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Schools to Watch: High-Performing Middle Grades Schools for the 21st Century


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Title: Schools to Watch: High-Performing Middle Grades Schools for the 21st Century

Schools to Watch High-Performing Middle Grades
Schools for the 21st Century
Middle GradesAt the Crossroads
  • Recognition that too many schools are middle
    schools in name or grade configuration only
  • When middle grades reform recommendations are
    implemented with consistency, over time we know
    middle grades schools can be powerful communities
    of learning
  • Comprehensive middle grades reform yields higher
  • Structural changes are necessary but not
    sufficient to accomplish all that needs to be
  • Need to focus on rigorous curriculum, effective
    instruction, and multiple forms of assessment
  • Need for targeted, ongoing professional
    development and preservice teacher preparation
    for middle level educators

What is the National Forum? The National Forum
is a group of sixty-five educators, researchers,
state and regional school leaders, national
education associations and foundations dedicated
to improving education for middle-grades students
across the country.
Some of the organizations who are members of the
National Forum Include...
  • The Work of the Forum
  • Establish a common vision and language for
    speaking about middle-grades school improvement
    among stakeholders
  • Forge sustainable partnerships among state
    agencies and organizations seeking to improve
    middle-grades schools
  • Train leaders at the state, district, and school
    levels to assess school performance using a set
    of rigorous criteria
  • Provide exemplars and inspiration for schools
    seeking to improve their performance.

Schools to Watch History
  • 1994-1995 - Program officers of Carnegie, Edna
    McConnell Clark Foundation, W.K. Kellogg
    Foundation, Lilly Endowment and others meet to
    discuss middle grades reform issues
  • 1997 - Joan Lipsitz, Tony Jackson, Hayes Mizell,
    and Leah Meyer Austin write, Speaking With One
    Voice, published in Kappan. National Forum
  • 1999 - Following development of criteria, first
    four pilot Schools to Watch selected and
  • 2002 - Schools to Watch national recognition
    moves to the state levelCalifornia, Georgia, and
    North Carolina are selected trained at NMSA
    Headquarters by the Forums STW Committee
  • 2003 - Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Virginia
    join Schools to Watch effort are trained in
    Indianapolis by STW co-chairs and new state
    leaders. 14 STW recognized

Schools to Watch History
  • 2004 National Forum incorporates and becomes an
    independent 501(c)(3) organization. New York
    Ohio join Schools to Watch. As governance issues
    develop, state leaders work with Forum leadership
    to create an oversight committee to further the
    work. 40 Schools are recognized.
  • 2005 Arkansas Michigan become STW states and
    are trained in Indianapolis by Forum state
    leaders. 55 schools recognized. The first state
    STW go through re-certification, with three
    schools retired. The first national STW
    conference draws over 400 participants to
    Washington, DC. States identify archivists to
    collect data about the impact of STW.
  • 2006 Pennsylvania, South Carolina Utah join
    STW. 50 of the nations middle schoolers in STW
    states. 86 STW.
  • 2007 New Jersey Oregon become STW states. 126
    STW across the nation.

The Vision
Academic Excellence
  • Challenge through curriculum, instruction,
    assessment, support and time
  • Recognize cognitive growth for abstract and
    complex thinking
  • Curriculum and extra-curricular programs are
    challenging and engage student energy, interest
    and curiousity
  • Students understand important concepts, develop
    essential skills and apply knowledge to real
    world problems
  • Adults maintain rich academic environment through
    on-going professional development and community

Developmental Response
  • Small learning communities of adults and students
    support respectful relationships that support
    intellectual, ethical and social growth
  • Schools provide comprehensive services to foster
    healthy physical and emotional growth
  • Students have opportunities for both independent
    inquiry and collaborative learning
  • Involvement of families as partners in education
  • Schools rooted in community, and students have
    opportunities for active citizenship

Social Equity
  • Schools seek to keep their students future
    options open
  • Structures within the school support high
    expectations and a commitment to high quality
    work from all students
  • All students are in academically rigorous classes
    staffed by well prepared teachers
  • Staff honors and acknowledges students histories
    and cultures
  • Staff works to educate every child well and to
    overcome systematic variation in resources and
    outcomes related to race, class, gender and

Academic Excellence
Vision Statement The school challenges all
students to use their minds well, providing them
with the curriculum, instruction, assessment,
support and time they need to meet rigorous
academic standards.
STW Criteria All students are expected to meet
high academic standards. Curriculum, instruction,
assessment, and appropriate interventions are
aligned with standards and are rigorous.
Developmental Responsiveness
  • STW Criteria
  • The school creates a personalized environment
    that supports each students intellectual,
    ethical, social, and physical development.
  • The school provides access to comprehensive
    services to foster healthy physical, social,
    emotional, and intellectual development.

