DCPS outlines baseline courses for all middle-school students

D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson has promised to invest millions of dollars in improving city middle schools next year, acknowledging that many schools need more resources to offer a full range of courses and meet students’ needs.

“We’re going to work to make sure that every student in the middle grades, from the biggest middle school to the smallest education campus, offers every student in every part of the city a full and enriching middle school experience,” Henderson said in an interview last week.

But what does that mean, exactly?

Offerings at middle-grade schools currently vary widely; some provide students with a choice of several foreign languages, for example, while others offering no foreign languages at all. At the center of Henderson’s effort are a new set of scheduling requirements that outline a baseline set of courses that all schools must provide. Are they enough to guarantee a full, enriching experience for all students? That’s likely to be a subject of debate in the coming months.

Here are excerpts from a memo sent to schools last week explaining the new requirements for each grade level. A semester is half a year; a term is a quarter of a year. [You can read the whole memo here.]

Sixth-Grade Non-Negotiable Course Offerings 

 English (full year)

 Math (full year)

 Social Studies, Science and World Language (semester minimum)

 Art and Music (one term minimum each)

 Health and PE (one semester PE and one term Health)

 Instructional time of 45 minutes/day minimum

For all course offering requirements, the length of the class (full year, semester or term) can be attained through an A/B schedule or other formats such that the equivalent of 45 minutes minimum per day is provided to students.

SixthGrade Intervention Block Options and Electives 

 Intervention blocks are used for double-dosing English and math, along with Read 180 or any intervention that is differentiated for specific students. For students who do not require interventions, this can be used for enrichment, furthering some of the semester or term classes and any enhancement to the students’ middle grades experience.

 Elective spots should be classes that align with the school theme or student interests, and round out the middle grades experience. Electives can also be used for interventions or Advisory when needed.

SixthGrade Sample Schedule


Seventh-Grade Schedule 

The seventh-grade schedule is very similar to the sixth-grade schedule, except that Art or Music is required instead of both. If Art is a seventh-grade class, then Music is an eighth-grade class and vice-versa. This difference allows a second elective to be placed into the schedule for this grade.

Eighth-Grade Schedule 

Non-Negotiable Course Offerings 

 English, Math, Social Studies and Science (full year)

Algebra must be scheduled for at least one section.

 World Language (semester minimum)

For high school preparation, a semester World Language class should be on an A/B schedule in the eighth grade so that students take the class year round. It also needs to be a high school credit-bearing class.

 Art or Music (whatever is not offered in seventh  grade, one term minimum)

 Health and PE (one semester PE and one term Health)

 Instructional time of 45 minutes/day minimum


Emma Brown writes about national education and about people with a stake in schools, including teachers, parents and kids.
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