- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 23, 2015

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - An Omaha school plans to make changes this fall in an effort to make it a friendlier environment for students.

Westside Middle School officials said grading previously was based entirely on work that summed up what students knew, which generally were tests and final projects, the Omaha World-Herald (https://bit.ly/1Hbantc ) reported. Grading now will be tweaked to focus more on day-to-day work showing what students are learning along the way.

The number of students on each “team” assigned to a group of teachers also will be smaller. Teams are intended to make the school feel smaller and more like a family for students.

They help build relationships not only between teachers and students, but also among teachers themselves, said Mark Weichel, an assistant superintendent for teaching and learning. If a student is struggling in one class, a teacher can check whether if that student is having the same problem in others and dig deeper for answers.

Teams had grown to around 160 students each with the school’s enrollment expanding. The school plans to add two more teams, bring the total to eight, with around 120 in each team.

“There’s going to be some real, tangible changes, and more the following year,” Weichel said.

The school already has increased extracurricular opportunities to help boost student engagement, adding options such as a Doctor Who Club.

Voters in May approved a $79.9 million bond issue for the school district. Nearly $17 million will go toward renovations and additions at the middle school.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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