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Understanding Assessment Changes Everything

A commitment to understanding assessment for learning changed this school’s culture. Much of today’s conversations around assessment include discussions about standards-based grading. Missing from this dialogue have been anecdotes about schools that have successfully made the transition from “traditional” grading to something different. Rock Quarry Middle School in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, did just that. Last year,

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Transporting Historical Figures from Past to Present

Perspective-writing activities bring “a bunch of dead guys” to life. To young adolescents, historical figures are a bunch of dead guys. Many students believe the issues, values, and perspectives of the people from the past hold no relevance to their lives in the 21st century. However, perspective-writing activities in the middle school social studies classroom

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PG-13 and Then Some!

How are middle grades educators supposed to act outside school? As a middle level educator (since prehistoric times), I am sometimes immune to the many behaviors, antics, and attitudes of early adolescents—those behaviors often interpreted by others as inappropriate, disrespectful, and unsuitable for public consumption. Imagine that! So after a recent outing to the local

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GPS for Test Prep: Which Route Do You Take?

Effective test prep means understanding the test as well as the content. “Assuming that the street is level, what should you do after you have finished parallel parking in a space between two other cars?” This is a practice question on the New York State DMV website for the written portion of the driving test.

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Getting Students Excited About College

Middle school is not too early to encourage students to dream big. College is a place where students’ minds grow and flourish and where they see the wide range of possibilities before them. However, some students never have the opportunity or the interest in pursuing all that college has to offer. For some students, the

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Middle School, not Junior High

We are a middle school, not a junior version of high school. To be effective in our teaching, we are developmentally appropriate for young adolescents, not for 16- to 18-year-olds nor for 8- and 9-year-olds. There is an expertise to teaching middle level students that is different than that needed to teach elementary or high

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Post-Pandemic Preparation: Reimagining Middle School Partnerships

COVID-19 created unprecedented challenges but also served as a catalyst to rethink important aspects of our schools. One area where I see a big opportunity is to reimage middle school culture. AMLE’s landmark position paper The Successful Middle School: This We Believe highlights the importance of engaging families as valued partners and collaborating with community


Students write a test exam in a beautiful classroom

Re-Learning and Re-Assessing: Practical Tips

Not everyone is comfortable with re-do’s and re-takes, which are more appropriately recognized as re-learning (or learning properly) and re-assessing. Some of us experience pushback when suggesting these practices to colleagues, then succumb to those pressures thereby denying their use in our classes. As a result, our students don’t learn the required content and skills.