Monday, August 13

Middle school reforms on the way

Today, the mayor and chancellor announced a host of reforms based on the recommendations put forth by the City Council's Middle School Task Force. Council speaker Christine Quinn convened the task force this spring to address what the New York Times recently called the "critical years" of middle school, when adolescence threatens to derail kids' academic and social successes.

Parents will be most interested in the DOE's commitment to add Regents-level courses to all middle schools by 2010 and the fact that the highest-need schools will receive extra funds. Here's exactly what the DOE has agreed to, from the city's press release:

  • Identifying at least 50 high-need middle schools that will have access to a $5 million fund to implement the Middle School Task Force recommendations
  • Working to implement Task Force recommendations citywide
  • Waiving fees for professional development for high-need schools
  • Expanding Regents-level courses citywide
  • Establishing an ongoing discussion on middle-grade reform with various stakeholders
Interestingly, the task force report mentions 15 times that middle school class size is too large, but the DOE's announcement does not address class size at all, except in a quote from UFT President Randi Weingarten. The announcement similarly does not address parent involvement or safety and discipline at all, although those topics take up more than 10 pages in the report.

It's possible that those topics will be broached by the DOE's new "Director of Middle School Initiatives." The person appointed to this new position, housed in the Division of Teaching and Learning, will be responsible for making sure the task force recommendations are carried out. The mayor announced today that Lori Bennett will be the first person to take on this task; she was formerly a LIS in Region 8, where her new boss, Marcia Lyles, was the superintendent.

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