How can middle school students achieve greater success? The Southern Regional Education Board offers a plan -- a plan that provides food-for-thought for all middle level educators. Included: Suggestions for developing "high expectations classrooms."
Middle school educators, we've got some good news and some bad news
The bad news is that the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) finds a significant gap between eighth graders in the South and their counterparts in other parts of the nation.
The good news is that the SREB has put forth a plan to remedy the discrepancy.
SREB's plan might focus on the South, but it offers food-for-thought for all middle-school educators.
The second in a series of SREB reports on the condition of middle-grades education, "Raising the Bar in the Middle Grades: Readiness for Success," states that eighth graders in the South lag behind their counterparts nationwide. Perhaps, the report suggests, too little is expected of those eighth graders. For example,
The first in the series of SREB reports, "Education's Weak Link: Student Performance in the Middle Grades," describes the middle grades as the "weak link" in education, nationally as well as in southern states. "The pattern of underperformance is pervasive," said Sondra Cooney, director of SREB's Middle Grades Education Initiative.
Among the findings of the first report are:
"We should be putting everything we do in schools and classrooms to a simple test: How does this help students learn more?" Cooney said.
One reason students in middle school need to learn more is to prepare for high school work. In order to be ready for high school, the second SREB report says, students should meet challenging requirements that might include
There is a pattern of practices in schools with lagging performances, says the report "Raising the Bar in the Middle Grades: Readiness for Success." Changing these practices can eliminate the lag.
Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and the Third International Mathematics and Science Study report that sorting students into different levels, or tracking, limits their access to further opportunities; students for whom there are lower expectations often don't take on more challenging work.
Another widespread problem is that most middle schools do not put forth common expectations for the content knowledge and skills needed by all students to be ready for high school work.
In addition, the report notes, common key practices in many middle schools aren't used to their potential. For example, advisory periods that are supposed to provide middle school students with social and emotional support necessary for academic achievement in school instead are likely to consist only of roll call, school announcements, and social time for students.
How do administrators and teachers, working with parents, at middle schools with performance problems change course? Here are some suggestions from "Raising the Bar in the Middle Grades: Readiness for Success."
One key action to improve student achievement is putting student academic performance at the center of education. Leaders must avoid finger pointing and bring parents and teachers together to refine and update the curriculum and then put the emphasis on student academic performance. What students are expected to know and do should be described clearly and coupled with examples of quality student work.
What the second report calls "high expectation classrooms" should be developed. This kind of classroom, the report says,
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Article by Sharon Cromwell
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Links Updated 2/27/2006