Montgomery County School Superintendent Jerry D. Weast marched down a hallway on the first day of classes in the newly modernized Parkland Magnet Middle School in the Rockville area, trailed by a retinue of students. Then he stopped and asked, “Who’s taking algebra?” Three hands went up.
A few years ago, the question would have seemed more fitting in a high school. But today, half of Montgomery students take high school algebra before they leave the eighth grade, part of a regionwide trend toward more rigorous instruction in middle school.
Middle schools are the center of attention as Washington area school systems enter the 2007-08 academic year, which began yesterday in Montgomery, Howard, Anne Arundel and Charles counties and in the District. Four of eight middle schools in Charles, eight of 19 in Anne Arundel and 11 of 38 in Montgomery missed their achievement targets this year under the No Child Left Behind law.