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Proposed Changes to Middle School Schedule for Fall 2012

The school system is anticipating that the new Common Core State Curriculum will have a direct impact on the Middle School program offerings and they are proposing some changes which we think as parents we need to have some input on before they are implemented in the Fall of 2012.

 
The school system is proposing changes because they recognize that there has been concern about the Fitness Needs of Middle School students and likewise and they are hoping that the proposed changes will result in earlier foreign language study. Under this proposed plan, Middle School students will have the option of learning a foreign language in 6th grade vs. 7th grade.  They would now study foreign language for three middle school years instead of two years as is presently offered.  PE would be all school year on an A/B schedule.
On the face of this, these changes look great but there are some areas of concern which will require more discussion and consideration. For example:

* The proposed changes involve not teaching reading as a separate course of study and there is research which suggests that the achievement gap is a reading gap. Students will no longer be afforded the opportunity to learn reading strategies which have a direct impact on other areas of study such as math. Integration of reading across the curriculum sounds good but we need to understand and ask questions about the level of training our science, math, social studies teachers etc. will receive on reading instruction so that they have a level of proficiency in teaching reading which will not detrimentally affect our children.

* This schedule has a huge impact on the general/choral program .  It appears that related arts (one of the strongest programs in Howard County) will become an optional, interest only program.  The life skills students learn in non performance musical groups are most likely the same skills that these students will carry foward into adulthood in community groups such as church or in less formal situations like their homes.

We also need to explore the impact that this will have on staffing of related arts as their load will be significantly increased. The big concern for instrumental/choral ensembles is similar experience groupings for in-school rehearsals.  The idea that all six graders perform at an equal level and all 8th graders perform at an equal level is just as absurd as saying that all 8th grade students are at the same level in math!  Howard County has outstanding musicians for good reason.  If we homogenize students into grade level ensembles, we will lose what we have currently, and student musicians will be affected with long lasting negative effects.  Adding to that, we would basically be eliminating the exposure to students to learn non ensemble performing instruments such piano, guitar and voice that they would most likely continue to pursue later into adulthood.
 
- Public Hearing will take place on January 12, 2012 (WE NEED YOU TO TESTIFY and VOICE YOUR OPINION)

- Board will take action January 26, 2012

- Implementation of changes slated for Fall 2012

THE FACTS

Proposal to Restructure HCPSS Middle School Program

On December 8, 2011, a proposal is being presented to the Board of Education to restructure the middle school program. The proposal includes the following:
Literacy instruction will be purposefully infused into all courses and many students will not be required to take reading as a stand‐alone course.
Students who perform below grade‐level expectations in reading and/or mathematics will receive interventions and support during the school day with greater access to related arts classes.
Students will have the option of studying a world language on an alternate‐day schedule beginning in grade
Students will also receive 90 days of physical education per school year. When possible, it will be scheduled every other day for the full school year.
 
Why are changes being recommended?
Howard County middle school students have demonstrated that they are ready for a high level of reading instruction based on their performance on the Maryland School Assessment (MSA) in reading. In 2011, 93% of middle school students across all grades are scoring at proficient or advanced on the MSA. Of those, 63% are scoring at the advanced level.
Most important, the HCPSS wants all students to be well prepared for college and careers when they graduate from high school. This requires that they be able to read and understand technical content in all subject areas and respond to high‐level questions about what they have read.
The new Maryland Common Core State Curriculum also calls for instruction to move beyond skill building in basic reading comprehension to teaching higher‐level literacy skills in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects.This restructuring increases time for mathematics, science, and social studies without increasing the length of the school day.
 
Proposed Schedule: Seven 50‐minute Instructional Periods
 
English Language Arts
Social Studies
Mathematics
Science
Seminar/Core Plus – Band, Orchestra, Chorus, Interventions, Seminars
Related Arts
Related Arts

Related Arts Classes

World Language
Physical Education
Health
Art
Music
Family and Consumer Sciences
Technology Education
 
The staff report to the Board of Education on the Middle School Program is available on the school system website in BoardDocs (www.boarddocs.com/mabe/hcpssmd/Board.nsf/public or by going directly to the link below (38 pages in length)
 
Here is the Power Point presentation that was given to the BOE
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