Like the middle child, middle schools are often neglected in the flurry of reforms that tend to focus on students’ early years in school and on the high school years. The middle school years, however, are when many students become disengaged and fall behind academically.
A new Education Commission of the States report on reforming the middle grades says that to keep middle school students engaged, schools should give students information on careers and on college admission requirements and college costs so that they see what they learn in school as relevant to their lives. All students should develop an individual learning plan (ILP) by the end of grade 8, the report recommends. Kentucky and Rhode Island are two of 11 states who require that students have an ILP before high school entry.
“ILPs require each student, his/her parent and a school staff member to map out the courses the student will need to complete each year of high school to be prepared for the student’s stated post-high school plans,” the report says.
Other recommendations include:
- Ensure the curriculum is hands-on collaborative, relevant and engaging
- Develop formative and diagnostic assessments for reading and math
- Foster collaboration among middle grades and high school teachers so that middle school teachers are aware of the expectations for students in high school
- Pay attention to middle grades attendance, grades and behavior
- Develop early-warning mechanisms based on the latter indicators
- Take steps to reduce the number of absent and chronically absent students
“Middle Grades,” The Progress of Education Reform, Education Commission of the States, Volume 10, Number 4, 2009. http://www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/81/38/8138.pdf