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Why We Can’t Wait! Close the Middle Grades Gap Now! The skills that many students do not achieve mastery of when they are in middle school are the same skills that they fail to display when they arrive at the doorsteps of college. Even though they have met the requirements for high school graduation, they remain profoundly limited in their abilities to do college-level academic work, in many ways because of what they did not learn in middle school. A Report on K-12 and Access Partnerships, Office of Collaborative Affairs of the City University of New York, 2007.

Education is Liberation: Padres & Jóvenes Unidos believes that all students deserve a quality education that prepares them for college and beyond. In Denver Public Schools, approximately 70% of all middle school students entering North, Montbello, Lincoln and West High Schools, the majority of which are students of color, are two to three years below grade level in their core classes (based on CSAP scores). As profound as this problem is, there is hope. Several middle schools, with more than 90% of their students qualifying for free & reduced lunch and significant numbers of English language learners, are now some of the highest performing middle schools in the District. They are defying deep-rooted beliefs about low-income students of color. Padres & Jóvenes Unidos is calling on Denver Public Schools to replicate these best practices in low-performing middle schools to close the achievement gap now.

Middle School Action Plan ~ Platform 1.

Longer school day and year and more learning time: High achieving middle schools utilize an extended school day and year. This additional time, excellent instruction, and double-blocks of math and literacy classes allow for students to reach grade level and beyond in middle school. Padres Unidos calls for high-quality instruction throughout the district over a lengthened day and year.

2.

Timely data and prompt academic interventions: Using timely data to monitor student progress and teacher effectiveness is a critical component of highly effective middle schools. Data driven instruction enables schools to quickly identify and address needed interventions for both students and teachers. Effective interventions must be implemented weekly and data evaluated monthly to see significant results. Academic interventions must be performed by the most qualified teachers and not by volunteers.

3.

College preparatory curriculum and culture: Middle school students must have access to high-quality English and mathematics courses throughout middle school, including 8th grade Algebra, in order to have a sound college preparatory academic foundation for high school. Our middle schools, including K-8 schools, must embrace and promote college going expectations and culture for all students, regardless of income or race.

4.

Highly effective principals and teachers: Research demonstrates that principal and teacher quality is the key element in improving student performance. Successful schools have principals and teachers who are effective, have high expectations and commitment to their students. Teachers held accountable for growth in their classroom must be given support and professional development in a timely ongoing basis, including increased classroom observations, data driven instruction and meaningful feedback.

5.

Student Engagement: Student access to the arts, sports and music to realize their full potential and joy.

For more information contact Sheila Keller at Padres & Jóvenes Unidos (303) 458-6545


Middle School Reform Action Platform