The Middle School Model and Successful Middle School Program

The Successful Middle School

AMLE believes that the true middle school is one that has been planned and organized to address the developmental and cultural needs of students of ages 10 to 14, generally including grades 5-8. We articulate this middle school model through the publication of our landmark position paper, The Successful Middle School: This We Believe, now in its fifth edition.

This text, backed by forty years of research on education young adolescents, affirms that the following five essential attributes characterize the successful middle school:

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.

Successful middle schools exhibit these essential attributes through a series of 18 Characteristics that are interdependent and grouped by three overarching categories:

Leadership and Organization
“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
Culture and Community
“Middle school educators purposefully foster a culture that sustains the dignity of all members within the school community. This includes students, their families, local community members, and the staff who work within the school. Affirming classroom communities, whether physical or virtual, are formed when students’ identities are valued and respected.” – Dr. Penny Bishop and Dr. Lisa Harrison

How Can I Implement The Successful Middle School Program?

AMLE’s core mission as a non-profit membership association is to help schools actualize the successful middle school in their own communities. We work toward that mission through The Successful Middle School Program, a comprehensive set of tools and resources for educators, school, and districts.

The Successful Middle School Book

Exploring the Text

Study the 5 essential attributes and 18 characteristics individually or as a team. Engage in a facilitated book study led by an AMLE coach, or lead your own book study with our book study guide and supplemental activities for members.

Online Courses

Diving Deeper into the Model

Free to members, The Successful Middle School Course Series explores the middle school model and young adolescent development through 21 self-paced, digestible modules. Or, dig further into building a Successful Middle School Schedule with the companion text.

Successful Middle School Assessment

Baselining Implementation

Driven by research-based exemplars, AMLE’s holistic school assessment helps gauge your implementation of middle grades best practices. Led by an AMLE coach, schools receive a comprehensive report that includes analysis, recommendations, and actionable next steps.

Coaching

Engage in Meaningful Improvement

Engage AMLE’s expert faculty to design a professional development event/program that’s right for your school and receive ongoing coaching to help you make measurable change.

Schools of Distinction

Recognizing and Celebrating the Successful Middle School in Action

AMLE Schools of Distinction is a recognition and continuous improvement program that is open to any school, anywhere in the world, that educates students aged 10-15. Schools are supported with AMLE resources and celebrated for their commitment to the best practices outlined in The Successful Middle School: This We Believe.

The Successful Middle School Program Over the Years

Now in its fifth edition, AMLE’s landmark position paper, The Successful Middle School: This We Believe is recognized as the best articulation of the middle school model. Since it was first published in 1982, middle school educators have relied on the text to build high-performing school communities using the 5 Essential Attributes and 18 Characteristics.

1972

AMLE Founded

AMLE is founded as the National Middle School Association by leading luminaries of the middle school movement

1974

First AMLE Annual Conference

AMLE’s first annual conference is held in Columbus, Ohio to share middle level education best practices

1982

First Edition of This We Believe

This We Believe, AMLE’s landmark position paper, is first published and its 10 characteristics of successful middle grades schools quickly becomes recognized as the best articulation of the middle school model

1995

This We Believe: Developmentally Responsive Middle Level Schools Published

1995: Publication of the 2nd edition, This We Believe: Developmentally Responsive Middle Level Schools, includes 12 characteristics

2003

This We Believe: Successful Schools for Young Adolescents Published

Publication of the 3rd edition, This We Believe: Successful Schools for Young Adolescents, includes 16 characteristics

2010

Fourth Edition of This We Believe: Keys to Educating Young Adolescents Published

Publication of the 4th edition, This We Believe: Keys to Educating Young Adolescents, includes 16 characteristics

2020

The Successful Middle School: This We Believe Published

Publication of the 5th edition: The Successful Middle School: This We Believe, includes 18 characteristics and for the first time integrates both the contextual research and contributions from middle grades students

2021

The Successful Middle School Online Course Series

The Successful Middle School Online Course Series launches as a benefit to AMLE members

2021

The Successful Middle School Assessment

The Successful Middle School Assessment launches, providing schools with a 360-degree evaluative tool to baseline implementation of the 18 characteristics and provide an international data set on the middle school model in action

2022

AMLE Schools of Distinction Program

AMLE Schools of Distinction program launches, recognizing and providing a continuous improvement roadmap for schools committed to middle grades best practice

Learn More

Want more information about the middle school model or how to use the Successful Middle School Program in your school? Contact Katie Powell, AMLE Director for Middle Level Programs at kpowell@amle.org.