AHB Middle School is one of Austin’s only progressive education offerings for 11‑14 year olds. We prepare students for the high school of their choice by offering high-level, programmatically-aligned instruction built upon our school’s foundation of creative and collaborative learning.
At AHB, we keep middle school students engaged and enthusiastic about learning and school by offering a program that emphasizes intellectual challenges, interdisciplinary understandings of the world around us, and a sense of belonging and service to one’s community. All of this with the option of maintaining a condensed weekly schedule for those with commitments outside the classroom.
AHB’s innovative Middle School Program is built around 5 key tenets:
- Inquiry-based, interdisciplinary projects
- A student-centered curriculum
- A developmentally appropriate SEL (social-emotional learning) environment
- A community-minded, service-oriented focus
- Strong academics
Read more about how this translates to the classroom in AltEd Austin’s feature article about our Middle School.
What AHB Middle Schoolers Say About Their Days
“The thing I love about being a student in the middle school class is knowing every day when you come to school you are going to have fun. It is a very creative, colorful environment.”
“What I love about being a middle school student is the freedom… I can propose an alternative assignment if needed. There is both freedom and structure.”
“Every morning I am happy to come to school and have fun with my best friends!”
Middle School Program Specifics
The middle school’s core program runs 4 days a week, Mondays through Thursdays, 9am–2:30pm, with an optional Friday extension (Pathways) for those desiring a full 5-day week, and optional after school enrichment classes.
Core Program – 4 Days a Week
The middle school’s 4-day core week, which is longer than that of our elementary school, allows our older students a scaffolded transition to the demands of high school—both from the perspective of stamina and academic rigor. It also allows classroom time to broaden the curriculum for our middle school students beyond the core academic classes.
Skills in technology and fine art are woven into projects supporting our core classes of math, ELA, science and social studies. As in our younger classrooms, promoting growth in a healthy social-emotional learning environment remains a top priority during these important middle school years.
Friday Extension – Pathways: Exploring Strands & Service
Students electing the optional Friday program, Pathways, are given time to participate in community service projects, prepare for community academic competitions, and build a personalized learning portfolio—generally around a Study Strand chosen to support preparation for a high school of their choice.
Students not attending the Friday program are encouraged to find similar learning and growth opportunities with their family.
At AHB, the low student-teacher ratio allows teachers to better meet a range of academic needs and to facilitate in-depth, interactive learning. This means our middle school students can be encouraged and pushed academically to achieve more than they might think they are capable of, without the undue pressure of high stakes grading and/or testing. Instead, students gain grit, resilience, and confidence as they work to demonstrate their personal achievement and progress along AHB’s Academic Continuum, which has targets that surpass the Texas State Standards (TEKS).
Curriculum wise, interdisciplinary studies and inquiry-based projects tie social studies and science to both ELA and math in a holistic way, and students’ interests are factored into setting each year’s themes and projects. Students take an active role in their learning, working both independently and in groups on meaningful assignments.
Specifically, AHB Middle School students will read primary sources along with contemporary and classic literature while strengthening their critical thinking and learning to write about original ideas. Math instruction meets students at their current level and can include Algebra 1 and Geometry instruction for those who are ready and able to work independently with guidance. In math and science, the material learned will be applied to actual real world situations, and problems and projects will often include a component to solve real world problems as part of the concept of community service.
At the middle school level, a variety of assessment strategies are used to measure progress, promote self-reflection, and maintain rigor. These include the use of rubrics and check-ins (quizzes) along with informal teacher and peer observations. We believe this exposure to assessment models is an important part of high-school readiness, but tasks are always assessed against the established criteria, not against the work of other students, and feedback is given as a means for continued improvement, since growth and mastery (not a grade) are the end goals.
What AHB Middle Schoolers Say About Their Studies
“AHB has a great way of teaching kids about how to tackle problems.”
“Students are engaged because we have choices, responsibilities.”
“The teachers will teach you according to your intellectual level, not your age/grade.”
High School Exploration
Our middle school students learn about different high schools in the Austin area and, when relevant, how to prepare for the admissions process. Our graduating students are prepared for a variety of post-AHB high school environments.
When aspirations include specialized high school programs, students enrolled in the Pathways Program can select a Study Strand and receive support to help them prepare for:
- International Baccalaureate (IB) or World Studies Schools – e.g., Headwaters School, L.C. Anderson High School IB program, Austin High World Studies program
- Performing or Visual Arts Schools – e.g., The Griffin School or McCallum High School Fine Arts Academy
- STEM or Advanced Science & Math Schools – e.g., Liberal Arts & Science Academy (LASA High School)
A Closing Student Endorsement
“AHB is very good at preparing children for high school. It meets children at their level and tries to teach them in the best way possible for that kid. I have been here seven years and I have never experienced feeling unprepared for a certain task or assignment.”