Middle Grades Redesign Committee

 The Guiding Coalition on Middle Grades Design and Improvement is a high-level District Committee that will guide the redesign and improvement of middle grades education in Norwalk.

Committee members include principals, teachers, and parents, plus the district's math specialist, a consultant from the National Center for Secondary School Reform, and representatives from the Board of Education and Norwalk ACTS. Dr. Michael Conner, Chief Academic Officer, chairs the committee.

The committee's work will enable Norwalk schools to chart a course to better meet the developmental needs of our trans-adolescent students and maximize their academic achievement. The first meeting is Thursday, March 24, 2016 and will continue through 2017. 

The Committee is charged with providing advice and advocacy on how best to improve the quality of middle grades education in Norwalk through the implementation of programs, pedagogy, procedures and use of instructional time designed to better address the academic and developmental needs of the trans-adolescent.

The goals of middle grades redesign are four-fold:

1.  Raise the level of student achievement of all students in all four Norwalk Middle Schools

      A.  Close the achievement gap between average student achievement of Norwalk and Connecticut students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, particularly in Math where it is greatest.

      B.  Narrow the achievement gap that exists to varying degrees in each Norwalk Middle School between “high needs” students – English Language Learners, Special Education students and lower-income students – and their classmates.

2. Improve middle grade transitions:  Grade 5 to 6, and Grade 8 to 9.
3.  Redesign schools to better address the identified developmental (social and emotional) needs of students in the trans-adolescent life stage.

4.  Create the most efficient, cost-effective middle grades program that is sustainable within the resources the City can provide

Committee Composition
The Committee will be chaired by Dr. Michael Conner, Chief Academic Officer of Norwalk Public Schools and includes 16 other members:

     4 Principals – one from each current middle school
     4 Teacher Leaders – one from each middle school
     4 Parent Leaders – one from each middle school
     1 District Math Specialist
     1 Board of Education liaison
     1 Consultant – the National Center for Secondary School Reform
     1 Representative of Norwalk ACTS

‚ÄčWork of the Committee
The Committee is asked to examine aspects of middle school redesign that represent best praictice, innovation and research in state of the art middle schools with an eye toward pilot
implementation of at least five promising redesign elements – programs, practices and/or structures – one in each Norwalk Middle School beginning in the 2016-17 school year.

Moreover, the Committee should monitor the implementation of these design elements to assess their effect and importance to all middle schools for implementation in 2016-17 and 2017-18.

The Committee is asked to develop a plan for the pilot implementation of middle school design elements including but not limited to the following:

1. Two-teacher 6th grade teams that enable transition from self-contained elementary classrooms to a departmentalized setting in grades 7 and 8.
2. Vertical House Plan or ‘schools within a school’ that enable students to work with the same team of teachers for three years.
3. “New Classrooms,” “Teach-to-One,” Math Program to personalize, individualize and accelerate math instruction (supported by the Dalio Foundation).
4. Exploratory/Encore course offerings to provide enrichment, exploration and application of the core curriculum.
5. Skill Navigator Intervention Groups

To the extent possible, the Committee is encouraged to enable parents and students to choose an innovative program or design element.

Finally, the Committee is asked to develop a plan to enhance the thematic content offering of each middle school consistent with their high school feeder patterns, e.g. Arts and Science at West Rocks and Nathan Hale; Global Studies and World Languages at Ponus and Roton.

For more information on the Middle Grades Design & Improvement Committee, including a performance analysis based on SBAC and CMT scores, click here: Middle Grades Design and Improvement

published 3.24.2016