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District officials say sixth-graders are unlikely to move from elementary schools in redesign plans

Officials within the Hillsboro School District are in the early stages of talks that could bring dramatic changes to the way the state's fourth largest school district teaches middle school students.

Audrea Neville, executive director of the district's Elementary and Secondary Education department, said federal regulations — such as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 — have made the district less flexible when it comes to middle school instruction. She told the Hillsboro School Board on Tuesday the district is considering redesigning its middle schools to help middle school students succeed. Middle school students tend to struggle more on tests than other grades.

"We need to know our kids better, and the way we're doing middle school might not work for that," Neville said at the Jan. 9 meeting.

Just what a redesign will look like is unknown, Neville said, but it could range from large-scale changes to more subtle shifts in district policy the public likely won't notice.

"It's easy to get caught up in ideas of funding and what we can't do," she told the School Board. "We've been talking about thinking big and dreaming big. Dreaming for the whole pie is OK, even if we can only afford crumbs with our funding."

One thing that likely won't happen is moving sixth-graders to the middle school level. Hillsboro is unique in the Portland area by having middle schools for only seventh- and eighth-grade students. Other districts have sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders in the same building.

Neville said capacity issues at the district's schools would likely prevent that change from taking place, but added the district will look at everything from the types of courses offered to changing the number of classes students attend each day.

"There are other options than the six periods a day that we have been doing," she said. "There are some things that work, and others that don't. Having it all out on the table is important."



By Geoff Pursinger
Associate Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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