Friday, July 18, 2008

Experts Urge Longer Day to Raise Scores

By Nelson Hernandez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 25, 2008; Page B06

To improve middle schools, a Maryland education panel proposed yesterday giving students more class time, ensuring they are ready to complete algebra by eighth grade and enrolling them in a foreign language course by sixth grade.

The Maryland Middle School Steering Committee, a 55-member panel of experts that was launched in 2006, delivered 16 recommendations to the state Board of Education to solve long-standing academic challenges reflected in local initiatives and test scores.

In Maryland, about 81 percent of third-graders show proficiency or better on state-sponsored reading tests and 79 percent in math. Among eighth-graders, 68 percent score at least proficient in reading and 57 percent in math. Educators said they think that students who have trouble in middle school are also at greater risk of dropping out when they reach high school.

Other committee proposals to raise academic performance include providing all students with instruction in fine arts; giving students more practical experience with science, technology, engineering and math; and giving teachers more time for collaboration and planning.

The report's suggestions were broad and included no cost estimates.

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