WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Laura Ham and her two daughters crouched down on the rows of lunch tables lining the White Plains High School beside nearly 75 other White Plains parents and students eager to hear about what models the district is considering when redesigning the middle schools.
I want to see what the outcome will be, said Ham, who works for a law firm, at Thursdays middle school redesign forum.
One of the proposed redesigns, an all-sixth grade academy , appealed to Ham, even though she said her daughter Brittany, 12, had no trouble adjusting at Eastview Middle School her first year.
Nowadays I think sixth graders need to be by themselves to get grounded and used to the changing of classes, said Ham. Also, maybe its because one school is really overcrowded. Brittany goes to Eastview and I love it because its almost like a private school in a public setting.
The Eastview has approximately 500 students, while Highlands instructs a little fewer than 1,100 students.
The Middle School Redesign Steering Committee , a group of 21 administrators, teachers, and parents who researched various middle school setups this summer, outlined three models that have helped other districts with similar demographics make the transition from elementary school to middle school easier on teens.
State standardized English Language Arts (ELA) and math scores have dropped significantly since New York made the exams more rigorous in 2009, which Superintendent Christopher Clouet said indicated changes were necessary.
The yellow light on the dashboard is onwe need to pay attention to that now, Clouet said of data, such as 57 percent of eighth graders met the ELA standard last year. One hundred percent of our students is our goal.
Although the district aims to increase the number of students meeting state standards in every grade, Clouet said improving the transition into middle school may help boost academic success through high school.
Besides isolating sixth graders in one building, the steering committee suggested designating a theme at both middle schools, such as integrating an international focus at Highlands and a scientific tilt at Eastview. Instituting a block schedule, where teachers have students for twice as long every other day, is another option.
The steering committee invited parents to participate in forums conducting in English and Spanish this fall to ask questions, make suggestions, and comment on the redesign. The committee will make a recommendation to the board of education in January or February, with the goal of initiating changes in the 2012 to 2013 academic year.
Some parents, including Vicki Cignarella and Gail Jasne, attended even though their children already graduated from sixth grade. Both mothers said they felt the elementary schools werent rigorous enough to prepare their kids for middle school.
The sixth grade academy may have been good for my daughter, for a girl she went through a lot of social trauma, said Cignarella. But they werent challenged enough in elementary school to be ready for sixth grade.
The sixth grade academy also appealed to Jasne, however, she said the school district should be focusing elsewhere.
They have to go deeper than just moving kids into a separate building, said Jasne, who has an eighth grader at Eastview and a sophomore. With a new structure, youre still going to have the same problem if you dont address the problem.
Scheduling a time during school hours for students to ask teachers question or bring up concerns would be a good place to start, according to Jasne.
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