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Making Middle Grades Work

An Enhanced Design to Get All Students to Standards

Making Middle Grades Work (MMGW)1 is about improving student achievement in the critical middle grades. It is an effort-based school improvement initiative founded on the conviction that most students can master rigorous academic studies if schools create an environment that motivates them to make the effort to succeed. Students are motivated to achieve at high levels when

They learn a rigorous academic core taught in ways that enables them to see the usefulness of their studies. There are supportive relationships between students and adults. These relationships provide students with the extra help and support they need to meet challenging course standards and make successful transitions from elementary schools to the middle grades and from the middle grades to high school. Teacher advisers in middle grades schools work with parents and students to set goals and select rigorous courses that prepare students for college-preparatory classes in high school. School leadership focuses on supporting what and how teachers teach by providing common planning time and professional development aligned with school improvement plans and the MMGW Key Practices. These conditions create an environment where more students and their parents recognize that the middle grades matter and where more students become independent learners able to set future educational goals and choose courses to achieve those goals. In an era of rising workplace requirements, getting a good high school education is more important now than at any previous time. Responsibility rests with middle grades schools to prepare students for rigorous high school studies that, in turn, prepare them for further studies and careers. The MMGW school improvement design consists of a framework of Goals, Key Practices and Key Conditions for accelerating learning and setting higher standards. It recommends researchbased practices for schools to improve academic and exploratory instruction and sustained student achievement. MMGW research has shown that sustained school improvement and student achievement occur when state, district, school and teacher leaders work together and take ownership by adopting the MMGW design for the specific needs of individual middle grades schools.

MMGW Primary Mission and Goals

Southern Regional Education Board 592 10th St. N.W. Atlanta, GA 30318 (404) 875-9211 www.sreb.org

The primary mission of MMGW is to create a culture of high expectations and continuous improvement that prepares middle grades students for challenging high school studies. There is room for improvement. On the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) eighth-grade assessment, 29 percent of students scored below Basic in reading; 32 percent scored below Basic in mathematics these students are not prepared for challenging high school studies. To achieve its mission, MMGW has several goals. These include the following:
1 MMGW is the nation's first large-scale effort to engage state, district and school leaders in partnerships with teachers, students,

parents and the community to raise student achievement in the middle grades. Currently, 236 middle grades schools participate in MMGW.

Increase to 85 percent the percentages of students who meet the MMGW reading, mathematics and science performance goals on the Middle Grades Assessment, a NAEP-referenced exam. Increase the percentages of all students who perform at the Proficient level to at least 50 percent in reading, mathematics and science, as measured by the Middle Grades Assessment. Increase annually the percentages of middle grades students entering high school prepared to succeed in collegepreparatory courses. Increase to 90 percent the percentage of middle grades students who transition into grade nine and complete high school four years later. Reduce the failure rate in grade nine by ensuring middle grades students receive the preparation they need to succeed in high school courses such as Algebra I and beyond and college-preparatory English 9. Advance state and local policies and leadership initiatives that sustain a continuous school improvement effort. MMGW believes middle grades schools will achieve these goals if they base their efforts on a comprehensive improvement framework of Key Practices and Key Conditions.

MMGW Key Practices for Improving Student Achievement

School and classroom practices and student performance are more likely to change if they are aligned to a framework that facilitates and encourages comprehensive school improvement. The following are the MMGW Key Practices that provide direction and meaning to comprehensive improvement and to raising student achievement: An academic core that is aligned to what students must know, understand and be able to do to succeed in mathematics, science, college-preparatory English and social studies All students in the middle grades need an academic core curriculum that accelerates learning, challenges them and appeals to their interests. In mathematics, all students satisfactorily complete Algebra I or pass a pre-algebra test of proficiency and use algebra concepts to reason and solve problems. In science, all students use laboratory and technology experiences to learn fundamental concepts in the physical, life and earth/space sciences. Reading instruction is incorporated into all content areas in the academic core curriculum through grade eight. The language arts curriculum requires students to use language correctly and effectively; to find, organize and communicate information; to read the equivalent of 10 to 12 books of various types, raising the bar annually to reach the 25-book level; to write a short paper weekly; and to write one or more major research papers. The social studies curriculum engages students to learn about their heritage, their government, their world and economic principles through key issues of the past, present and future. A belief that all students matter Ensure that each student develops a personal relationship with a consistent mentor an adult who takes an interest in his or her successful learning, goal-setting, course selection, educational planning, review of progress and personal growth. This individual, typically a teacher adviser, works with the student and his or her parents through the middle grades within a structured guidance and advisement system at the school. The guidance and advisement system ensures students complete accelerated programs of study.

