And Now For the George W. Bush Institute's Second Initiative: "Middle School Matters"

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Way back in September, Laura Bush stopped by North Dallas High School to introduce the George W. Bush Institute's education initiative intended to change "the way America's public school principals are identified, recruited, selected, prepared, evaluated, and empowered." Well, now that that's been taken care of comes Initiative No. 2 -- this one, aimed at "fixing the middle schools" and "dramatically [increasing] the number of students who are well-prepared to enter high school and are ready to earn a meaningful diploma." So says the freshly launched website of the program funded, at least initially, with a $500,000 donation from the Meadows Foundation.

The former First Lady was down near Houston this morning introducing the program, where, per the institute's release, she told the crowd of 400, "Middle school is the last and best chance to prepare students for a successful high school career. Research shows with systematic, intensive interventions that students who started middle school behind can catch up."

Right now, there's not much concrete to go on -- it's still in Phase One, which involves researchers (among them former DISD board president Sandy Kress, now one of the institute's educational fellows) "building platforms" and synergizing components linking the 11 things that make middle school awesome. (Among them: "school leadership" and "great teachers," ya don't say.) Phase Two won't roll out till the fall: Hannah Abney, a spokesperson for the SMU-based institute, tells Unfair Park that 10 to 15 middle schools will be involved, but they haven't been chosen yet. Says Abney, "There will be an open RFP process with selection criteria outlined in the fall. But it will involve schools from Texas and around the nation." She said any school can apply for involvement.

I remember when a great day in middle school involved me getting to keep my lunch money and listening to Gary Numan's "Cars" on the Alex W. Spence cafeteria jukebox.

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