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PRESS RELEASE

January 10, 2005

Jacob DiPietre
(850) 488-5394

MacKay Jimeson
(850) 245-0413

Governor Bush Announces Initiative to Increase Rigor and Change Culture of Middle Grades

MIAMI — Governor Jeb Bush today announced a proposal to increase rigor and change the culture of middle grades by aligning the mission, grading scale, and course-taking requirements of middle schools with high schools and continuing the focus on reading. The Governor made the announcement at South Miami Middle Community School and was joined by Education Commissioner John Winn, K-12 Chancellor Jim Warford and South Miami Middle School Principal Colleen Del Terzo, who served on the Middle Grades Reform Task Force.

"Florida has seen tremendous success among elementary students, and we must continue to build on that foundation ," Governor Bush said. "This proposal will bring common sense reforms to Florida's middle grades, and with the Legislature's support, we can build a stronger education pipeline ensuring all students are ready for the challenges ahead."

Last year, the Legislature passed the Middle Grades Reform Act, which was the first step in adding focus and rigor to Florida's middle grades. The Department of Education established a Middle Grades Reform Task Force, comprised of teachers and principals, to focus on increasing academic performance of middle grades students and schools. The Governor's proposal will continue the focus on high standards and challenging curriculum, while ensuring students are high school ready.

Governor Bush is making the following recommendations to improve middle grades performance:

  • Clarify in statute that the purpose of middle school grades is "to prepare students for successful completion of rigorous courses in high school."
  • Codify that middle school teachers must use the same statewide high school grading scale (i.e., 90-100 = A, 80-89 = B, etc.)
  • Change middle grades retention policies so students failing one or two courses are not required to repeat courses they have passed, but must retake core courses.
  • Beginning with 6th graders, phase-in a requirement that all students reading below grade level (scoring level 1 or 2 on the FCAT) must take an intensive reading course developed by the Florida Center for Reading Research.
  • Beginning with 6th graders, require a credit-based system for middle grades, similar to high schools, focused on core academic courses. Twelve credits would be required for middle school graduation: one each year in language arts, math, science, and social studies.

"For too long, the focus on the adolescent development of middle school students has overshadowed the need for academic rigor and student achievement," Education Commissioner Winn said. "As a former middle school teacher, I look forward to bringing stronger standards to Florida's middle schools."

Last year, more than half of Florida students who took the FCAT (grades 3-10) were reading at or above grade level for the first time in the state's history. From 2001 to 2004, Florida students have shown significant progress in both reading and mathematics. Students showed improvement in reading at every grade level, except grades 8 and 10, and improvement in mathematics at every grade except grades 6 and 8. Through Governor Bush's proposal, Florida's middle grades can experience the same success we've witnessed in the early grades.

"We are encouraged that the Governor has undertaken the Middle Grades Reform initiative. This reform will bring the changes needed in our middle schools by increasing literacy and creating 21st century learners," Principal Del Terzo said.

Joining the Governor at the announcement were Lt. Governor Toni Jennings and Representatives Ralph Arza and Dennis Baxley. For more information on Governor Bush's education reform initiatives, please visit www.myflorida.com or www.fldoe.org.