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PR- 288-07
August 13, 2007


Department of Education to Implement Several Proposals of Council’s Middle School Task Force

Former Region 8 Local Instructional Superintendent Lori Bennett to Serve as Department’s Director of Middle School Initiatives

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein today announced a series of initiatives to help improve academic performance in New York City middle schools and to provide greater resources for students, parents, teachers, and administrators. At today’s announcement, the City Council released the findings and recommendations of its Middle School Task Force.  The Department of Education (DOE) is moving to implement many of these recommendations for the coming school year, and the Mayor announced $5 million in funding to support them. The Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein also announced the creation of the Director of Middle School Initiatives position within the Department of Education and the subsequent hiring of former Region 8 Local Instructional Superintendent Lori Bennett.  The Mayor, Speaker and Chancellor were joined for today’s announcement at JHS 44 in Manhattan by United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, Council Member Robert Jackson, and members of the Council’s Middle School Task Force.

“Our City’s schools have made enormous progress over the last five years, but we still have a long road ahead,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The new strategies we are announcing today will continue that progress and help more students make the difficult transition from elementary school to middle school to high school. Middle schools are where too many of our students begin to lose their footing, so I want to thank Speaker Quinn, Chancellor Klein, and the task force for coming up with such a sound set of recommendations to help us continue moving forward.”

“When the Council decided to make middle school reform a major priority, we pulled together experts and stakeholders from every facet of the education community,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn.  “The recommendations of our Task Force point the way toward a comprehensive, effective approach that will dramatically improve New York City’s middle schools and create bright futures for our students.  We are proud that the Administration and the DOE have agreed to implement many of these recommendations this year, and we will continue working to move forward with even more of our key proposals city-wide.”

City Council Middle School Task Force

The City Council appointed the Middle School Task Force to tackle persistently low academic achievement among New York City middle school students, whose performance has consistently lagged behind elementary and high school students.  In 2007, less than 50% of middle school students met or exceeded the English Language Arts (ELA) standard, and only 45.6% of 8th graders met or exceeded the math standard.

Members of the Middle School Task Force held a series of public forums in all five boroughs, hearing testimony from middle school students, parents, teachers, school administrators, and other members of the community. The Task Force investigated test scores recorded by students in subject areas throughout the middle school curriculum, and considered best practices championed by leading experts and advocates in the education field.

New Middle School Initiatives

The Administration and DOE have agreed to the following steps recommended in the Council’s report:

  • Identifying at least 50 high-need middle schools that will have access to a $5 million fund to implement the Middle School Task Force recommendations
  • Working to implement Task Force recommendations citywide
  • Waiving fees for professional development for high-need schools
  • Expanding Regents-level courses citywide
  • Establishing an ongoing discussion on middle-grade reform with various stakeholders

In addition, Mayor Bloomberg announced the creation of the Director of Middle School Initiatives and the hiring of former Region 8 Local Instructional Superintendent Lori Bennett for the new position.  Ms. Bennett, a Middle School educator for three decades in both the New York City and Newark, New Jersey school districts, assumed her new position last week and reports to the Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning, Marcia Lyles. Her new responsibilities include designing middle school professional development programs and implementing task force recommendations.  She will also maintain an ongoing dialogue with stakeholders to ensure that middle school reforms continue to evolve throughout the system.

The Department of Education will collaborate with the City Council to identify high-need middle schools to serve as the primary beneficiaries of intensive professional development support. The cost of all centrally-offered professional development will be waived for these schools.

Working with the support of the new Director of Middle School Initiatives, the School Leadership Teams of these targeted middle schools will be able to choose from a variety of Task Force recommendations, and to access a $5 million fund to implement those that best fit with the needs of their individual schools.
New City funding may also be used to hire additional guidance counselors and family assistants, offer extended day programs to students, award teacher scholarships, create collaborative communities, and purchase external professional development or consultation services.
“The middle school years are crucial years for our children. I am confident that the steps we are taking will help us address the needs of this vulnerable student population,” said Chancellor Klein. “Thank you to the Middle School Task Force for its valuable input and to Speaker Quinn for her leadership. I’d also like to thank Lori Bennett for taking on this challenge as our new Director of Middle School Initiatives. Lori has worked in middle schools for three decades. She brings both passion and understanding to this position.”

“This initiative is an important step in focusing attention and resources on our middle schools, which pose significant educational challenges not only here in New York City but across the nation,” said UFT President Randi Weingarten. “We are particularly pleased to see a commitment to provide our middle schools with more guidance counselors and enhanced support services, professional development for teachers and challenging instructional programs for students. The Middle School Task Force's recommendations are so on point that our goal is to have all of them adopted. We also hope this initiative will lead to a real lowering of class size, which will go a long way toward helping to improve these schools.”

“In our report, the Task Force has outlined a series of reforms that we believe can lead to significant and measurable improvement across the City's middle schools,” said Task Force Chair Dr. Pedro Noguera. “These recommendations are based upon a series of consultations with teachers, students, parents, and administrators from throughout the system.  We have done our best to incorporate the ideas and concerns that have been raised and drawn on the best research on proven and effective measures that can lead to improvements in the classroom.  We are proud that the DOE has agreed to begin implementing key components of our proposals, and thank Speaker Quinn and the Council for focusing much needed attention on this often forgotten segment of our public schools.”

“For years our City's Middle Schools have been trailing elementary and high schools in basic performance, and lacking the resources necessary for improvement,” said Council Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson.  “Today we begin the process of reversing this trend, giving our middle schools a greater chance for success.  I want to thank the Task Force for all their work in identifying core problems and proposing clear and practical solutions, and I commend the DOE for moving quickly to implement many of our proposals.”

“This is a hopeful moment for NYC public school children,” said Ocynthia Williams of the Coalition for Educational Justice.  “CEJ applauds the Speaker of the City Council for convening this Task Force, the Task Force for its great work and smart recommendations, and the DOE and the Mayor for responding.  There is much work ahead but this collaboration is an important first step.”


Stu Loeser/Dawn Walker   (212) 788-2958


Anthony Hogrebe (Council)   (212) 788-7151

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