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Archive for April, 2007

Middle schools in America are struggling—there is no doubt about it.  Few schools are immune. Even the most expensive private middle schools in our wealthiest neighborhoods express alarm at declining student achievement.  You can imagine then the additional set of challenges faced by urban school districts like New York City serving large numbers of students in poverty. 

In fact, in January 2007 nearly half of all New York City schools failing under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) standards were middle schools. Even more shocking, over 70 percent of eighth graders failed to meet both reading and math state standards.

A New York City Department of Education (DOE) study suggests shortcomings at the middle school level directly correlate to the alarming high school dropout rate.  In fact, approximately 140,000 16 – 21 year olds are no longer enrolled in school.  

 Causes for the “Middle School Problem”

There are a number of reasons for the middle school plight; however, many educators recognize adolescence itself as a primary factor.  As middle school students develop cognitively and emotionally, they test boundaries and require more challenging, engaging and yet structured learning environments.  As the complexities of teaching middle school increase, not surprisingly, so does the teacher turnover rate. Thus, middle school teachers tend to be less experienced than their counterparts in elementary or high school.   

 A Call to Action – Teaching Matters Steps Up

Recently, community groups and parents formed the New York City Coalition for Educational Justice. In January, the Coalition called for: more rigorous curricula with advanced course offerings in all middle schools, classes of no more than 20 students each, more teacher mentoring programs, and “new incentives” to attract and retain qualified middle school teachers and principals.

In response, the DOE said it is investing in middle school instruction. David Cantor, spokesperson, stated that $40 million per year will go towards “academic interventions” and to “improve instruction.”

After twelve years of working in partnership with New York City schools, Teaching Matters has made the improvement of middle school teaching and learning a strategic priority. We address core instruction by designing 21st Century learning environments that challenge and engage adolescents.  While we recognize there is no one ingredient for success, there are critical factors that we can support. 

Strong leadership and teacher quality are fundamental.  Motivating students while setting high expectations for both learning and behavior are also critical factors.  Teaching Matters designs engaging, media-rich, task-based learning environments that tap directly into student interests while addressing core content and skills. 

For teachers, we offer professional development and online support that deepens their instructional knowledge and strengthens classroom organization and management. All learning materials are differentiated to meet the needs of learners, both teachers and students. 

Additionally, we offer tangible and exciting ways to further motivate students by celebrating and showcasing their work.  The below calendar offers numerous opportunities such as a Poetry Spoken Word, a Civil Rights Summit and a Student Film Festival, among others. Teaching Matters knows that even the best teachers can use a helping hand to keep middle schoolers engaged! 

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