Goodrell Middle School was originally opened as May Goodrell Junior High School in 1955 for students in grades 7th ,8th , and 9th . The school was named after Miss May Goodrell (pictured left), who was born in 1859 and died in 1939. Miss Goodrell graduated from East High School, was a classroom teacher, and later became one of East High School’s most famous principals. Since the school first opened, Goodrell Middle School has been one of the most successful middle schools in the city, often described as May Goodrell-The Pride of Des Moines.
In the fall of 1994, Goodrell became a board-approved magnet school. Students from all over the city can apply to attend Goodrell. A majority of the students still came from the old neighborhood boundaries. In 2006, the staff of Goodrell was asked to consider applying to become an International Baccalaureate school. The staff determined that the goals of this program closely aligned with what they were striving to achieve with students and voted to pursue the certification. In 2010, Goodrell Middle School was accepted as an IB Candidate School. In 2011, Goodrell became the first middle school in Des Moines to be authorized as an IB World School.
In 2022, Goodrell changed its affiliation as an IB World School. Des Moines Public Schools has adopted highly qualified curriculum that incorporates world views and identities which allows Goodrell to maintain the high standards of learning that has always been valued in the community.