High expectations and a system of extra help and time Students learn in different ways and at different rates. Schools invest the time and extra help middle grades students require to meet the rigorous, consistent standards of high expectations. Schools provide a structured system of instruction and extra help that supports all students to become self-directed learners by building into their learning experiences opportunities to practice habits of successful learners effective study and literacy skills, time management and learning with others; gives students easy access to opportunities to meet and exceed course standards and advance with their peers; lets students know what is required for A- and B-level work;2 supports teachers in forming nurturing academic relationships with students to improve students work and achievement; and supports teachers and school leaders in planning catch-up learning experiences for seventh-and eighth-graders identified as not being on course to be prepared for college-preparatory high school courses. Classroom practices that engage students Young adolescents need varied learning activities linked to challenging academic content and opportunities to use new skills and concepts in real-world applications. Further, middle grades teachers need to integrate reading, writing and speaking as strategies for learning into all parts of the curriculum. Academic and related arts teachers can engage students regularly by having them read books and articles, write, make presentations, and use high-level reasoning and thinking skills. Teachers working together Provide teams of teachers from several core disciplines time and support to work together to help students succeed in challenging academic and related arts studies. Middle grades teachers need time to work together to align core academic courses to high school readiness standards, and align standards with classroom assignments, student work and assessments; integrate mathematics and literacy concepts across the curriculum; examine student work; and develop and/or implement gear-up programs during the school year and summer for seventh- and eighth-graders needing accelerated instruction in mathematics, language arts and reading to be prepared for college-preparatory high school course work. Support from parents Parents must clearly understand and support higher standards for performance in the middle grades. Develop efforts to educate middle grades parents, school and teacher leaders, and students about the achievement level needed for challenging high school studies. Teacher advisers play a critical role in keeping parents engaged by arranging multiple conferences with students and their parents. Through these conferences: students and parents set clear goals that motivate students and enable them to see the relationships between their middle grades studies, high school studies and beyond; both the school and students families know what will be necessary to assist students in taking challenging courses; and faculty, teacher advisers, students and parents can track progress and make changes as required. Qualified teachers Middle grades teachers must know academic content and how to teach middle grades students. To ensure that they do, teachers must be highly qualified. Middle grades teachers must have in-depth knowledge of their subject areas and of teaching strategies to engage and challenge students.
2 Students earning an A demonstrate mastery over the subject matter and perform above grade level. These students are able to apply content and show competence in

the analysis, synthesis and evaluation of content at grade-level standards. Students performing B-level work are at grade level and can apply content and occasionally synthesize and evaluate content. 3

Middle grades teachers lacking majors in their subject areas are supported by the district to acquire content expertise. The school and district employ teachers who have depth in their teaching fields and support them in learning how to teach well. Use of data States, districts and schools must continuously use data on student, school and teacher performance to review and revise school and classroom practices. A primary tool for assessing student achievement in the middle grades is the Middle Grades Assessment, which is referenced to NAEP proficiency standards in reading, mathematics and science and administered to eighth-graders. The Middle Grades Assessment also includes data from a survey of students, teachers and school personnel. These surveys provide information on the perceptions of these groups concerning school and classroom practices. Schools are expected to use data from their state assessments, end-of-course assessments and end-of-year assessments. Use of technology for learning Provide opportunities for middle grades students and teachers to explore and use technology for improving knowledge and skills in English/language arts, reading, mathematics, science, social studies and exploratory courses through the use of research-based instructional practices. Strong leadership Middle grades schools need strong, effective principals who encourage teachers and participate with them in planning and implementing research-based improvements, including aligning and benchmarking curricula to high school standards. Each school should have a leadership team consisting of the principal, assistant principal and teacher leaders.

