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November 16, 2005

Strong, Consistent Middle School Academics

As I listened to the Pam Nash’s (Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools) presentation on the Middle School Redesign to the Performance and Achievement Committee last night, I was thinking of an academic/elective middle school framework applied across the district that would be notable in its rigor and attractiveness to parents and some next steps. Personally, I consider fine arts and foreign language as core subject areas that all students need and benefit from in Grades 6-8.

Have at it and comment with your wish list/ideas, education and support for students, developing a few more options/strategies.

Possible “common” structure in middle school that next year could look like:

6th – math, social studies, language arts, science on a daily basis plus two unified art periods (one is A/B phys ed and music plus 4 one quarter units).
7th – math, social studies, language arts, science, foreign language on a daily basis plus two unified art periods (one is a/b phys ed and music plus 4 one quarter units)
8th – math, social studies, language arts, science, foreign language on a daily basis plus two unified art periods (one is a/b phys ed and music plus 2 half semester units

In each of the 5 day subject areas, look at differentiation - narrower, but not isolated, ranges of ability grouping and heterogenous classes. In math there would be the opportunity to take geometry in 8th grade, say. Other different challenging/support options in other areas. This is basically the current schedule at Hamilton Middle School and some other middle schools.

For the study units that make sense to offer on a quarterly then half semester basis, look across the district and see what the mixes are and also look at WI Code PI 8.02 (standards) to see what is required and allowed to be offered in quarterly or half semester units.

Look at participation in each elective at each school, look at skills/objectives in each. Survey parents and kids and ask them to rank their top 4, 5 or 10 electives. Offer these units as quarterly or half semester units for the next year. Identify those units that might go to a multi-quarter, one year or 3 one year course that would be an a/b, a) be excellent for this age group, b) leads into further study in high school, c) other.

I also think it would be worthwhile to pay close attention to what districts in the surrounding school districts are offering academically. These school districts could increasingly become Madison’s competition if they haven't already.

From 2001 to 2004 1,200 new students are in school in Madison and the surrounding communities. From 2001 to 2004 Madison lost nearly 200 students. The economic value of 1,200 kids at $10,000 per student is $12,000,000. Losing 200 students loses $2,000,000 in revenue which equates to 40 teachers. Also, during that same time period approx 2,000 low income students entered the MMSD and 2,000 non low-income students were no longer in the MMSD. About another new 1,000 low income students are in districts surrounding Madison.

I’m pulling this data from DPI and will post soon. Low income children can require more support services – higher overhead. If we do not keep a mix of students, more of the overhead dollars (non-instruction costs) will go to support services. That’s less education for all – more parents will continue to go to the ‘burbs. This does not have to be but will continue to be so if the School Board does not factor in this issue.

Enough for now. I’d be interested in folks thoughts.

Posted by at November 16, 2005 12:23 AM
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