstream families at the school. Staff worked to keep students at grade level while they acquired English.
The five teachers from each family met on a daily basis to discuss various topics, including plans for collective activities, problems with and rewards for individual students, and schoolwide activities. Teachers had in-depth knowledge of their students, the students' school progress, and the students' family situations; their knowledge made them alert to signs of problems in any arena. Faculty, parents and students worked together to address students' needs.
Teachers at Wiggs had an individual period each day that they used for conferences or for preparation, while students had seven academic periods, a homeroom period, and an advisory period. The last period of the day was the advisory period for all students in the school. Advisories were smaller than the regular classes--some groups were as small as nine students. Teachers used the time to get to know their students, follow up on changes of behavior in school, and work with them on individual problems with teachers, their fellow students, or issues outside the school.
Wiggs had implemented site-based management, supported by Texas' new accountability system. The school-level governing body, the Campus Improvement Committee, was composed of representatives of the faculty, staff, parents, and the community. It was responsible for preparing a yearly Campus Improvement Plan and making decisions on the school's discretionary budget, school policies and activities, partnerships with the community, and strategies for involving parents and community members as partners in the school.
Wiggs was a state-designated Mentor School. In this capacity, it served as a laboratory for other schools, especially those wanting to implement the middle-school concept. Wiggs' mentor teachers participated in site-level training as well as professional development activities offered by the district and by the UTEP.