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Middle Schoolers Get New School, New Teachers

When Willow Run Middle School in Michigan was placed in restructuring, the district responded by building a new school, hiring new staff, and implementing a new curriculum. Included: Resources for reform strategies.

Willow Run (Michigan) Middle School was placed in restructuring in 2003-04. Over the summer of 2004, the district built a new building and restaffed the school. This new staff implemented a new research-based curriculum.

District officials said they found it difficult to track student achievement using state tests alone, because of the timing of the state test, the periodic increases in adequate yearly progress (AYP) targets, and past changes in the grade levels tested. Instead, teachers and administrators turned to assessments provided by Edperformance, STAR Reading, and STAR Math to help make decisions about student achievement and to help plan instruction.

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act has given the district extra leverage to make changes, such as replacing staff and implementing a new curriculum, officials said. The research-based reform model was developed by a design team made up of teachers, parents, and district administrators. The team met regularly for a year to explore possible reform models and come up with a specific plan that would work for the new school.

The reforms chosen were based on proven strategies identified by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform, research on effective middle schools from the National Middle School Association, and Turning Points research by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. In addition, district staff said several of the approaches to learning had been successful in the districts K-8 school, while the middle schools past focus on memorizing facts for tests had been unproductive.

These changes are in line with the districts overall goals of improving student achievement and engaging students in learning. NCLBs school choice and supplemental services sanctions have had less impact on the district. No students have transferred based on school choice, and 2004-05 was the first year in which substantial numbers of students participated in supplemental services.

Willow Run officials said that they believe student achievement is up in the district, but that these increases have not always shown up on state tests, especially at the middle school and high school levels, where students have traditionally had more trouble meeting AYP targets.


Center on Education Policy

To read the full report, see From the Capital to the Classroom: Year 4 of the No Child Left Behind Act .


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