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Middle School Curriculum

Grades 5–8

The Middle School Course of Study offers increasingly challenging courses that help students to discover who they are as learners and what they’re passionate about. At the same time that our teachers are challenging students, they and their colleagues — including advisors, our learning support team, and the Middle School counselor — are offering support to help them succeed.

Faculty emphasize lifelong skills like time management, problem-solving and organization and work to help students build agency. The goal is to help students to experience success (and learn from failure) in their Middle School coursework and feel confident that they’re ready to tackle challenges in Upper School and beyond.





Competency-Based Learning

Durham Academy Middle School is in the midst of a phased implementation of its competency-based learning (CBL) initiative to deepen content mastery, strengthen skills and communicate academic progress.

We are undergoing this shift in how we assess students because we know that young people learn most efficiently and durably when they are focused not on grades but rather on specific skills or competencies. These skills have been identified through professional experience during DA’s years of curricular alignment work and with the guidance of outside consultants.

Teachers design assessments that require students to use skills that are central to their discipline. Each assessment opens an exchange between teacher and learner about how to improve their skills, perpetually stretching the learner to grow their skills in that area.

For the 2023–2024 school year, teachers in seven of the Middle School’s two dozen courses will assess academic progress using a CBL framework. Instead of using traditional grades on an A to F scale, this group is measuring progress based on a set of proficiencies — indicators that teachers have determined show the learning necessary to move toward mastery of concepts and skills.

Eventually, CBL will become the primary way that the Middle School assesses and communicates student learning.