After 18 months of community soul searching, Superintendent Jeffrey Young will unveil an ambitious plan tonight to reconfigure the district’s middle school education to emphasize academics and consistent standards for all students.
The superintendent’s plan would slash from 12 to four the number of schools that serve 11- to 14-year-olds, a move intended to centralize instruction for the 1,200 students in grades 6 through 8. The effort is aimed at narrowing disparities in class size, teacher training, and resources available to students at different schools. The disparities tend to shortchange minority students and those who are foreign-born or have special needs, Young said. Many arrive at high school poorly prepared.
“We think that this is largely about uplifting every child in his or her performance,’’ said Young, who will present his “Innovation Agenda’’ to the School Committee today. “For the ones who are excelling, we want them to do even better. For the ones that are struggling, we want to support them to reduce and eliminate the achievement gaps.’’
The number of middle-school-age students at the worst-performing schools has tended to be low, as parents opt to remove children from the system. With few students in those grades, schools have devoted scant resources to them, Young said.
His plan would consolidate those students in four schools, where class sizes would be more even, teachers can more easily collaborate, and academic offerings would be more rigorous. Special needs students and English language learners would receive more attention than in the past. Teachers would undergo more training, and the district would work with institutions like Harvard and MIT to design better math and science classes.