Cabin John Middle School launches each academic year with a theme, this year’s being “All Aboard for Success at CJMS.” It’s appropriate on several levels, said Principal Paulette Smith. “We’re making our connections as though we’re on a train,” she said.
Cabin John students are on one of two tracks — about 60 percent of the school’s graduates go on to Thomas Wootton High School, most of the remainder go to Winston Churchill High School. Cabin John is an anomaly among county middle schools because it feeds into two different high schools.
Feeding two high schools could be a challenge in an age of vertical articulation — unifying academic courses within each high-school cluster. Smith said the high schools make it easier because “we have such a collaborative and open relationship with both high schools.”
ON MONDAY, Cabin John students returned to classes for an academic year that county school administrators dubbed “the year of the middle school.”
“I think it will be a good opportunity for us to look more in depth at middle schools [and] what needs to be modified,” Smith said.
This year, Cabin John students have the opportunity to enroll in several new courses, some of which were implemented county-wide.
As at all county middle schools, Cabin John seventh- and eighth-graders will participate in the College Ed Program, designed to make students think long-term about higher education and career paths. “It’s really designed to ensure that a kid who might not normally think about college will begin to think about it,” Smith said.
Also in line with county convention, Cabin John has reading as a core subject for sixth-graders, and as an option for seventh- and eighth-graders who would benefit from it. Cabin John puts its own stamp on the program, Smith said. “The county wants middle schools to focus on reading literacy,” Smith said. “We want to also focus on writing literacy, because we think they go hand-in-hand.”
More students opt for math courses more advanced than the once-customary Math A, Math B and Math C for each of the middle school years. Cabin John hopes for all students to have Algebra by eighth grade. Cabin John also offers foreign language classes in French, Spanish and Chinese.
ACADEMIC STANDARDS for middle school students are growing higher, both county-wide and among the local schools. Smith believes that Cabin John’s staff and students are on track to meet the challenge.
“We have an extremely competent and caring staff. … I think you have to absolutely love this age for a child,” Smith said. “In addition to the kids having a strong focus on their own academics, they’re just really great kids with a lot of personality,” Smith said.