MMGW Key Conditions for accelerating student achievement

MMGW believes that everyone teachers, school leaders, district leaders, local and state leaders in the educational hierarchy must work together to align policies, resources, initiatives and accountability efforts to support middle grades schools as they adopt and implement comprehensive school improvement designs. A clear, functional mission statement defines the purpose of the middle grades school: to prepare students for rigorous, college-preparatory courses in high school. A basic set of conditions guides the implementation of this mission statement. The set of MMGW Key Conditions includes the following: Commitment: State partners, the local school board, district leaders and the community commit to implement fully the comprehensive MMGW improvement framework. Planning for continuous improvement: District and school leaders create an organizational structure and process that ensures continuous involvement with faculty on what to teach; how to teach it; what students are expected to learn; how to assess what they have learned; and how district and school leaders support each other, the students, students parents and the community. Curriculum: District leaders support and encourage a curriculum review and alignment that compares all curricula to state, national and international standards. As a result, a set of conditions and performance standards defines the quantity and quality of work expected at each grade level throughout the system. Support for professional development: District and school leaders provide leadership and financial support for professional development directly connected to academic standards and student achievement. Professional development includes support for teachers in the classroom as they implement teaching practices with demonstrated effectiveness. Teacher preparation: The local school board helps teachers without majors in their subject areas to upgrade their content knowledge through academic courses and it hires new teachers with subject area majors that match their teaching assignments.

Establishing readiness for success

The middle grades provide students with exciting learning opportunities. Students increasingly think abstractly and envision themselves as part of a world community. Middle grades students need to see the connection between what they are learning now and what they will learn in high school and beyond. They need to understand that the concepts and skills they gain while in the middle grades provide the foundation for their success in high school, future studies and careers. The middle grades primary goal is preparing students for a rigorous college-preparatory curriculum in high school. When they leave the middle grades, students: should have had Algebra I or be ready for it; should have the knowledge and skills in reading, writing, speaking and listening needed for college-preparatory English/language arts; should have the scientific knowledge and skills for success in investigation-based high school science; and should be able to describe their heritage, their government, their world and economic principles. Students should also leave the middle grades with a detailed six-year plan for all four years of high school plus the two-years after graduation. This ensures that students know what they must do to succeed in high school and beyond.

Recommended Curriculum and Instruction

The centerpiece of MMGW is challenging curriculum in the core academics English/language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. School leaders need to align core academic courses to essential state and national standards that prepare middle graders for challenging high school course work, and align student assignments, student work and classroom assessments to at least Proficient-level standards as defined by National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)-referenced exams and state assessments. To reach eighth-grade proficiency and readiness for high school college-preparatory curricula, students need to gain the essential skills for each of the core subject areas. In English/language arts students should write a major research paper (with footnotes and bibliography) on a subject they choose once a semester or once a year; complete a short writing assignment of one to three pages for a grade weekly; make an oral presentation each month or each semester; and read, both in and out of school, the equivalent of 11 or more books of various types, raising the bar annually to reach the 25-book level. In mathematics students should develop and analyze tables, charts and graphs in their schoolwork often; use a scientific calculator weekly; solve mathematics problems other than those in the textbook at least weekly; work with one or more students in their class on a challenging mathematics assignment monthly or weekly; explain to the class both orally and in writing how they solved a mathematics problem monthly or weekly; explain different ways to solve mathematics problems monthly or weekly; and use their mathematics skills to solve problems in other classes monthly or weekly.

In science students should complete science projects that take a week or more; complete written lab reports once a semester or monthly; use equipment to do activities in science labs with tables and sinks once a semester or monthly; use word processing software to complete an assignment or project often; complete short writing assignments of one to three pages for a grade once a semester; use a laptop computer, a lab book or notebooks to keep records, logs and comments; and write long answers to questions on tests in science monthly. In social studies students should understand the essential concepts of geography, economics, history and government; analyze conflicts and debate and defend a position; and participate in hands-on activities such as problem-solving and decision-making in the real world, simulations, and service learning. In exploratory courses students should experience a curriculum that is aligned to core academic standards; read and write to learn; work on projects that integrate academic standards; practice use of technology; and explore different career pathways.

