By Kurt Moellering, Upper School Division Head 2012-2020
For students who needed one more year of Carroll to thrive, a new program transformed their learning journey.
“College prep academics, Carroll School support.” One of our first taglines for the Carroll Nine program defines how the program came about.
After the Carroll high school closed, we had a real gap for our students who needed one more year of Carroll: kids who had come to the Middle School late, or weren’t yet ready to go to high school. By providing a college prep academic program alongside Carroll’s strong support model, we would (as Steve Wilkins often said) “increase each student’s trajectory” to better prepare them for the rigors of high school—and beyond.
Carroll Nine was the brainchild of Steve Wilkins and Larry Brown. In 2010, they repositioned another faculty member, Steve Zimora, to create and run the C9 program. I was also hired that year as both a Middle School teacher, and to work alongside Zimora to put together a program for the 2011-2012 school year.
When Zimora announced he was leaving Carroll, Steve Wilkins and Larry Brown took me out for a beer (as they sometimes did back then) and offered me the opportunity to lead the program. That first year, it was me, Bob Reid, and Jenny Junkin with 16 students. The three of us taught every class and every focus block, and provided all the social emotional support for our students.
We launched an afterschool study hall that year, providing intensive help in a targeted, non-judgmental way—a model that is still employed today. Around Thanksgiving, we hired a part-time science teacher, and offered a public speaking course led by Shea Schatell.
We also established community-building activities to set the tone for the program, and because we recognized that our kids needed to have fun, too. We held our first Winter Feast that year—a tradition that continues today. We built a complete replica of the Thoreau cabin in Walden Woods. We took a three-day sailing trip from the Cape to Gloucester: a real test of our endurance and ability to work together. Our first graduation was held at a museum in Gloucester and featured the hallmark student journey speeches that define the Upper School graduation to this day.
“Let’s make a plan” became our internal motto. We structured the program to allow students to make mistakes—an important learning tool—and then worked collaboratively to make a plan to get past those mistakes. Everything about the program was “GEC”—there was no “one approach,” but always what each student needed at that time.
Give each child … It’s not just a slogan. They do and it’s amazing. In our district, we pushed and pushed and only managed to get about two 15-minute reading support sessions twice a week. When Shea started at the Upper School, he had four class sessions a day devoted to reading. And they kept changing his schedule to provide the right support for him as he progressed.
Mary Kate McGowan P’20, Past Parent of Shea Booth ‘20
In year 3, we grew to 21 kids, added an 8th grade to the program, and began offering tutoring. By adding an 8th grade cohort, we discovered that we could differentiate by focusing on grit, a growth mindset, and self-reflection over a two-year program, much more so than in one year.
Moving to the Wayland campus as the Upper School in 2017 was a huge milestone. The culture blossomed, in large part, through the efforts of the collaborative, caring, and expert teaching staff. Teachers eat lunch with students, they work with kids during free periods, they teach Multis, they plan and lead field trips, they give parents a detailed picture of what students are doing in each class, they give students accurate and current feedback on their progress... and they know how to have fun.
The intimacy of the Upper School allows it to challenge students who need academic rigors, while supporting students who need support-- and nourishing independence, self-advocacy, organization, communication, partnership, and fun along the way.
The evolution of the Upper School is rooted in GEC. Our faculty continue to think differently about how to provide students with a rigorous academic model that meets their needs as learners and, this year especially, one that engages them in critical conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion. We want to prepare students for their next academic setting—but also for the world that awaits them.
Kate Collins, Upper School Division Head
This article is part of a series from Carroll Connection, A Timeline for Transformation: 2005-2021.
- Carroll Connection 2021-22