Celebrate the Middle Grades!
During March, middle level educators and administrators around the country are celebrating National Middle Level Education Month. The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), which provides a year-round focus on middle level leadership, introduces the March observance:
Without a doubt, middle level students can be misunderstood, misguided, and even maddening—but they can also be magnificent. That’s the message that we’re trying to share in March during National Middle Level Education Month.
This year, NASSP, the Association for Middle Level Education, the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform, and the National Association of Elementary Principals have joined together to promote and celebrate this critical time in the educational and developmental lives of young adolescents.
The NASSP explains the need to focus on the “magnificent middle”:
• Schools teaching middle level students are responsible for educating young adolescents that are undergoing rapid and dramatic changes in their physical, intellectual, social, emotional and moral development.
• According to the US Census Bureau, each day nearly 24 million young adolescents (ages 10–15) enter school. These students deserve challenging and engaging instruction; teachers and administrators who are knowledgeable and prepared to provide them with a safe, challenging and supportive learning environment; and organizational structures that banish anonymity and promote personalization, collaboration and social equity.
• Research from ACT reveals that the academic achievement of eighth-grade students has a larger impact on their readiness for college by the end of high school than anything that happens academically in high school.
• To improve graduation rates and prepare students for college, career, and citizenship, a deeper public understanding of the distinctive mission of the middle level is necessary.
Today’s young adolescents frequently get a bad rap, but those of us who work with them on a daily basis know just how concerned, caring, and compassionate they can be. One way that adults who work with and appreciate this age group can help them through this challenging and sometimes awkward stage of life is by providing the public with a more accurate picture of who young adolescents truly are.
Together, by celebrating Middle Level Education Month, we can draw attention to this age group, recognize their unique needs, and call for collaborative efforts to support them. Most importantly, we must remember that while March is the “official” month to celebrate middle level education, advocating for young adolescents and middle level education is a year-round job.”
NASSP’s Outreach & Publicity Resources
NASSP provides a head start for publicizing the celebration with links to in-school and community outreach materials. Included are a history of the middle level movement reaching back to 1963, a to-do list, a sample letter to share with parents and the community, extensive bibliographies, and more.
AMLE Live Tweet Event (March 7)
Join the Middle Level Education Month Twitter Event on March 7 from 7-8 pm ET at #MLEM13! Hosted by AMLE, NASSP, NAESP and the National Forum, the Twitter dialogue will center on “Celebrating the Magnificent Middle Level and the Power of Collaboration”. So plan to share ideas, thoughts, questions, and more with virtual panelists Rick Wormeli, Summer Howarth, Todd Bloch, and Todd Williamson! Be a part of this awesome online conversation!
And watch for up-to-the-minute blog posts from middle level experts at SmartBlog on Education as March unfolds. Featured March 5: “8 ways to celebrate the magnificent middle” by bringing your community in and by highlighting middle-level students’ lives across content areas. NASSP’s Patti Kinney and AMLE’s Dru Tomlin wrote the post. For more information on the sponsoring organizations’ plans, visit NASSP or contact Patti Kinney, Middle Level Services, firstname.lastname@example.org.
MiddleWeb Celebrates with Student-Centered Articles
Sharing a classroom with middle level students presents challenges and the possibility of great joy. Among MiddleWeb’s store of guest articles by educators are several that speak to the uniqueness of middle level education:
• “Rick and the Fundamentals” (Rick Wormeli)
• “Belonging in the Middle Grades” (Amanda Wall)
• “How to Build Happy Brains” (Judy Willis)
• “The Homeroom Is Still a Home” (Jose Vilson)
• “Power of Teachers’ Words” (Debbie Silver)
• “Wrong Side of the Tracks” (Nancy Flanagan) and
• “My Epic Teaching Journey” (Marsha Ratzel)
WKCD: How Kids View the MIddle Grades
So what do the kids themselves think about middle level education and especially “how to help us learn”? Visit What Kids Can Do, and watch the 4-minute video of students talking about social and emotional learning.
Also see this Voices from the MIddle Grades page and its collection of comments by students, arranged by their areas of concern. Some of these materials are drawn from WKCD’s book Fires in the Middle School Bathroom: Advice for Teachers from Middle Schoolers, by Kathleen Cushman and Laura Rogers (2008).