Last year, Joan Blair’s daughter enrolled at A. Mario Loiederman Middle School, the new creative and performing arts school in Silver Spring. She is learning high-school-level Spanish, ranks above grade level in math, and takes theater and arts courses that she loves. But her science and social studies classes, where students of different academic levels are grouped together, are not rigorous enough, Blair said.
“As a teacher, how are you going to meet the needs of all students if they are all mixed together?” Blair asked.
She was among the more than 100 parents, teachers and educators who filed into Francis Scott Key Middle School in Silver Spring on a recent Monday night to offer concerns and suggestions at a community outreach session aimed at helping the Montgomery County school system improve its middle schools. The event was the last of three such sessions that drew crowds of county residents and educators eager to participate in a middle school reform initiative launched last fall.
The initiative was partially prompted by a middle school audit released last year that showed a lag in achievement, particularly among African American and Hispanic students, students learning English, students with disabilities and those living in poverty. The independent audit found that county middle schools are not consistent in the application of curriculum standards, the quality of school improvement programs, teacher training opportunities and discipline procedures.