Vision Statement The school creates small
learning communities of adults and students in
which stable, close, and mutually respectful
relationships support all students intellectual,
ethical, and social growth.
Social Equity
Vision Statement The school has high
expectations for all their students and is
committed to helping each child produce work of
high quality.
  • STW Criteria
  • To the fullest extent possible, all students,
    including English learners, students with
    disabilities, gifted and honors students,
    participate in heterogeneous classes with high
    academic and behavioral expectations.

Organizational Structures Processes
  • STW Criteria
  • A shared vision of what a high-performing school
    is and does drives every facet of school change.
  • The principal has the responsibility and
    authority to hold the school-improvement
    enterprise together, including day-to-day
    know-how, coordination, strategic planning, and

Vision Statement These are the norms,
structures, and organizational arrangements that
support and sustain schools trajectory toward
excellence in all areas.
Schools to Watch States 2009
Number of STW States 18
California Colorado New York Arkansas Pennsylvania New Jersey
Georgia Illinois Ohio Michigan S. Carolina Oregon
N. Carolina Kentucky Virginia Utah Florida Indiana

Nationwide-- Schools to Watch
79 Schools were designated or re-designated for
2009 State
of STW Arkansas 1 California
10 Colorado 2
Florida 2
Georgia 8 Illinois 5 Kentucky 2 Mich
igan 3 New Jersey
4 New York 10 North
Carolina 8 Ohio 12 Pennsylvania 6 South
Carolina 1 Texas 1
Virginia 5
Since its inception, 200 schools have received
designation nationwide
Common Threads
  • While each school faces different challenges
    related to its location, student demographics,
    levels of district support, and other factors, we
    have seen common themes emerge.
  • Our Schools to Watch
  • Know and articulate the academic outcomes they
    seek. In some cases, the outcomes are prescribed
    by the state or district in others the faculty
    have adopted the outcomes recommended by their
    various disciplines.
  • Are taking deliberate steps to help students
    achieve those outcomes by making strategic
    changes in curriculum, teaching, and school
  • Enjoy a high degree of family community
    involvement (but are never satisfied with their
    current levels).
  • Demonstrate a high level of faculty commitment.

Common Threads
  • Have set benchmarks for implementing their
    strategies, and hold themselves accountable for
    specific results. We cannot stress too much the
    importance of data in the lives of these schools.
  • Strategically concentrate their energies on
    important focus areas. As a result, the changes
    in each school are burrowing deeply into its
  • Have strong, visionary leaders who can articulate
    challenging goals, and motivate faculty and staff
    to reach those goals.
  • The schools are filled with happy, positive, and
    involved students and adults who are all actively

A Closer LookThurgood Marshall
Middle School
Mission Statement Thurgood Marshall Middle
School is committed to implementing the seven
recommendations in the revised Carnegie
Corporations report, Turning Points 2000 -
Education Adolescents in the 21st Century, in
order to ensure success to every student.
Vision Statement Thurgood Marshall Middle
School is a diverse community of life-long
learners who are nurtured and empowered through
an integrated educational program with an
emphasis on literacy and a broad range of
services for all students.
  • 89 Hispanic
  • 90 Free/Reduced Lunch
  • 23 Special Education
  • 670 Students Grades 7 and 8
  • Students Meeting or Exceeding State Standards for
    High Grade Enrolled - 74
  • Meeting or Exceeding in Reading - 69
  • Meeting or Exceeding in Math - 79
  • Meeting or Exceeding in Science - 76

Student Connection
  • Students involved in extracurricular activities -
  • Students reporting adequate or excellent levels
    of school safety - 87
  • Students reporting adequate or excellent levels
    of academic rigor - 74
  • Students reporting adequate or excellent levels
    of support from teachers and staff at school -
  • Students reporting adequate or excellent levels
    of social emotional learning among peers - 81
  • Parents reporting satisfaction with the school
    Adequate Excellent - 78

How Do They Do It?
  • Teachers take responsibility for creating,
    adapting and revising the curriculum to enhance
    student learning
  • Autonomous teacher teams lead the school and the
    administration facilitates their leadership
  • Focus on a student-centered learning environment

In the Classroom...
  • Integration of subjects
  • Active hands-on instruction
  • The arts surround and support the academic
  • Attention to the social and emotional needs of
    the students, so they are free to learn
  • Resolve issues by asking Whats best for the

Oregon STW Criteria
  • Must have at least 2 grade levels, including 7th
  • Must have 3 years of State Report Card data for
    current configuration
  • Can not be in School Improvement w/sanctions
  • Must be designated as Strong or Exceptional on
    State Report Card for the most recent school year
  • OR
  • Must have above the state average in math,
    reading/language arts, science, and writing in
    all grades tested within the school's middle
    level program for the most recent school year