Literacy Across the Curriculum

MMGW has identified five literacy goals that result in significantly higher achievement. Students will do the following: Read the equivalent of 25 books per year across the curriculum and demonstrate understanding of the content of materials read. Proficient readers summarize what they have learned; ask clarifying questions; use pertinent vocabulary; and analyze the purpose, content and structure of a text. Write weekly in all classes as a way to deepen student understanding and retention of subject-matter content. Use reading and writing strategies to enhance their learning in all classes. Train all teachers to use reading and writing strategies. Proficient readers can use strategies to get the most from what they read and can construct meaning from reading assignments in all of their classes. Write research papers in all classes. This allows students to choose a topic of interest and develop their abilities as self-directed learners. Complete a rigorous language arts curriculum taught like college-preparatory/honors English. To reach this goal, students read 11 books each year, raising the bar annually to reach the 25-book level, demonstrate understanding of those books, write short graded papers weekly and complete research papers.

Engaging All Students in Learning

How teachers teach matters in the middle grades. Train teachers to use classroom practices that engage students in learning, to use technology, and to plan together cross-curricular lessons that enable students to see connections to prior learning and to the world they live in. Teachers engage students when they give students some choices in assignments and assessments; provide assignments that challenge students to develop ideas and to think; use technology and research-based teaching strategies; allow students to share what they have learned; and allow students to practice and refine key skills by working individually, with partners and in teams. SREB has found that a cluster of six teaching practices are significant predictors of higher student achievement in English/language arts, mathematics and science. The more often students report experiencing these practices, the higher their achievement regardless of ethnicity, family income level or gender. Teachers should indicate the amount and quality of work needed to earn an A or B; encourage students to do well in school; encourage students to help and learn from each other; know the subject and make it interesting and useful; set high standards and help students meet them; and have students redo work until it meets grade-level standards.

Transitions from elementary to middle and middle grades to high school

Students experience an achievement lag for at least a year unless transitions are planned well and carried out successfully. Students who are entering the middle grades need to learn about their school, the new routines they will follow and the skills they will need to be successful. Middle grades schools also have the responsibility for ensuring that students have a strong bridge from the middle grades to high school and complete the work necessary to meet the requirements of a rigorous high school curriculum.

Helping Middle Grades Students Become Independent Learners

Transitions programs help students learn the core academic material that will enable them to be successful in high school, but students entering the sixth grade also need to develop independent learning and social skills. Transition programs help students learn the following habits they will need to be successful. Create and maintain relationships: Students success comes through their own efforts as well as from the assistance, guidance and encouragement of others. They need the opportunity to develop positive relationships with each other and with their academic teachers. Study, manage time and get organized: The highest achieving students are usually well-organized and have learned successful approaches to studying and managing time.

Read and write across the curriculum: Students should write, revise their writing and use reading strategies in all of their academic courses. Mathematics across the curriculum: Mathematics success in grades seven through nine is a powerful predictor of whether students leave high school with the knowledge and skills needed for further study. Students need the opportunity to practice these skills and to apply them to real-world mathematics problems. Goal setting and planning: Students need to learn why goals are important and how to set and achieve them. Teachers can help students by discussing short-term academic goals and supporting students in the achievement of their goals. Access to resources: Help students develop the skills necessary to learn how to question, research and analyze.

Moving from the middle grades to high school

Building a strong bridge from the middle grades to high school is essential in raising student achievement and keeping students in school. Getting students ready to meet the requirements of a rigorous curriculum when they begin high school is a primary mission of the middle grades. Unprepared students are likely to drop out of school or seek less stringent diploma options. District, high school and middle grades leaders can work cooperatively to get middle grades students prepared for rigorous high school studies by establishing readiness standards for succeeding in challenging reading, English, mathematics and science high school studies; aligning middle grades curricula, teacher assignments and assessments to high school readiness standards; and setting goals to increase annually the percentage of students having successfully completed Algebra I by the end of grade eight.

