CPRE : Consortium for Policy Research in Education

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Case Study

Baker Middle School

Middle schools across the nation face a major challenge: providing social and emotional supports for young adolescents at an important juncture in their development and, at the same time, offering a challenging curriculum that engages them, strengthens their literacy and numeracy skills, and develops their ability to think critically. Recently, middle schools have come under fire for attending more readily to the social and emotional needs of their students than the academic ones. The story of Baker Middle School is one of a staff trying to do both under difficult circumstances.

When Dr. Helen Bender became principal of Baker Middle School in January 1997, she vowed, in her words, “to turn the school around.” Baker’s school climate and student achievement had deteriorated markedly in the previous few years due to poor leadership. Staff morale had plummeted and, to make matters worse, shortly after Dr. Bender’s arrival, Baker was identified as one of 19 schools in the School District that declined in a systemwide measure called the Performance Responsibility Index (PRI). The centerpiece of the District’s new accountability system, the PRI looks at such factors as SAT-9 scores, promotion rates, and student and staff attendance and provides rewards or added support depending on a school’s performance. Because of its declining score in the PRI, Baker underwent intensive review by a School Support Team composed of central office staff, teachers and parents. The school was required to develop a plan for improvement that responded to the team’s findings.

Publication Date

January 2011