Edsource in Mountain View Ca. released this report today.This report, Gaining Ground in the Middle Grades: Why Some Schools Do Better, is based on surveys from 303 principals, 3,752 English language arts (ELA) and math teachers in grades 6-8, and 157 superintendents in California. Educator responses were analyzed against spring 2009 scores on California’s standards-based tests in ELA and math in grades 6, 7, and 8, which were taken by close to 204,000 students.
The study was designed to identify the practices and policies that differentiate higher- from lower-performing middle grades schools that serve similar student populations.
The major contribution of this study is the identification of numerous, actionable practices that are leading to gains in middle grades student outcomes.
But the single most important overarching finding was in how these higher-performing schools create a shared, school-wide intense focus on the improvement of student outcomes:
- They set measurable goals on standards-based tests and benchmark tests across all proficiency levels, grades, and subjects;
- Their school mission is “future oriented,” with curricula and instruction designed to prepare students to succeed in a rigorous high school curriculum;
- They included improvement of student outcomes in evaluations of the superintendent, the principal, and the teachers; and
- They communicate to parents and students their responsibility as well for student learning, including parent contracts, turning in homework, attending class, and asking for help when needed.
This large-scale study documents the role of the superintendent, principal, and teachers in aligning a standards-based curriculum and instruction, the extensive use of student assessment data to improve instruction and practice, and a wide array of required and voluntary intervention strategies to get struggling students on track.
If it’s important to have more students graduate high school college-ready, then it’s time to give middle grades educators and their students more attention and support.