Saturday, November 19, 2011

Middle Grades Matter

Yes, that is the title of an article published a couple days ago by the US Department of Education. It is sad to me that we are still trying to convince ourselves that the years of 10-15 are important. As a refresher,

Research shows that many students at the greatest risk of dropping out of high school can be identified in middle school by their grades, attendance, behavior, and test scores. Countless studies have shown that if middle level schools are to meet the diverse needs of young adolescents, schools must be developmentally responsive, socially equitable, and academically rigorous.

This is as true now as it was 20 years ago, and yet our nation's middle grades are still patently ignored or denigrated or simply treated as a holding pattern before high school (call them middle school or junior high; each connotes a different model but covers the same years. Middle school is a specific type of school that is structured around the specific needs of this age group, whereas junior high is seen as an intro to high school and is typically designed to be less nuturing). Although I would normally dismiss an article with a title like this as being generated by the Department of Duh, it makes several good points about the type of atmosphere and curriculum that these students should be exposed to, and, funny thing, not one of the suggestions is, "Flog children with high-stakes test prep."

I actually enjoyed reading the suggestions as an affirmation this morning. Is your school doing it right?

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