Strategic Plan 2022-2026: A vision for the future of AMLE and middle level education

AMLE Strategic Vision and Plan

“If we are to build the real middle level school, the school that is developmentally responsive and intellectually vigorous, it will take convictions and the courage to carry them out.”

-Dr. John H. Lounsbury

Have you ever asked, what is the purpose of an association (like AMLE)? There are associations for just about every profession, for enumerable special interests, and even associations for associations! But what benefit do they provide, or should they provide, to the members they serve? AMLE’s Board of Trustees and staff, led by its Strategic Planning Committee, set out last year to think deeply about this question and, amid so much disruption in education, what role AMLE should have in the future of educating young adolescents.

AMLE is proud of its long and rich history of leadership in the field of middle level education. After hosting its first annual conference in 1974, AMLE, then the National Middle School Association (NMSA) was incorporated in 1976. Among its founders were founders of the field of middle level education itself, including luminaries such as “the father of middle school,” Dr. William Alexander and the “conscience of middle level education,” Dr. John H. Lounsbury. Since that time, AMLE has been a force in promoting the middle school model and the importance of recognizing the unique nature and needs of the young adolescent learner.

As a premier example, in 1982 we published the first iteration of This We Believe. At its time, it was the first comprehensive statement answering the frequently asked question, “Just what is a middle school?” Since then, AMLE has continued to contribute to the research and development of the field through the Institute for Middle Level Leadership and the Annual Conference (the world’s largest gathering for middle level educators), through our peer-reviewed Middle School Journal and Research in Middle Level Education Online, and promulgating the standards for middle level teacher preparation – just to name a few activities of your Association. As NMSA/AMLE grew, so did the proliferation of the middle school model across the United States and around the world. In fact, in 2009 NMSA was even featured as a clue on Jeopardy! (I’ll take American Education for $600, Alex).

With that rich history in mind, we understand it will be no small task to lead AMLE into the future. With so many schools and educators having to reinvent themselves during the pandemic, we knew we owed it to you, to every middle school educator, to craft a vision as courageous and ambitious as our members.

As a starting point in developing a strategic plan for AMLE, we looked to the 5th edition of that landmark position paper, The Successful Middle School: This We Believe. It didn’t take long to realize that our vision was right in front of us. This historic text was more than a field guide for educators, it also provided the core values around which our Association should operate as well. As a result, we revised AMLE’s core values to declare unequivocally that ALL young adolescents deserve an education that is responsive, challenging, empowering, equitable, and engaging:

  • Responsive–Using the distinctive nature and identities of young adolescents as the foundation upon which all decisions about school are made.
  • Challenging–Cultivating high expectations and advancing learning for every member of the school community.
  • Empowering–Facilitating environments in which students take responsibility for their own learning and contribute positively to the world around them.
  • Equitable–Providing socially just learning opportunities and environments for every student.
  • Engaging–Fostering a learning atmosphere that is relevant, participatory, and motivating for all learners.

Everything we do, naturally, will be tied to these core values and aimed at empowering middle school educators to build school communities that embody these essential attributes. And that’s where our core function as an Association came back into play. We can’t do this alone – we need to “associate” with one another, or collaborate, if you will. We need all 35,000 of our members to help realize our vision of cultivating the potential and possibilities of young adolescents. We know this is possible because middle level educators are passionate about their students and realize how special and important the middle grades are.

And so, just as the original architects of This We Believe boldly declared 40 years ago, we are inviting you to join us in making a declaration about the future of our AMLE and how, together, we will accomplish this strategic plan to the benefit of our profession and our students.

AMLE Strategic Vision and Plan: 2022-2026

THIS WE BELIEVE: AMLE is a community of professionals that engages in initiatives that drive educational environments for young adolescents that are responsive, challenging, empowering, equitable, and engaging. AMLE will accomplish this through:

  1. Professional Development–AMLE is seen as the go-to source for accessible and innovative professional learning that is relevant, long term, and job embedded.
  2. Leadership & Advocacy–AMLE is a courageous, sought-after thought leader in education that promotes the continued development of best practice in and advancement of the field.
  3. Membership–AMLE is a growing, engaged, and representative multi-generational community of education professionals.
  4. Relevance & Sustainability–AMLE is a responsive and nimble organization that is continuously diversifying and exploring new revenue streams by meeting emerging needs of its membership.
  5. Bridging Connections–AMLE builds partnerships that amplify the voices of young adolescents, increase the visibility of middle level education, and significantly contribute to the association’s mission and strategic vision.

We are optimistic that we will accomplish this plan and build a bright future both for AMLE and for our field of middle level education. We hope that you will be a part of it! Just by being a member, you support the vision of our community. But there are so many more ways to get involved and help ensure the tenets of The Successful Middle School: This We Believe reach every young adolescent. To name just a few:

  • Share about middle grades best practice and the Essential Attributes and Characteristics of Successful Middle Schools with your colleagues/administrators
  • Contribute an article about something positive happening for students in your school or classroom
  • Participate in an episode of The Successful Middle School in a Minute
  • Connect with your local college/university’s middle grades program
  • Join us for a virtual or in-person event to help strengthen our professional network
  • Serve on a volunteer committee.

We thank you for being a part of our AMLE community. As we engage in this shared work, we encourage you to connect with the AMLE Board of Trustees, our staff, and the Strategic Planning Committee with your questions and ideas.

Strategic Visiona and Plan

Todd Brist, Trustee and Chair, Strategic Planning Committee. Principal of Watertown Middle School in Watertown, South Dakota

Stephanie Simpson, CEO