Opinion
School Climate & Safety Letter to the Editor

Reimagining Middle School Years to Help Students Overcome Challenges

March 15, 2016 1 min read

To the Editor:

Close to 200,000 students in Los Angeles public schools are middle-grades students—5th, 6th, 7th, or 8th graders—who are either launched onto the path to graduation or knocked off track during these years. Although research has definitively shown that experiences in the middle grades have substantial impacts on high school graduation and success in college, not enough attention has been paid to these formative years.

That must change.

Middle-grades students face many challenges that can severely impact academic performance. According to United Way, one out of three 7th graders in Los Angeles County shows signs of depression, and one out of two 8th graders does not take algebra, a gateway to higher-level thinking. If we want to strengthen our economy, we can no longer remain silent in the face of deleterious learning conditions and opportunities.

The middle grades are a time when adolescents experience immense social, emotional, and physical changes. We can help students in these grades become who they want to be by providing innovative and meaningful learning opportunities. For example, the middle grades are a good opportunity to introduce a new language, whether it be a student’s second or third. And let’s encourage our teachers to “loop” with their students to the next grade, a practice that gives students a sense of continuity that’s otherwise absent in the class-shuffling middle grades.

Because I believe that the best ideas come from the grassroots, I authored a school board resolution for the Los Angeles Unified School District: “Creating a Collaborative to Focus on the Middle Grades.” This was designed to bring together a team of students, parents, educators, school leaders, researchers, and district staff to create a framework to reimagine our middle grades. It passed unanimously. I hope that districts across the state and nation will also make a similar commitment, so that we can turn the middle grades into a steppingstone to high school graduation and a pathway to college and life success.

Ref Rodriguez

Board of Education Member

Los Angeles Unified School District

Los Angeles, Calif.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the March 16, 2016 edition of Education Week as Reimagining Middle School Years to Help Students Overcome Challenges

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Professional Development Webinar
Building Leadership Excellence Through Instructional Coaching
Join this webinar for a discussion on instructional coaching and ways you can link your implement or build on your program.
Content provided by Whetstone Education/SchoolMint
Teaching Webinar Tips for Better Hybrid Learning: Ask the Experts What Works
Register and ask your questions about hybrid learning to our expert panel.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Families & the Community Webinar
Family Engagement for Student Success With Dr. Karen Mapp
Register for this free webinar to learn how to empower and engage families for student success featuring Karen L. Mapp.
Content provided by Panorama Education & PowerMyLearning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

[2021-2022] Founding Middle School Academic Dean
New York, NY, US
DREAM Charter School
Hiring Bilingual and Special Education Teachers NOW!
Newark, New Jersey
Newark Public Schools
DevOps Engineer
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Senior Business Analyst - 12 Month Contract
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Interactive School Shootings This Year: How Many and Where
Education Week is tracking shootings in K-12 schools in 2021. See the number of incidents and where they occurred in our map and data table.
3 min read
Sign indicating school zone.
iStock/Getty
School Climate & Safety When Toxic Positivity Seeps Into Schools, Here's What Educators Can Do
Papering over legitimate, negative feelings with phrases like "look on the bright side" can be harmful for teachers and students.
6 min read
Image shows the Mr. Yuck emoji with his tongue out in response to bubbles of positive sayings all around him.
Gina Tomko/Education Week + Ingram Publishing/Getty
School Climate & Safety Opinion Teaching's 'New Normal'? There's Nothing Normal About the Constant Threat of Death
As the bizarre becomes ordinary, don't forget what's at stake for America's teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic, writes Justin Minkel.
4 min read
14Minkel IMG
Gremlin/E+
School Climate & Safety Letter to the Editor Invisibility to Inclusivity for LGBTQ Students
To the Editor:
I read with interest “The Essential Traits of a Positive School Climate” (Special Report: “Getting School Climate Right: A Guide for Principals,” Oct. 14, 2020). The EdWeek Research Center survey of principals and teachers provides interesting insight as to why there are still school climate issues for LGBTQ students.
1 min read