Dr. Joseph heard a lot of critiques about Metro Nashville’s middle schools when he arrived in Nashville. He later found out that those critiques were spot on, according to Nashville Public Radio.
The newly-hired administrative team held 30 parent listening sessions over the first few weeks. And moms and dads kept talking about middle schools and how they’d like to see them add rigor, more advanced courses and even just a bit more homework.
As a former middle school principal, superintendent Shawn Joseph thought maybe parents were just misunderstanding their pre-teen children. But then he visited many of the district’s middle schools, and the concerns about academics were “validated.”
As a middle school teacher, I’ve clearly seen the need for the transformation of middle schools. The district spent so much time transforming high schools that it felt like they forgot about middle schools.
While elementary schools are now getting more resources, middle schools got a new name in 2014 (Middle Preps) and were left alone. It’s like needing stitches and throwing a bandaid on it. It’s time for a real transformation and not just a quick fix. It didn’t work in 2014 and it won’t work now.
As I wrote in September following the release of ACT scores,
Preparing our students for graduation starts before the students even get to the high school level. MNPS transformed our high schools years ago towards the academy model. I think it’s time to start looking at the transformation of elementary and middle schools.
Elementary and middle schools need more supports in place to help close the gaps before students move on to high school. I don’t have all the answers, but I hope MNPS will be looking into ways to give more support to our lower grades.
It looks like Dr. Joseph is answering this call. I think too many students are still coming to middle school without basic skills that middle school teachers are not usually equipped to handle. I hope Dr. Joseph will continue to add more support to elementary schools while he is working to transform middle schools.
So when will these changes start to take place?
“Now is the time to give middle schools the love and attention they need to help strengthen our high school programs,” Joseph says.
Joseph cautions that he doesn’t anticipate any “mid-year, shoot-from-the-hip shifts.”
“We’ll take a bite at the apple next year with more comprehensive plans in year two and three,” he says.
Good luck, Dr. Joseph.
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