Specific strategies for middle school administrators to use to improve academic achievement and better prepare students for high school are outlined in a report released last week by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
The report by the Reston, Va.-based association—developed in collaboration with the Education Alliance at Brown University and a commission of middle school experts—is a follow-up to a 2004 NASSP report, “Breaking Ranks II,” which focused on student achievement in high school.
A summary of “Breaking Ranks in the Middle: Strategies for Leading Middle Level Reform” is posted by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
“The theory that led us to write this book is that you can’t really expect high school achievement to take root unless you’ve been building a foundation all along,” said John R. Nori, the director of instructional leadership resources at the principals’ group.
Mr. Nori emphasized that the transition from the middle grades, defined in the report as 6th through 8th grade, to high school is especially difficult for many students. That’s why one of the primary goals of the report, he said, is to “make success seamless between middle and high school.”
Three Key Areas
The new report, “Breaking Ranks in the Middle: Strategies for Leading Middle School Reform,” offers 30 specific recommendations school leaders can use to help raise student achievement, such as developing political and financial relationships with individuals, organizations, and businesses to support and supplement educational programs and policies, and making sure each teacher in a school has a “broad base of academic knowledge, with depth in at least one subject area.”
The recommendations are grouped under nine “cornerstone strategies,” which are further organized into three key areas. The first key area, collaborative leadership and professional learning communities, focuses on transforming a school into a community and establishing strong professional- development programs. The second, personalizing a school environment, emphasizes each student’s individual needs. The third, making learning personal, emphasizes student achievement.
The report includes four profiles of middle schools that have put the recommendations into action, as well as examples from 13 other middle schools.
“We’re absolutely thrilled by the release of ‘Breaking Ranks in the Middle,’ ” said John A. Harrison, the president of the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform, based in Champaign, Ill. “It ties in very nicely with the work we’ve been doing.”