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ERIC Number: EJ903509
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Oct
Pages: 5
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0013-127X
Gaining Ground in the Middle Grades: Why Some Schools Do Better
Education Digest: Essential Readings Condensed for Quick Review, v76 n2 p14-18 Oct 2010
There has been a great deal of focus in recent years on high school reform as a way to ensure all students graduate ready for a skilled job or additional postsecondary education. As expectations for a more highly educated American citizenry rise, what happens in the middle grades--the beginning of the secondary-to-postsecondary education continuum--matters more now than ever. The middle grades are where many students begin to lose ground in key subject areas such as mathematics. The middle grades may also be the last, best chance to identify students at risk of academic failure and get them on track in time to succeed in high school. Indeed, success in key subjects in the middle grades is a strong predictor of success in high school and beyond. The past two decades have seen the release of many reports stressing the importance of the middle grades. All have focused to one degree or another on the broad concepts of developmental responsiveness (to young adolescent needs), social equity (ensuring that all students are encouraged and supported to achieve at their highest), and academic excellence or rigor (consistent with standards-based instruction) as central tenets of their recommendations. Only very recently has research and analysis begun to focus on academic outcomes in the middle grades, however. To date, very little research has been conducted on the relationship between particular middle grade practices and policies and improved academic outcomes. Although it is widely accepted that most of the difference in student outcomes among schools is directly related to student background, it is less widely acknowledged that there is great variation in student performance among schools serving very similar student populations. This variation is striking--and in many ways, hopeful. It makes clear that school and district practices can have a significant impact on student outcomes regardless of student background. This article describes a study which contributes to the field by identifying a broad range of traditional and newer middle grade policies and practices, and determining in California which of these differentiate higher- from lower-performing schools serving similar student populations, with performance measured by the state's standards-based tests. This study shows that, although the socioeconomic backgrounds of students are one strong predictor of school-level academic achievement, the practices and policies enacted by educators also have a significant relationship with outcomes. Their focus on their middle grade mission, and the resources they have available to pursue their goals, can make a difference.
Prakken Publications. 832 Phoenix Drive, P.O. Box 8623, Ann Arbor, MI 48108. Tel: 734-975-2800; Fax: 734-975-2787; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Middle Schools
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: California