Board finally happy with middle school plan

Federal Way Public Schools finally has a middle school transition plan that makes the School Board happy.

The plan, which the board approved Monday, provides for a full honors program, dispatches with a requirement for heterogeneous (mixed) classes, preserves a goal to limit classroom sizes and removes a limitation on the number of foreign languages that can be offered.

Board action on the plan is complete, said board president Earl VanDorien.

A middle school team now will work on an implementation process and school start and stop times. The team also will look at textbook and curricula recommendations, though the board will make the final call on those issues.

Earlier this year, the board decided against a recommendation to group all classes heterogeneously and to teach those classes through differentiated instruction.

That recommendation appeared to eliminate a defined middle school honors program, which concerned several members of the board. They wanted to discard the recommendation, but some discussion followed as to whether the district could continue to limit class sizes to 30 students per teacher without the recommendation.

Superintendent Tom Murphy told the board last Monday the district should be able to keep class sizes down without the recommended heterogeneous groupings.

VanDorien said even though the board removed mixed classes as a requirement, schools still could group their classes heterogeneously. The point was to preserve an honors program for elementary GATE students who might want to pursue advanced placement or the IB program in high school, he said.

VanDorien said the “new plan would have eliminated a real honors program in middle school, creating a three-year hole for kids on an honors track. An honors program, one that means something, with real results, will be available.”

Staff writer Erica Jahn can be reached at 925-5565 and

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