Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Board Backs Plan to Boost Middle School Achievement; Superintendent Said Changes Will Ensure Parents Will Have More Choices for Students

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Board Backs Plan to Boost Middle School Achievement; Superintendent Said Changes Will Ensure Parents Will Have More Choices for Students

Article excerpt

Byline: Denise Smith Amos

Duval's School Board Monday night unanimously approved a plan to reform the district's middle schools to boost academic achievement and shore up enrollment at neighborhood middle schools.

Duval's middle schools have had many challenges in recent years.

In addition to losing about a quarter of incoming sixth-graders to charter, private or magnet schools, Duval's neighborhood middle schools historically score below state averages and some schools in Florida's biggest school districts.

Among the new reform strategies, the district is exploring different grade configurations for middle schools, including two elementary schools that this year will keep sixth-graders. Most Duval middle schools currently serve sixth through eighth-graders.

Every middle school also is adopting academic themes and accelerated courses to attract students and they are offering more foreign language classes, music, sports and mentors to attract students. This is the first year sixth-graders were allowed on school sports teams.

Under the plan, middle schools also will be adding "pre early college" programs, allowing for early high school credits and a Student Life Skills course for college credit for middle school students next year.

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti has said the changes will ensure middle school parents will have more choices for students, because students will be able to enroll in programs of their choice.

The proposal comes close but doesn't guarantee full school choice for middle school students, something a Jacksonville Public Education Fund position paper recommended recently.

Middle schools also will use more blended learning, which combines online learning with teacher instruction. …

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