Two Pasco County schools are testing how students fare when held to higher expectations, and so far the experiment is working.
For sixth-graders at Cypress Creek Middle-High School and Seven Springs Middle School, there is no "basic" language arts class. Only advanced. Students who excel in reading and writing do the same lessons as those who struggle, a model supported by research that says mixing kids who are at different levels helps the low performers without slowing down the faster learners. So far, the students at those schools are performing several points better than the Pasco district average.
As encouraging as the idea itself is the way it came together. An assistant principal at Cypress Creek and the principal at Seven Springs had similar concerns about the common dropoff in performance seen when students move from elementary school to middle school. They gathered teachers to come up with a plan to prevent that slide, and advanced language arts for all was born.
No mandates from Tallahassee. No one-size-fits-all edicts. These school leaders recognized an area for improvement, drew on their knowledge from working directly with students and found a way to address it. Now teachers in other subjects at Seven Springs want to try the approach.
This is what can happen when teachers are given some latitude and a little trust.