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Know Your Rights
Source: Daily News
Subject: Education Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Middle Meddlers


Note: Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ), of which Make the Road by Walking is a founding member, is alliance of parent organizations representing 220,000 students pushing for improvements to middle schools. In January, the CEJ released a report on middle schools that highlighted experiences in their schools and called for specific changes to turn things around.
The city’s troubled middle schools are getting a new czar and a $5 million pot of money to help boost their dismal performance, but they won’t get what many parents want: smaller class sizes.

"We’ll keep focused like a laser on middle schools," Council Speaker Christine Quinn promised at MS 44 on the upper West Side yesterday.

The Department of Education agreed to adopt several recommendations drawn up by Quinn’s Middle School Task Force, which was formed in March:

    * The 50 middle schools with the worst test scores will share in a $5 million windfall, an average of $100,000 per school, that can be used to hire new guidance counselors, improve teacher training or extend the school day.

    * All middle schools, generally defined as grades six to eight, will have Regents-level courses by 2010.

    * DOE insider Lori Bennett has been named director of middle school initiatives.

The city didn’t sign onto other ideas, such as removing safety agents from the NYPD and pledging to cap classes at 25 children.

"I’m obviously disappointed," said Leonie Haimson, of the group Class Size Matters.

New York’s middle school classes average about 28 students, compared to 20 to 22 statewide, Haimson said. Mayor Bloomberg said building new schools and hiring more qualified teachers, essential to lowering class size, will take time.

Despite some recent increases in test scores, more than half of the city’s 220,000 middle school students are still failing English exams. Social studies and science scores are far worse.

Zakiyah Ansari – a Brooklyn mother of eight who has five children in city schools – had been a vocal critic of the administration but was happy with the outcome of the task force.