Officials are looking to get creative in solving the achievement gap at New Bedford middle schools.

At Monday's meeting, the New Bedford School Committee discussed the possibility of introducing an Innovation Zone for middle schools.

While still a concept, the Zone would give middle school teachers and principals 'greater school-level freedom' and autonomy, while also making them more accountable for student achievement.

The idea comes after a state report last month found that New Bedford middle schools were performing behind its elementary and high schools in terms of growth.

Superintendent Pia Durkin says the Innovation Zone is a unique way of possibly improving middle school performance, and culture.

"It's a different approach of engaging middle school learners, and getting our teachers involved in some of that exciting process," Durkin told WBSM News.

The district will work with a group called Empower Schools as they explore the option.

The organization previously worked on similar projects in Springfield, Lawrence, and Denver, CO.

Officials say the Innovation Zone would only make New Bedford middle schools function differently, not separately from other district schools.

The goal would be to have teachers 'buy-in' to raising students' growth by giving them a sort of ownership by giving teachers more power.

With the Innovation Zone still only being a concept, the district still needs to decide what would be the best path for middle schools.

The district will gather more information and conduct focus groups with families, students, teachers, administrators, and even community leaders to get a feel for the idea, with surveys expected to be complete between October and November.

By that time, officials will need to decide whether to move forward with an Innovation Zone, or go with a different plan to improve middle school performance.

If approved, the Zone could begin in Fall 2017.