Effort to firm up the ‘middle’ - 14 Brooklyn schools take part in launch of ‘Success’ campaign

The Brooklyn Paper

The middle school makeover continues.

The city has launched the Campaign for Middle School Success, which is billed as a plan to change middle school culture and boost student achievement over a period of several years.

With $35 million in public and private funding, struggling middle schools will receive support to increase achievement and details about how other schools have become successful.

The middle school grades have long been considered the most challenging for educators and students.

As a result, the Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ) – an alliance of parent organizations and community groups including Make the Road by Walking, Cypress Hills Advocates for Education, and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) – launched a public campaign to improve failing middle schools.

The group even released its own report on middle schools.

Based on data from the city and state Education departments, the report found that the majority of the city’s eighth-graders cannot read at required state levels. Also, students attending schools in low-income areas are more than twice as likely to be unable to read at the state standard than their wealthier counterparts. When kids get to high school, only 25 percent of African-American and Hispanic students graduate with a Regents diploma.

Dismal standardized test scores have supported CEJ’s assertions and suggested that student achievement declines once children reach junior high school.

On the 2006 state English Language Arts (ELA) exams, the number of students who met or exceeded standards by scoring in the top two levels on the tests steadily dropped from grades three to eight. Citywide, 61.5 percent of third-graders excelled on the ELA exam but in the eighth grade, just 36.6 percent of students placed in the highest brackets.

There were similar results for that year’s math exams. Approximately 75.3 percent of the city’s third-graders scored in Levels 3 and 4. Of the city’s eighth-graders, just 38.9 percent met or exceeded standards.

Test scores were lackluster in 2007 as well, as less than 50 percent of middle school students met or exceeded ELA standards.

When announcing the Campaign for Middle School Success, Mayor Michael Bloomberg acknowledged, “We continue to focus attention on our city’s middle schools because that is where the rubber hits the road for many of our students.”

The Bloomberg administration previously implemented middle school initiatives meant to boost achievement.

Last year, the city announced that it would split $5 million between the 51 poorest performing junior highs in the five boroughs. Each school received roughly $100,000 to pay for professional development, additional guidance counselors, or extended day programs.

Fourteen Brooklyn middle schools participated in the initial launch, including M.S. 571 at 80 Underhill Avenue, New Horizons School at 317 Hoyt Street, P.S. 35 Stephen Decatur at 272 Macdonough Street, J.H.S. 57 Whitelaw Reid at 125 Stuyvesant Avenue, M.S. 534 at 787 Lafayette Avenue, M.S. 584 at 130 Rochester Avenue, and Ebbets Field Middle School at 46 McKeever Place. Also, Elijah Stroud Middle School at 750 Classon Avenue, J.H.S. 166 George Gershwin at 800 Van Siclen Avenue, J.H.S. 302 Rafael Cordero at 350 Linwood Street, P.S. 150 Christopher at 364 Sackman Street, J.H.S. 291 Roland Hayes at 231 Palmetto Street, J.H.S. 296 at 125 Covert Street, and I.S. 349 Math, Science and Technology at 35 Starr Street.


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