Midvale Middle School’s SALTA Allows Students to “Leap” Through LearningNov 09, 2015 10:14AM ● By Bryan Scott
By Stephanie Lauritzen
For middle school students seeking new academic challenges, the SALTA program offered at Midvale Middle School provides a unique educational opportunity. SALTA, a Latin-based word for ‘leap,’ stands for “Supporting Advanced Learners Toward Achievement.” The program offers advanced students in sixth through eighth grade the ability to participate in long-term project-based learning, with high levels of creativity and an emphasis on higher-order thinking skills. Students play an active role in creating their own research projects, attending enrichment opportunities outside the classroom, and working closely with teachers to increase college-readiness skills.
Currently, Midvale Middle School is the only school in Canyons District offering the SALTA program. Although the program is academically rigorous, Midvale school guidance counselor Jared Buhanan-Decker encourages any interested students to complete the SALTA test request form by the Oct. 30 deadline. Buhanan-Decker identifies the program as a “truly gifted” program, allowing advanced students a much-needed specialized learning environment. “The program brings in a wide variety of wonderful students, while allowing them to participate in the same elective opportunities as their peers outside SALTA.”
In addition to the SALTA program, Midvale is one of two Utah schools offering the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme. This program offers each student at the school opportunities to enroll in advanced and honors classes, with the goal of providing students the skills necessary to succeed in the rigorous International Baccalaureate program offered at Hillcrest High School. As a way of differentiating between the two programs, Buhanan-Decker considers the SALTA program as an “extra layer” of support for advanced students. While every student is enrolled in the MYP program, SALTA students receive additional learning opportunities in the four core classes of math, English, science and social studies.
For parents and guardians considering the SALTA program for their student, the Midvale Middle counseling department suggests families reflect on their child’s “learning history” and past experiences within the school system. “Many of these students are very gifted, they are actively looking for challenges, but are used to being able to float through their classes without much effort,” Buhanan-Decker said. “SALTA classes allow students to truly be engaged in their learning, and we see them flourish and thrive immediately after feeling pushed and challenged, sometimes for the first time.”
While SALTA students often require learning experiences beyond what is typically offered in the classroom, counselors are quick to remind parents that their students still require lots of support and guidance throughout the program. The Midvale counseling center encourages parents to communicate with teachers regularly, and to work with students to practice talking with their teachers and advocating for their own interests. “Don’t hesitate to contact teachers if you have questions or concerns. As part of the program, SALTA teachers regularly update grades online, and will follow-up with students to make sure they have every opportunity to succeed.” In addition to contacting teachers, Buhanan-Decker encourages students to use the school-provided planners and binders to help them stay organized.
According to Canyons School District, “gifted and talented and advanced students have unique cognitive, academic, creative and social needs. Students have a right to varied programming which is appropriate to their cognitive and academic abilities, thus optimizing learning opportunities.” The SALTA program allows Midvale Middle School to create the best learning environment for all students, while preparing each student for success on the high-school and post-secondary level.