Changes aimed to improve Washington Middle School

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Changes coming to Washington Middle School this fall are taking aim at student performance. Reading and Math scores specifically. The plan includes longer school days and new classes.

Maria Perels wants her son to get better grades so he can eventually go to college. She's glad there will be changes at Washington Middle School.

"I think this is good because they can learn more," said Maria.

Starting this fall, students will take five classes, each 70 minutes long. The old schedule had seven periods of 48 minute classes.

Randy Ramos thinks he'll be able to learn more.

"I think it's a good idea for them to keep us longer so we can pay more attention and do our test better," said Randy.

Principal William Hilton says longer classes will also align the school with Common Core standards.

"We needed to make some changes to support kids in learning," said Hilton. "They're struggling, of course, in reading, math. There's not meeting the state standards."

Washington Middle School will also open an hour earlier every day for students who need tutoring. Classes will end half an hour later than other middle schools in Yakima four days a week. One will focus students on organizational skills and grade awareness. Another for sixth graders takes aim at improving their study habits.

"You're giving those kids an opportunity to see that there is an end goal that they can achieve," said Hilton. "College is in their future."

Hilton says some of these strategies are modeled after a middle school in Tacoma. It was in the bottom 5% of state schools four years ago. But, jumped to the middle of the pack after making similar changes.

Washington Middle School's principal says only 20% of the students passed Math last year. 40% passed reading.

Hilton hopes to see that increase at least 15% by the end of this year.