Getting Unprepared Students Ready

Middle grades leaders and teachers should implement catch-up strategies for getting unprepared students ready for challenging high schoolwork. Develop a gear-up program in the middle grades for seventh- and eighth-graders who need accelerated instruction in mathematics, language arts and reading. Provide students with the extra time and help they need to meet high school-readiness standards and readiness indicators, and teachers with the instructional techniques that motivate students to work harder. Provide a four- to six-week summer bridge program to help entering eighth- and ninth-graders who need special additional instruction to succeed in high school. Blackman Middle/High School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, has designed a six-week program using a curriculum designed collaboratively by teachers from both schools. There are eight 45-minute learning sessions each day there is no homework or tests in the Blackman summer bridge model. Evaluations are based on students efforts in the classes the courses emphasize hands-on, real-world experiences for students. The classes were designed using the high-impact learning theory: short and fast-paced with reading improvement as the main thrust of the program. Students were pre-tested on core academics to determine main areas of need for the program. Courses include a reading academy, writing/English, mathematics/Algebra, hands-on science and technology education (10 career-based modular programs). In addition to academics, students also receive guidance and counseling in self-esteem, study skills, coping skills, communication skills, anger management and personal responsibility.

Provide eighth-graders who are identified early on as not being ready for college-preparatory courses in high school English and Algebra I a double-dose of both subjects. A two-semester program can help these students strengthen their skills. The First Semester consists of a language arts course that stresses high-interest adolescent reading, writing and grammar. The course prepares students for a ninth-grade college-preparatory language arts course in the second semester. The Second Semester consists of a mathematics course that stresses arithmetic and pre-algebra. This transitional course prepares students to take Algebra I during the second semester. a study skills and guidance course stressing study habits, note taking, job shadowing and visits to high school career/technical labs; or a computer course focusing on databases, word processing, PowerPoint, Internet, e-mail and related skills. physical science or social studies taught at the college-preparatory level. The science course includes lab experiments and use of the scientific method.

Research-based evidence for MMGW

To test the validity and reliability of SREBs assertion that the more middle grades schools use evidence-based school and classroom practices to improve student achievement, the more likely they are to accomplish the mission of preparing all students for challenging high school studies, the Research Triangle Institute (RTI)3 examined four questions using data from the SREB 2004 Middle Grades Assessment. Do schools that more fully implement the Making Middle Grades Work (MMGW) improvement framework exhibit higher student achievement? Are there school and classroom practices that contribute to higher achievement in schools that more fully implement the MMGW framework? Can schools create an environment that helps students overcome barriers such as poverty and their families educational backgrounds? What can schools and states do to ensure that MMGW is more fully implemented? Some of RTIs findings include Schools that have implemented the MMGW framework more fully have students who score significantly higher than students in schools that have not implemented the MMGW practices as fully. Schools that more fully implement the MMGW Key Practices have more students who perform at or above the Proficient level and fewer students who score below the Basic level in achievement. Teachers in high-implementation schools are more likely to give students more challenging assignments and to use effective instructional practices specific to subject areas. Students in high-implementation schools are more likely to report that their teachers encouraged them to take Algebra I and to develop a written plan of courses to take in high school.

3 RTI is an independent, nonprofit corporation specializing in scientific research and technology development. SREB contracted with RTI to conduct this study.

Students in high-implementation schools are more likely to report that teachers were available for extra help when needed and that the extra help they received strengthened their understandings of school subjects. Students in high-implementation schools are more likely to report experiences with multiple strategies for learning. Students at high-implementation schools not only score higher, but a larger percentage of them meet the MMGW benchmark subject goals. (See Table 1.) Fewer than two out of five students in low-implementation schools met the 2004 subject goals, while nearly half (46 and 48 percent) of students in high-implementation schools met two or more of the subject goals. (See Table 2.)

