A new report on city middle schools was released Monday, accompanied by a plan to significantly improve teacher training and academic performance.
The City Council released the findings from its Middle School Task Force, which was set up to identify why the city’s 220,000 middle school students have been performing below standards.
Scores were up slightly overall, but continued to sink grade by grade to the point where just 46 percent of eighth graders were passing. Math test results showed a similar slide as middle schoolers got older.
"That’s when many students begin to lose their footing, said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn established the task force to study how to turn middle schools around.
"To address my own concerns about middle schools, as well as those of parents, students and administrators I’ve heard throughout the city, she said.
The new initiatives are geared to improve teacher and student performance and provide more resources to city middle schools.
The mayor says the city will implement the task force’s recommendations, including:
# An additional $5 million in the 50 lowest performing middle schools to
recruit and train better teachers and principals;
# More rigorous class work, putting Regents classes in every middle school by 2010;
# More parent involvement.
"The only way to reduce the dropout rate in this city, the only way to improve access to college is to improve the conditions in our middle schools, said Middle School Task Force Chairman and NYU education professor Pedro Noguera. We also know that many of our teachers are not prepared to teach in middle schools."
"Our teachers will be getting out into communities, talking to parents as well, opening up the dialogue so everybody knows school is the focus," said Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.
Quinn said $5 million dollars is enough to get improved teaching results.
"We’re now going to have in high-needs schools the possibility of mentors coming in, watching teachers and really helping them figure out how to do a better, more targeted job, said Quinn.
But Noguera did sound a note of caution.
"Anyone who’s been in this business for a while knows any report is only as good as its follow through," he said.
The mayor says improving teacher quality is at the heart of the initiative, and promised not to put the report on a shelf.
Lori Bennett, a veteran city educator, was announced as the city’s newly-appointed middle school director.
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.