The New Academic Year 2007-2008
From New York City Council
Middle School Initiatives
Education Update (EU): What are the most salient advantages of the Middle Schools Initiative for parents, students, teachers, and administrators?
Speaker Quinn (CQ) and Councilman Robert Jackson (RJ): The Middle School Task Force report put forth 39 comprehensive recommendations aimed at improving the learning and academic performance of middle grade students.
While we believe all the recommendations will help improve middle grades education, the most critical recommendations are as follows:
Middle Grades Leadership—Establish an effective training model for middle-grade school principals to create stronger instructional leaders.
Professional Development for Middle-Grades Teachers—Establish ongoing professional development to make middle-grades teachers more effective instructors and help them encourage student development.
Recruitment and Retention of Quality Teachers—Institute specified training in adolescent development for middle-grade teachers and recruit and retain quality teachers, especially in the areas of ESL and content-specific bilingual study.
Parental Involvement—Encourage parents to play a larger role in their children’s schooling to stimulate academic success and reduce discipline issues.
Middle Grades Curriculum—Incorporate rigorous coursework, effective recuperative programs for students left behind, and greater enrichment activities to foster achievement and benefit academic development overall.
Student Support and Counseling—Increase access to guidance counselors, support staff and other counseling services for students to help ease their transition into adolescence, which will result in more attentive, successful students.
Middle Grades Governance & Organization—Mandate smaller class-sizes and scheduling flexibility to promote healthier learning environments.
Safety & Discipline—Establish clear and firm disciplinary practices to elicit positive student behavior and create safe and productive learning environments for students and teachers.
EU: What is a realistic time frame for the Initiative to be implemented?
CQ & RJ: The Department of Education has already committed to implementing the following Middle School Task Force recommendations as of this school year:
Hired a Director of Middle School Initiatives who is responsible for designing middle school professional development programs, implementing task force recommendations, and maintaining an ongoing dialogue with all stakeholders, including Task Force Members, regarding middle school reforms; Committed five million dollars this year to help 50 high-need schools with middle grades to implement Task Force recommendations; Waived fees for Professional Development for high-needs schools; and Committed to expanding Regents-level courses citywide.
We believe that as discussions continue between the DOE, Task Force Members and other stakeholders, we will see additional recommendations implemented citywide in the coming years.
EU: How does the Middle School Initiative interface with NCLB?
CQ and RJ: NCLB is geared towards improving student academic performance, especially for high need, underserved students. The Middle Grades Initiative also focuses on improving student achievement in middle grades, focusing on high-need students first. One of the key components of NCLB is requiring a highly qualified teacher in every classroom. Among the MSTF recommendations are incentives to attract and retain qualified and experienced middle grade teachers to low performing schools, as well as providing professional development to improve the skills of all current classroom teachers. The MSTF report also recommends developing a career ladder as a means of retaining experienced and qualified teachers, and expanding the lead teacher program which offers mentoring for novice teachers.#