Sixth-graders at Cheektowaga Central Middle School will spend more time reading next year.
"Over the last four years, our scores in math and [English Language Arts] are not what we wanted them to be," Superintendent Delia G. Bonenberger said.
Staffing changes approved by the School Board this week include reducing a family and consumer science teaching position from full time to part time because of decreased enrollment in the classes and changes in sixth grade.
When the Middle School opened four years ago with sixth, seventh and eighth grades, technology and family consumer science were offered to sixth-graders.
"It's a great thing," Bonenberger said.
But administrators decided scores on the state English Language Arts tests need to improve. About 57 percent of sixth-graders reached levels of proficiency on the test this year.
So the technology and family consumer science will remain in seventh and eighth grades, and the district will use the time sixth-graders would have spent on those subjects with enhanced reading.
"We feel that's a more important thing to do," Bonenberger said.
Students will continue to take English Language Arts, which incorporates reading of specific genres like a traditional English course. Reading classes will concentrate on more specific reading skills. Those who already read above their grade level will be challenged as well, the superintendent said.
"All the reading instruction we do in prekindergarten through sixth grade is designed to meet the individual needs of students," she said. "We do want good readers to become even better."
Bonenberger said the district also enrolls new students all the time, and they may not have been exposed to a comprehensive reading program like Cheektowaga Central's. This will give students more time to catch up, she said.
"We want to continue with reading because we think it will make a difference," she said.
The School Board also approved changes in staffing included in next year's budget, such as adding four elementary teaching positions to decrease class size to about 20 children. The board also added a physical education teacher, who will be assigned to Union East to increase the number of times pupils have gym class.
A full-time guidance counselor was added at the high school, bringing the number of counselors to four, and a part-time high school science position was made full time.
"The high school is where our bubble of people are right now," Bonenberger said.