The Texas Senate yesterday passed SB 518, this session's big middle school bill by GOP State Sen. Florence Shapiro.
The bill would require that teachers in grades seven and above be certified in math, science, social studies or English language arts, if they want to teach those core subjects in middle school.
It also would require middle schools to identify struggling students and come up with an intervention plan for them. And it would allow middle schools that want to participate in a pilot program to offer courses in what is required for their students -- and parents -- in high school.
As we have been discussing here, these reforms are very important.
For example, some generalists may teach well, but there's a growing body of thought that suggests students are better served by teachers who really know the material in core courses.
Also, middle schools are where too many kids are lost. By requiring schools to identify their strugglers and come up with a way to help them, schools hopefully will reduce the number of dropouts in high school.
I still think this bill needs to be amended to create another pilot program, one that would allow participating school districts to access both local and state money so they can "flood" their struggling middle schools with strong principals, better teachers and quality interventionists.
Democratic Rep. Eric Johnson of Dallas had an idea like this earlier in the session, so this bill would be the perfect place for him to propose his concept of "flooding the zone" once the House takes up SB 518.
Meanwhile, yesterday was a big step forward for Texas middle schoolers.