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12 Recommendations for Middle Grades Success

Research-based practices employed by effective middle grades educators.

The California Department of Education’s (CDE) 12 Recommendations for Middle Grades Success reflect research-based content and share promising middle grades practices employed by effective middle grades educators. None of these strategies alone is sufficient to ensure success. Likewise, there is no “one size fits all” plan that schools can copy to achieve success. Instead, the Recommendations and strategies are an integral part of a comprehensive school vision and culture based on a belief that all young adolescents can achieve—and on a team commitment to doing “whatever it takes” to make that achievement happen.

The recommendations were published in 2008 as part of the publication Taking Center Stage—Act II (TCSII): Ensuring Success and Closing the Achievement Gap for All of California’s Middle Grades Students.The Taking Center State Act II: Middle Grades Success web page has more information.

Recommendation 1 — Rigor (PDF): Hold high expectations and provide numerous avenues of support so that each middle grades learner succeeds. Use California’s content standards, frameworks, adopted and aligned instructional materials, and common formative and summative assessments as the coherent foundation for rigorous curriculum and instruction.

Recommendation 2 — Instruction, Assessment, and Intervention (PDF): Engage middle grades students with challenging lessons and opportunities to think critically and demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways. Differentiate strategies to deliver standards-based, grade-level instruction that reflects individual student needs and results from ongoing common assessments. Use data on individual students' progress to deliver appropriate, accelerated classroom and schoolwide academic interventions and enrichment opportunities.

Recommendation 3 — Time (PDF): Institute flexible schedules that provide the recommended and required instructional minutes for core academic classes and accelerated interventions. Provide sufficient time before, during, and after school so that each student has access to additional academic and interest-based classes and opportunities to meet social and personal needs. Schedule regular common planning time for professional learning communities to analyze student data, coordinate instruction, and communicate with families.

Recommendation 4 — Relevance (PDF): Meet the needs of middle grades students by developing a rich set of courses and enrichment opportunities that infuse learning with technology, visual and performing arts, career/real-world connections, service- and project-based learning, and multicultural experiences. Engage students as lifelong learners by developing socially relevant cross-curricular understanding and opportunities for meaningful participation before, during, and after school.

Recommendation 5 — Relationships (PDF): Foster close relationships for accountability and engagement among students and with adults who share extended time through grade-level, subject-area, or interdisciplinary small learning communities. Provide an advisory program to ensure that each middle grades student has frequent contact with an adult mentor to plan and assess his or her academic, personal, and social development.

Recommendation 6 — Transitions (PDF): Work with elementary and high schools to inform students and families about academic and behavioral expectations and to promote seamless, articulated transitions.

Recommendation 7 — Access (PDF): Provide all middle grades students equal access to a well-prepared, qualified, caring staff and a rich learning environment that includes grade-level standards-based instruction; academic interventions; learning resources; leadership and recognition opportunities; exploratory programs; sports, clubs, and enrichment activities; and, to the extent possible, placement in heterogeneous classes.

Recommendation 8 — Safety, Resilience, and Health (PDF): Create and sustain a fair, safe, and healthy school environment through a policy of positive discipline; civic and character education; safe and engaging facilities; access to adult mentors and counseling; and school and community health and social services. Access detailed contents for Recommendation 8.

Recommendation 9 — Leadership (PDF): Foster distributed leadership, collaborative decision making, and regular data analysis to realize and sustain a middle grades vision for focused learning and continual improvement. Access detailed contents for Recommendation 9.

Recommendation 10 — Professional Learning (PDF): Build and sustain professional learning communities through recruitment, training, coaching, and interdependent collaboration. Use data, research, the California Standards for the Teaching Profession, and best practices as the basis for continuous professional growth and improvement in instruction and student achievement. Access detailed contents for Recommendation 10.

Recommendation 11 — Accountability (PDF): Organize all district, school, and community stakeholders to hold high academic and behavioral expectations for all middle grades students. Provide sufficient time, talent, training, and resources to support student learning and rigorous standards-based curriculum, instruction, and assessment. Analyze data on student progress on an ongoing basis. Be accountable for moving all students toward proficient performance levels and closing the achievement gap. Access detailed contents for Recommendation 11.

Recommendation 12 — Partnerships (PDF): Engage families, businesses, local and state agencies and organizations, higher education, and community members as partners in supporting middle grades student achievement. Access detailed contents for Recommendation 12.

The California Department of Education (CDE) wishes to acknowledge the members of the California Middle Grades Alliance (CMGA) who were instrumental in developing the California Department of Education's (CDE) 12 Recommendations for Middle Grades Success.

Questions:   Peter Callas | | 916-319-0669
Last Reviewed: Monday, June 25, 2018
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    To illustrate and support the California Department of Education's (CDE) 12 Recommendations for Middle Grades Success, the content shares research and practices for helping students succeed and ideas and topics for professional learning.
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