New Focus on Middle Schools

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Soon after he gained control of the city's public schools, Mayor Michael Bloomberg pushed to shut down enormous high schools and replace them with smaller schools. Now, his administration is pledging to do the same with middle schools, aiming to open at least 50 more in the next two years.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, in his first major policy speech, said Tuesday the city hopes to improve education for students in those awkward middle school years, the ones "rife with challenge," hormones and heartbreak.

Those grades have been tough for the city, too, Mr. Walcott said, pointing to sagging scores for seventh- and eighth-graders on statewide English tests. He acknowledged that the city has made attempts at reviving middle schools in the past and said this would be a "bolder and more focused" plan.

The idea expands a centerpiece of Mr. Bloomberg's education reform agenda.

In 2003, the city announced it would begin carving up its large high schools?derided for years as "dropout factories"?into smaller, often themed, schools. The effort was funded in part with $50 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Results have been mixed.

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