ATLANTA — Governor Beverly Perdue of North Carolina, the current chair of the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), is leading a new SREB commission of education leaders to focus on improving student achievement in the middle grades — considered by many experts to be the weakest link in the education pipeline.
Bringing together 35 education leaders, including the heads of state Departments of Education in many SREB states, state legislators, educators and others, the SREB Middle Grades Commission plans two meetings. The first meeting is December 13-14, 2010, in Raleigh, North Carolina, at the Marriott Raleigh City Center. The second meeting is planned for Raleigh in April or May 2011.
The state leaders will examine key challenges affecting the middle grades and then develop a plan to address the stall in middle grades achievement in many states. They are expected to examine the critical need to improve students’ reading skills, to create more professional development specifically for middle grades teachers, and to better prepare eighth-graders for Algebra I, among many other topics.
The middle grades-to-high school transition is difficult for many students. Although SREB states have made good progress in early grades achievement in recent years, "when students reach the middle grades, they start to lose momentum — especially in reading and math — and often reach the ninth grade unprepared for high school," SREB President Dave Spence said. "As a result, too many give up and drop out. The new Commission will help our region change that."
The Commission’s recommendations and report will offer guidance for educators and policy-makers — creating a model of excellence for middle grades schools and offering best practices that can be replicated across the region, SREB Senior Vice President Gene Bottoms said.
The Commission continues SREB’s tradition of bringing together state leaders from across the region to address major issues in preK-12 and higher education. This work is part of an ongoing effort by SREB to raise middle grades achievement. Legislators from across the 16-state SREB region met in November at SREB’s 59th Legislative Work Conference in Annapolis, Maryland, and explored state actions to accelerate student readiness for high school and heard reports on priorities for improving the middle grades from each of the state delegations. An SREB report in 2009, Keeping Middle Grades Students on the Path to Success in High School, examines middle grades progress in each SREB state and provides specific recommendations that state policy-makers can follow.
To learn more about the SREB region’s or your state’s progress in improving middle grades achievement, see the 2009 report at www.sreb.org or contact SREB Communications.
SREB MIDDLE GRADES COMMISSION MEMBERS:
James Gill, Principal, Alba Middle School in Bayou La Batre
Joseph Morton, State Superintendent of Education
Laura Bednar, Assistant Commissioner for Learning Services, Arkansas Department of Education
Jimmy Jeffress, State Senator
John Barge, State Superintendent of Education-Elect
Gene Bottoms, SREB Senior Vice President
Myk Garn, Director, SREB Educational Technology Cooperative
Joan Lord, SREB Vice President, Education Policies
Dave Spence, SREB President
John Legg, State Representative
Mary Jane Tappen, Deputy Chancellor, Curriculum, Instruction and Student Services, Florida Department of Education
Terry Holliday, Commissioner of Education
Jack Westwood, State Senator
Debbie Schum, Executive Director, Office of College and Career Readiness, Louisiana Department of Education
Paul Dunford, Director of Middle School Initiatives, Maryland Department of Education
Jerry Weast, Superintendent, Montgomery County Public Schools
June Atkinson, State Superintendent of Education
Ray Davis, Education Consultant
Bob Eaves, First Gentleman
Rick Glazier, State Representative
Bill Harrison, Chairman, State Board of Education
Howard Lee, Executive Director, North Carolina Education Cabinet
Governor Beverly Perdue
Judith Rizzo, Executive Director and CEO, James B. Hunt Jr. Institute
Jerry Tillman, State Senator
Cathy Tomon, Broad Creek Middle School, Newport
Leslie Winner, Executive Director, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, Winston-Salem
John Ford, State Senator
Susan Paddack, State Senator
Mark Maddox, Technology Coordinator, Weakley County Schools
Gary Nixon, Executive Director, State Board of Education
Rob Eissler, State Representative
Lizzette Reynolds, Deputy Commissioner of Education, Statewide Policy and Programs
Vern Williams, Math Teacher, Longfellow Middle School, Falls Church
Patricia Wright, State Superintendent of Public Instruction
SREB, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization based in Atlanta, Georgia, advises state education leaders on ways to improve education. SREB was created in 1948 by Southern governors and legislatures to help leaders in education and government work cooperatively to advance education and improve the social and economic life of the region. SREB has 16 member states: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. Each is represented by its governor and four gubernatorial appointees.