Creating a Culture that Makes a Difference
Effective schools take responsibility for creating a culture that focuses on relationships, trust, and respect in addition to fostering the academic success of students. A successful school for young adolescents is an inviting and safe community that encourages learning. Teachers, staff, and students learn and put into practice the skills of direct feedback, healthy and appropriate confrontation, positive risk taking, and personal and collaborative goal setting. An emphasis on health, wellness, and safety permeates the entire school. Interactions among staff members and between students reflect democracy and fairness. Like young adolescents, the climate of developmentally responsive middle grades schools requires constant nurturing.
Principal and Teacher Leadership that Transforms
Courageous, collaborative middle grades leaders are knowledgeable about the characteristics and needs of young adolescents. Leaders understand the theory and best practice of middle level education. They strive to educate colleagues, parents, policymakers, and community members. Courageous, collaborative leadership empowers people to make difficult decisions addressing the education and well-being of each young adolescent.
High Impact Classroom Strategies
Middle school educators recognize that covering content and learning are not synonymous. The curriculum of a successful middle level school must also be relevant, challenging, integrative, and exploratory. Curriculum also must be integrative and coherent, must help students connect school experiences to their lives outside school, and must encourage students to reflect on the totality of their experiences. Educators serve their students well when they model inclusive, collaborative, and team-oriented approaches to learning. Continuous, authentic, and appropriate assessment and evaluation provide information and evidence about a student’s learning progress. Such information and data help students, teachers, and family members select immediate learning goals, evaluate growth, and plan teaching and learning strategies.
Characteristics of High Performing Middle Schools
School structures and organization have a great impact on student learning. Teams are often considered the heart of an effective middle grades school. Effective teams lead to improved student achievement, increased parental contacts, and enhanced school climate and student attitudes. Successful schools for young adolescents also have carefully crafted transition programs for moving from elementary to middle and middle to high, as well as college and career-ready cultures, and flexibility in scheduling, grouping, and staffing.