Oregon STW Commitment
  • Present at a COSA sponsored conference
  • Open school doors for site visits from other
  • schools
  • 3 year authorization and commitment
  • Attend National STW

Is Our School Ready?
  • Gather the Data
  • Demographics, Academic Achievement, Absenteeism,
    Suspension Information
  • Principals Checklist
  • Twelve questions Students, Staff, School,
  • Self-Rating Guide
  • An honest look at the data and practice

How can I get involved in STW?
  • Visit
  • Take a virtual tour of a current School to Watch
  • Join the visitation team
  • Discuss STW criteria with your school community
  • Complete an application this fall

  • Aug.2009 Applications Available
  • Nov. 20, 2009 Applications Due
  • Dec. 2009 Schools informed of application status
  • Jan. 2010 Site Visits
  • Mar. 2010 Announcement of Oregon STW
  • TBD Schools featured at COSA

Research supporting the National Forums Vision
Lee Smith, 1993
Purpose To evaluate impact of school
restructuring on student achievement and related
outcomes Sample Data from over 8,800 8th grade
students in 377 schools Results Elements of
restructuring were positively associated with
academic achievement engagement. ?Modest
increases in academic achievement (e.g., reading
mathematics) ?Increase in student engagement
(e.g., homework, feeling bored, prepared for
class) ?Greater equity of student outcomes
Felner et. al, 1997
Purpose Assess evaluate impact of Turning
Points recommendations on middle grades reform
(achievement, social-emotional, and
behavioral) Sample Survey and achievement data
from 31 Illinois schools. Results Students in
more highly implemented schools had higher
achievement and better adjustment ?Higher
achievement in more highly implemented schools
(language arts, reading, and math) ?Lower levels
of behavior problems in more highly implemented
schools. ?Students in highly implemented schools
had higher levels of self-esteem and lower levels
of worry and fear.
Pattern of Impact of Levels of Turning Points
Implementation for Economically and Socially
Disadvantaged Students
Chicago Consortium Studies, 1990s
Purpose To study the relationships of student
social support academic press to gains in
student achievement. Sample Survey and
achievement data from 6th 8th grade students
and teachers in 304 Chicago schools in
1997. Results Levels of both social support and
academic press are positively related to gains
in achievement. ?Social support academic press
impact student achievement (reading math)
combined effect produces greatest achievement
gains ?Students attending the least racially
integrated, lowest-achieving, economically
poorest, and largest schools are least likely to
experience the combined impact of support and
press known to impact student achievement
CPRD University of Illinois
Purpose Assess evaluate impact of
comprehensive school reform elements on middle
grade schools Samples Survey and achievement
data from hundreds of middle grade schools in
several states (AR, IL, LA, MA, MI, MS) Results
Implementation of middle school reform elements
impacts student learning achievement
?Achievement scores are higher for students in
schools that are teaming with high common
planning time ?Team size and length of time
teaming also affect student achievement scores
?Teachers with middle-grades certification
engage more frequently in best practices, which
impacts achievement
Other Studies
?Backes, Ralston, Ingwalson (1999) examined
impact of middle school practices on student
achievement in 6 BRIDGES schools in North
Dakota Found that most achievement scores were
higher in BRIDGES school implementing Turning
Points recommendations ?Lee Smith (2000)
examined impact of school size on student
achievement Found that students in small schools
(lt400 students) perform better and teachers have
a more positive attitude about responsibility for
student learning
Other Studies
?Sweetland Hoy (2000) studied relationship
between school characteristics and educational
outcomes Found that teacher empowerment
(decision making) was linked to student
achievement (reading math)
Backes, Ralston, Ingwalson (1999). Middle
level reform The impact on student achievement.
Research in Middle Level Education Quarterly, 22
(3), 43-57. CPRD publications available at Felner, Jackson, Kasak,
Mulhall, Brand, Flowers (1997). The impact of
school reform for the middle years Longitudinal
study of a network engaged in Turning
Points-based comprehensive school
transformation. Phi Delta Kappan, 78(7),
528-532, 541-550. Lee Smith (1993). Effects
of school restructuring on achievement and
engagement of middle-grade students. Sociology
of Education, 66, 164-187.
Lee, Smith, Smylie (1999). Social support,
academic press, and student achievement A view
from the middle grades in Chicago. Chicago
Consortium on Chicago School Research,
University of Chicago. Lee Smith (2000).
School size in Chicago elementary schools
Effects on teachers attitudes and students
achievement. American Educational Research
Journal, 37(1), 3-31. Sweetland Hoy (2000).
School characteristics and educational outcomes
Toward an organization model of student
achievement in middle schools. Educational
Administration Quarterly, 36(5), 703-729.
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