LEWISTON — Middle School Principal Shawn Chabot doesn't like his school's test score trend. Scores have gone down in the last year.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Chabot told the School Committee on Monday night.
The middle school needs new ways of teaching, a third assistant principal, and more programs to boost student learning.
Reading scores show 67 percent of middle school students met standards in 2010, compared to 62 percent in 2011.
In math, 47 percent of students met standards in 2010, compared to 40 percent in 2011.
“The traditional model we've always had, 43 minutes in class, expecting them to just sit and take in information, is just not working for lots of kids,” Chabot said. “Kids are developmentally changed from when I was a kid. We need to make our curriculum more relevant. We need to infuse it with technology. And we need to add rigor.”
A majority of middle school teachers want the current 43-minute class schedule changed to give them longer classes and more instructional time.
By the time students change classes, are settled in and teachers go over that day's instruction, “they've got less than 25 minutes. It's not enough time,” Chabot said.
The current structure works for lots of students “who have lots of structure and high expectations at home,” Chabot said. But society and families are not the same as 30 years ago. “The school hasn't changed. We need to adapt,” he said.
Meanwhile the number of middle school students is increasing. In the next five years enrollment is expected to go from 700 to 900.
New initiatives for the middle school would cost $200,000, which are in Superintendent Bill Webster's recommended $54.5 million budget. That recommended budget is 3.9 percent higher than last year.
New middle school initiatives would include:
* More academic help for students through after-school and summer school programs.
* School-wide “positive behavior support” which teaches and rewards students for positive behavior.
* An in-school suspension program, which started in January, to keep problem students in classrooms doing work, instead of kicking them out of school.
* A small alternative program housed at the adjacent armory.
* A new “looping” program, which would be piloted with the incoming seventh grade. In the program the same group of teachers would stay with students in both seventh and eighth grades.
Citing a problem a student had with one teacher, committee member Sonia Taylor said that wouldn't be good when individual teachers and students don't get along. Chabot said teachers and students who clash would not have to stay together.
A new assistant principal would help manage more students, and help in initiatives such as identifying seventh-graders who are at risk of becoming dropouts. Another administrator would help with school improvements, “and be proactive rather than reactive.”
Referring to statistics that show Lewiston has among the lowest four-year high school completion rate in Maine, at 68 percent, committee Chairman Tom Shannon urged support for programs.
“If we truly want to move the Lewiston school system from worst to first in graduation percentages, we can't start at high school. I'm not even sure that starting at the middle school is the right place to start,” Shannon said.
“We need to tell young people of this community we're concerned about their future, they need to graduate, and we're going to help them,” he said.
In upcoming meetings, Chabot said other proposed changes to the school will be discussed, including larger soccer programs and physical improvements to the building.