Table 1. Students Mean Scores by Implementation Level of the School

Low-implementation High-implementation Schools Schools Score Mathematics Reading Science
Source: 2004 Middle Grades Assessment Analysis using t test of significance * Significance greater than .001


All Schools Score 153 152 144

Score 156* 155* 148*

147 149 139

Table 2. Percentages of Students Meeting Subject Goals in MMGW Schools

Low-implementation High-implementation Schools Schools 36% 38 31 48%* 46* 38*

Goal Mathematics (160) Reading (160) Science (161)

Source: 2004 Middle Grades Assessment Analysis using chi-square test of significance * Significance greater than .001

All Schools 42% 43 33


The Middle Grades Assessment

Making Middle Grades Work partners with schools, state coordinators and State Departments of Education in using data from a variety of sources to guide school improvement efforts. All MMGW schools are required to participate in one of two MMGW assessment models in even years (2006, 2008, and 2010). MMGW states will choose which model their schools will adopt. Historically, schools have participated in the Middle Grades Assessment (MGA) that consists of NAEP-referenced achievement tests in reading, mathematics and science and a survey of student and teacher experiences. The Middle Grades Assessment serves to link student performance to the set of MMGW Key Practices in a way that helps high school leaders, teachers and communities improve the achievement of academic and exploratory studies students. By administering a student survey in conjunction with the assessment, MMGW is able to provide schools with a comprehensive report of results that illustrate student proficiency in reading, mathematics and science as well as student course-taking patterns in the middle grades. School leaders and staff use the information provided to assist them in revising instruction, curriculum, guidance practices and extra-help systems. The Middle Grades Assessment consists of the following components: Middle Grades Assessment Exam: This assessment exam, based on items produced by NAEP, consists of four sections reading, mathematics, science and the student survey. Middle Grades Teacher Survey: All full- and part-time teachers complete this survey. This survey gives teachers a voice in the school improvement process. Survey information can be used in planning professional development programs that fit teacher and student needs. Middle Grades Principal Survey: The principal completes this survey, which covers school culture, processes and policies. With the number of high-stakes tests required of eighth-grade students, MMGW recognizes that administering the Middle Grades Assessment may place too high of a burden on participating schools and students. Therefore, MMGW has developed the MMGW State Assessment Model. This model allows schools to administer the same MGA student and teacher surveys but does not require the subject tests in reading, mathematics and science. Survey data is matched to state test data to produce the same comprehensive report as with the MGA. The only difference is that state test data is used instead of the NAEP-referenced MGA achievement data. Schools in the MMGW network are expected to adopt school and classroom practices that effectively engage students in learning and advance achievement. The Middle Grades Assessment and MMGW State Assessment Model provide data to measure progress and facilitate the goal to fully implement the school improvement framework with at least 85 percent of students meeting the MMGW achievement goals in reading, mathematics and science.

Technical Assistance Visits (TAV) and Technical Review Visits (TRV)

MMGW school improvement consultants visit schools in order to gather baseline data and to work with school leaders to assess where their schools are in relationship to the MMGW Key Practices. There are two types of school visits. Technical Assistance Visit (TAV): The TAV assists school leaders and teachers to identify changes needed to improve student achievement in the middle grades. MMGW conducts a three-day visit to school sites every three years. The first visit takes place the first year a school joins the network. TAV teams include representatives from the district, feeder elementary schools and high schools associated with the middle grades school site as well as parents and community members. After the visit, MMGW produces a report recognizing the schools strengths, identifying challenges that remain and recommending actions school leaders can implement to refine and advance school improvement.


Technical Review Visit (TRV): Between 18 and 24 months following the TAV, the TAV team leader and state coordinator conduct a one-day visit to the school. These visits enable MMGW, SREB staff and state coordinators to assess progress in implementing the comprehensive improvement framework. The TRVs also help school leaders fine-tune action plans and identify further technical assistance the school may require.

Annual site progress report

Each MMGW school site prepares an annual site progress report in the spring to document accomplishments and challenges in its effort to implement the MMGW Key Practices. The annual report is part of a reflection and planning process through which schools note accomplishments from the previous school year and outline improvement priorities for the upcoming year. It is used to produce student and teacher reports provided to middle grades school sites as part of a comprehensive evaluation of the initiatives effectiveness.

