A middle grades educational program is a program specifically designed to best serve the needs of the preadolescent student, ages 10 through 13. The following fourteen statements, developed and published by the National Middle School Association, inform and guide our middle level educational team.
National Middle School Association believes successful schools for young adolescents are characterized by a culture that includes
- Educators who value working with this age group and are prepared to do so. Effective middle level educators understand the developmental uniqueness of the age group, the curriculum they teach, and effective learning and assessment strategies. They need specific teacher preparation before entering the classroom and continuous professional development as they pursue their careers.
- Courageous, collaborative leadership. Middle level leaders understand adolescents, the society, and the theory and practice of middle level education. As the prime determiner of the school culture, the principal influences student achievement and teacher effectiveness by advocating, nurturing, and sustaining an effective instructional program.
- A shared vision that guides decisions. All decisions made about the school should be guided by a shared vision and the mission statement derived from it.
- An inviting, supportive, and safe environment. A successful school is an inviting, supportive, and safe place, a joyful community that promotes in-depth learning and enhances students' physical and emotional well-being. In such a school, human relationships are paramount.
- High expectations for every member of the learning community. Educators and students hold themselves and each other to high expectations. Such confidence promotes positive attitudes and behaviors and motivates students to tackle challenging learning activities. Successful schools recognize that young adolescents are capable of far more than adults often assume.
- Students and teachers engaged in active learning. The most successful learning strategies are ones that involve each student personally. When students routinely assume the role of teacher, and teachers demonstrate that they are still learners, a genuine learning community is present.
- An adult advocate for every student. Academic success and personal growth increase markedly when young adolescents affective needs are met. All adults in successful middle level schools are advocates, advisers, and mentors.
- School-initiated family and community partnerships. Successful middle schools promote family involvement and take the initiative to develop needed home-school bonds. The involvement of family is linked to higher levels of student achievement and improved student behavior.
- Curriculum that is relevant, challenging, integrative, and exploratory. An effective curriculum is based on criteria of high quality and includes learning activities that create opportunities for students to pose and answer questions that are important to them. Such a curriculum provides direction for what young adolescents should know and be able to do and helps them achieve the attitudes and behaviors needed for a full, productive, and satisfying life.
- Multiple learning and teaching approaches that respond to their diversity. Since young adolescents learn best through engagement and interaction, learning strategies involve students in dialogue with teachers and with one another. Teaching approaches should enhance and accommodate the diverse skills, abilities, and prior knowledge of young adolescents, and draw upon students' individual learning styles.
- Assessment and evaluation programs that promote quality learning. Continuous, authentic, and appropriate assessment and evaluation measures provide evidence about every student's learning progress. Grades alone are inadequate expressions for assessing the many goals of middle level education.
- Organizational structures that support meaningful relationships and learning. The interdisciplinary team of two to four teachers working with a common group of students is the building block for a strong learning community with its sense of family, where students and teachers know one another well, feel safe and supported, and are encouraged to take intellectual risks.
- School-wide efforts and policies that foster health, wellness, and safety. A school that fosters physical and psychological safety strives to build resiliency in young people by maintaining an environment in which peaceful and safe interactions are expected and supported by written policies, scheduled professional development, and student-focused activities.
- Multifaceted guidance and support services. Developmentally responsive middle level schools provide both teachers and specialized professionals who are readily available to offer the assistance many students need in negotiating their lives both in and out of school.