How to Fix Middle Schools? Question Dominates School Board

Article excerpt

In search of cures for an unrelenting illness, the Duval County School Board tonight will consider several actions to help its middle schools.

While there are continual challenges from kindergarten through 12th grade, Superintendent John Fryer said, "Middle school is where it all just kind of shows up."

In Jacksonville and elsewhere nationwide, middle schools see an increase in discipline problems and a decrease in achievement levels.

The board is scheduled to vote on a plan that calls for such remedies as making sure all middle school curricula are consistent and that their teachers and principals are equally trained.

Also, board members will consider spending $1.5 million on an America's Choice plan that sets performance standards, such as assuring all students read well by the end of third grade and are ready for algebra by the beginning of eighth grade.

The board also will query why one recent sixth-grade class lost about 1,200 students by the time it became an eighth-grade class.

The board will meet at 6 p.m. at the School Board Administration Building, 1701 Prudential Drive.

The New Century Commission on Education, a community group made up of business leaders, educators, parents and others, called for a thorough revamping of the ailing middle schools. In response, a 10-member Middle School Task Force of school officials compiled a plan to "improve the strength and rigor" of grades 6-8.

The plan calls for:

Consistent curricula among the 23 middle schools. Even though many students change schools during the middle school years, the changes wouldn't be as difficult if the schools were teaching similar courses simultaneously, especially in language arts, math and science, Fryer said.

Professional development. The schools should continue to help teachers and principals improve, using such aids as leadership and teaching seminars. …