What MMGW agrees to do4

Making Middle Grades Work agrees to provide leadership, guidance, information and assistance to support schools, districts and states in improving student achievement. School participation with MMGW can take one of three forms: joining a state MMGW network through the states department of education, contracting independently with MMGW or participating as a member of an urban district network. SREB priority services for schools participating in a state network include supporting the state agency that manages and coordinates MMGW sites; providing consultation to the state and its network schools; collaborating with the state to develop statewide MMGW councils that provide overall guidance to MMGW efforts; providing information and dissemination services to support state and site efforts using print, video and Internet resources; evaluating sites progress in implementing the MMGW design and raising the achievement of students in reading, mathematics and science through biennial NAEP-referenced Middle Grades Assessments student assessment and survey, teacher survey, principal survey and school data summary; providing annually one statewide Site Development Workshop (SDW) to give teams from new sites an introduction to the MMGW model, indicators and goals; managing and helping states lead on-site TAVs; providing staff development opportunities for states and sites through national staff development that includes a major annual conference for all network sites and state leaders in July that typically attracts 8,000 participants and national experts; creating networking opportunities for sites to share strategies and resources; supporting creation of site-focused staff development plans; conducting training of state personnel to assist in providing MMGW services;

4 Services and agreements are dependent upon whether a middle grades school is part of a state network or is a contracted site.


conducting annual leadership forums for teams and district leaders from all MMGW states; seeking support from the private sector and foundations for delivery of MMGW services; and disseminating information about MMGW best practices to state organizations. For individual schools contracting with MMGW, priority services include providing an orientation to MMGW; managing and leading a two-day SDW at participating schools; managing and leading a three-day on-site TAV and a one and one-half day TRV to each participating school; providing improvement consultants to work with schools in the delivery of technical assistance and coordination of services; working with schools to examine needs in providing staff development and follow-up coaching, including site-specific national staff development programs; helping schools plan and implement site-specific staff development to support teachers in changing what and how they teach; evaluating sites progress in implementing the MMGW design and raising the achievement of students in reading, mathematics and science through biennial NAEP-referenced Middle Grades Assessments student assessment and survey, teacher survey, principal survey and school data summary; on-site coaching and additional electronic and telephone support; providing workshops for the school leadership team; and providing curriculum alignment training in English/language arts and Algebra I.

What participating sites agree to do

Schools and school systems participating in MMGW agree to do the following: Have site leaders superintendents, school board members, the principal and a core group of teachers examine the Goals and Key Practices and decide if MMGW is viable for the school and the community. If so, they commit to at least a five-year implementation effort and require most students to take a rigorous upgraded academic core curriculum. Appoint someone at district and school sites to coordinate MMGW action planning, staff development and technical assistance; coordinate data collection; monitor progress; foster communication; and integrate the MMGW Goals and Key Practices with other school improvement efforts. Lead faculty during the first year in establishing the need for change and orient them to the MMGW Goals and Key Practices, and invite broad participation in the planning and implementation process. Support academic and related art teachers with staff development, materials and time to work with content area teachers to implement the Key Practices. Organize an overall school leadership team composed of key academic and related art teachers and administrators; guidance counselors; and representatives of business, industry and postsecondary education. Establish individual focus teams to address issues including curriculum, guidance, evaluation, staff development and transitions.


Prepare an action plan for implementing the Key Practices and a site-specific staff development plan to help teachers carry out the action steps. Participate in the biennial Middle Grades Assessment student assessment and survey, teacher survey, principal survey and school data summary to obtain baseline data and to measure progress in raising student achievement. Host a TAV involving a team led by SREB or the state to review progress and the challenges to be addressed to raise student achievement. Participate in district leadership activities, state staff development activities and the annual HSTW Summer Staff Development Conference. Become an active member of a state and multistate network for sharing information and ideas. Designate staff members to coach all teachers in getting students to use reading, writing and mathematics across the curriculum to improve achievement in all content areas. Promote a vision of high achievement for all students among faculty and staff, parents, students and community members.

What participating states agree to do

States5 participating in MMGW agree to do the following: Designate a state MMGW coordinator to assist in the delivering of TAVs, SDWs, the orientation and to serve on the MMGW Consortium Board. Allocate discretionary funds to help sites implement their school improvement plans; Conduct TAVs to one third of sites annually to recommend ways for existing sites to further advance student learning. Conduct TAVs to all new sites during year one to help them develop and implement action plans for raising student achievement. Encourage sites to attend the annual HSTW Summer Staff Development Conference and identify site participants to serve as presenters and presiders. Link staff development to sites school improvement plans and create opportunities for teachers and administrators to participate in state-sponsored institutes and SREB workshops and conferences. Support sites in participating in the biennial MMGW teacher survey and follow-up survey and help them to use the data in improving their action plans. Provide new MMGW sites technical assistance during year one for developing action plans. Support MMGW sites annually with staff development support that includes a statewide MMGW staff development conference. Foster networking of sites through meetings, visits and electronic communication. Convene sites regularly to share resources and solve common problems.

