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Task Force to give recommendations for middle schools

December 10, 2007|By PAUL W. BAILEY

Editor's note: Once a month, Washington County Board of Education members and school staff use this space to write about school system issues. This month's column is written by School Board member Paul W. Bailey.




In the next several weeks, the public will be made aware of recommendations to effect change in Washington County middle schools.

Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan recently appointed the Middle School Review and Study Task Force to examine current trends being employed in middle schools throughout the nation. The charge provided to this group, under the direction of David Reeder, director of middle schools, was comprehensive. Members of the task force had several focus areas that included the state of the middle schools, school organization, school learning environment and school specialized programs.

The task force will address issues related to schedules in order to provide a balance of electives, as well as required courses. Do the length of the school day and the school year permit our middle schools to provide enrichment, as well as accommodate required courses? Answers to this question and others that will examine how middle schools can expose students to career opportunities and a traditional trades program that will enable them to make informed choices for high school are being included in the study. The task force is also considering the potential for a trades magnet program for the middle school.

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The task force will be asked to research not only current trends and practices employed in middle schools, but to think about the additions that will make wholesome learning opportunities that address the special needs of students in the early adolescent years.

Some might question the study of schooling in the middle school years when students in Washington County middle schools are performing so well on state-mandated tests. It is true that Washington County middle school students scored number one in algebra in the state. They have demonstrated excellent results in reading and mathematics that exceed most other counties in Maryland. The board would like to see the trend continue.

Looking to improve is not a case of "it's not broken - don't fix it." Our middle schools are reaching for excellence. The task force will offer recommendations that will assist in making this a high priority for the board and move the Washington County Schools to a world-class system.

As the task force finalizes its findings and provides the board with recommendations for middle schools, it will be critical for stakeholders to be informed. It is always good to ask questions and understand why changes are being considered. Middle school students face social, emotional, and academic challenges that need to be addressed.

Many thanks to the group of educators and parents that have researched, studied, evaluated and debated the issues of middle-level education.

When the board receives the task force recommendations, it will be challenged to examine carefully all recommendations of the task force and determine budget impact.

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