A Potential Name Change for NMSA
|National Middle School Association is considering a name change. Each month we'll feature updates about the work of NMSA's Task Force 2010, which is heading up the name change information gathering process.
October 2008 Update
A New Name for NMSA … A recommendation to the Board in January
Task Force 2010, the committee appointed to study a possible name change for the association, has been active over the past few months spending time requesting, gathering, dialoguing and compiling the data received. And with lots of responses from members, there is a large majority supporting a new name. However, many responders included qualifiers, conditions, and limitations to their support. For instance, "Include middle," "Don't include middle," "Take national out," "Leave national in."
Here are a few of the NMSA groups that have been contacted:
- Members, through the name change survey
- The NMSA Board of Trustees
- NMSA affiliate leaders
- All past board members
- The association founders
- Lounsbury Award winners
Material and feedback from these groups, and others, has been received and compiled and will be the basis for task force discussions at their December meeting. At this meeting, the task force will determine a new name and recommend it to the board. The board will consider that recommendation and make a decision for the spring 2009 membership election. The recommendation the NMSA Board will receive from the task force in January will be a quality product that has been well publicized and well thought out with input from countless contributors. However, the reactions have been interesting and will present a challenge for the task force. Check out the responses at the end of this article.
There is still a lot of work to do. The Task Force will be meeting at the NMSA Annual Conference in Denver, and soon compiling the results of the membership survey and the survey conducted at the conference. After a name has been determined and recommended, there will be considerable time spent in mapping out a transition process.
See you in Denver!
Some Quotable Comments:
I have mixed feelings about the word "middle." In the U.S., it has pros and cons. The pros are that middle grades, middle level, and middle school are pretty well known and have meaning. Cons: middle will always pigeonhole us with a type of school or level of schooling. We aren't about a type of school, we're about great programs, practices, and people that work with kids ages 10-15 in any educational setting. Add to this that middle is not used worldwide. It also rings of "average."
Middle (keeps us connected to our roots; plus "middle schools" are getting lots of conversation among policymakers in DC)
Middle Level Education (gets us away from using "middle school" in the name)
Note that "middle level" implies a top and bottom level: similarly "middle" may imply mediocrity.
Success (builds on the advances we've made with Success in the Middle)
In my opinion, it is time to remove the word "national" from NMSA's name. That being said, I do not think "international" should be put in its place … . To accomplish what I think the addition of "international" to the association's name would take years and a much larger budget, professional staff, and international volunteer leadership that exists now or in the near future. Therefore, I think our best choice is to drop any reference to national or international.
"Education" is a word I think is critical to have in our name. It is the common denominator, so to speak, about who we are and what our priorities are … .
Too many people, not familiar with education but with whom we need to work, misunderstand "young adolescents." In my experience, they tend to skip over the word "young" and focus on "adolescents" which, to many, means high school students.
Be careful not to get too vague in our name. I want our name to mean what we are, not be so lofty, pretentious, or overly clever that people don't get it.
Don't forget that the acronym is will be used in 99% of the verbal exchanges people will have about the organization.
I firmly believe a healthy association, such as NMSA, can withstand a name change only once in its lifetime. The impact of a name change on the visibility and viability of the association's work as well as on the pride and emotional attachment its constituents have for the current name and what it represents to them will be of major proportions.
My first reaction would be that the name has served us well and has provided us with the national recognition as the association for middle school education. Saying that, I'm afraid it smacks of the old saying "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Knowing that in order to move forward you must embrace change …
As I see it – this move for name change has to do with a new veneer to attract different dollars for the coffer. It will have nothing to do with the fact, as John Lounsbury has stated, middle school was designed for the success and achievement of the middle grade students.
I firmly believe the name change should be a simple, straightforward one…more a tweaking of the current name rather than a completely new one. I urge the 2010 task force and the NMSA Board of Trustees to be very cautious in this regard.
Come up with a name that allows for a smooth transition for affiliates as well. We expect that many of them will want to follow suit on the name change. For instance, if we changed our name to the "Association for Middle Level Education", it would be very easy for a state, province, or region to simply add their geographic designation to the front of the name.
Name needs to embrace bigger ideas such as excellence, positive energy, success, learning
Don't go "cute." Cute doesn't wear well. I am never impressed by meeting "Skippy," who turns out to be an 80-year-old in a walker.
What something is called is not nearly as important as what (it) does (sic) and for what it stands…
U of Illinois – when paths were well worn in the grass, they paved them. What well worn paths lead people to middle schools and the fine young people who populate them?
I've been told on numerous occasions people know that NMSA stands for quality and when NMSA makes a recommendation or endorses something it is highly valued. I think that underscores the need to not "over-correct" our name change and risk the "disappearance" of our association for many. After all, our name should be our strongest asset and we should thoughtfully protect it.