5 For the most up-to-date contact information for state coordinators, please visit our Web site, www.sreb.org. Click on the High Schools That Work link at the top of the

page and then choose the link for Making Middle Grades Work in the left column.


How to become a MMGW site

Becoming a state network site SREB and the states work together to provide services to MMGW sites. Each state uses its own process for selecting school sites to participate in MMGW. In most states, schools wishing to join the state network must submit an application; a few states require annual proposals. Some states require majority approval by school staff for adopting the MMGW design. Schools or districts seeking MMGW site information should contact the state coordinator at their states department of education. Becoming a contracted site MMGW provides services to middle grades schools in 31 states that have received grants to adopt MMGW as an improvement design. The states, districts and schools commit to a plan for improving student achievement by providing challenging academic programs, setting high expectations for students and teachers, and offering high quality professional development. Schools receiving federal grants and wishing to implement the MMGW design must do so through a contractual arrangement with SREB. Other schools may enter into contracts with SREB for support as they implement the MMGW design by using local, state or private funds. Schools choosing the MMGW design and seeking to contract with SREB for services will review an information packet, participate in a phone call to discuss services and their costs, review a draft contract from SREB and seek approval from the state coordinator. SREB sends a contract that school leaders review and sign before services begin. A memorandum of understanding outlines what the school and district will do and what MMGW will do to assist the school in reaching its improvement goals.

What Making Middle Grades Work does for middle grades schools
Participation in MMGW benefits all stakeholders in the middle grades community: students and their parents, teachers and administrators. Benefits to students: MMGW improves students academic knowledge and skills. It shows students the connection between the middle grades, high school and their futures; it encourages them to prepare for a rigorous, collegepreparatory curriculum in high school. Benefits to teachers: Teachers gain confidence in their abilities to help all students complete challenging middle grades studies and prepare them for rigorous high school college-preparatory course work. They work together to implement more rigorous curricula and classroom instruction and plan professional development activities aimed at raising students achievement. Benefits to principals: Administrators strengthen their understanding of curriculum and instruction as they lead the staff to align curriculum and classroom assignments and assessments to high school readiness standards. They become more adept at leading a continuous improvement program planning, doing, reviewing, evaluating, making new plans and revising old ones to improve student learning. Benefits to schools: Schools receive data about students strengths and weaknesses in reading, mathematics and science and about the weaknesses of school and classroom practices through the Middle Grades Assessments, Technical Assistance Visits (TAVs) and Technical Review Visits (TRVs). Based on this information, teachers and administrators can take actions to improve the rigor of the curriculum, the relevance of classroom assignments and the support students need to get from the home and school to meet higher standards. The result is improved communication among faculty and staff, students, parents, and secondary institutions.


Benefits to educational reform: MMGW provides states with Goals and a set of Key Practices and Key Conditions for working with local school systems to improve the middle grades. School leaders and teachers discover that they can raise the achievement of all students, including those previously underserved. Benefits to the community and nation: A well-taught, accelerated curriculum in the middle grades can 1) reverse the downward trend in students reading, writing, mathematics and science achievement that currently is occurring in most middle grades schools; and 2) significantly increase the percentage of students ready for challenging high school studies and, ultimately, their achievement potential as adults.

For more information

Gene Bottoms, SREB senior vice president and director of High Schools That Work. Phone: (404) 875-9211, ext. 249. Fax: (404) 872-1477. E-mail: gene.bottoms@sreb.org. Toni Eubank, director, Making Middle Grades Work, State Network. Phone: (404) 879-5610. E-mail: toni.eubank@sreb.org. Anna Marie Farnish, director, Making Middle Grades Work, Contracted Services. Phone: (404) 879-2256. E-mail: annamarie.farnish@sreb.org.