The New Normal?

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An online discussion caught my eye the other day…parents asking questions about the differences between junior high schools and middle schools, why some other schools were identified as intermediate schools, and what the philosophical differences might be for these various schools for young adolescents.

All good questions but it made me wonder if we have lost our bearings in the last few years. Why is it that we still have people who do not understand the goals, functions, and responsive programs of middle level schools…whatever the grade configuration and the name over the door? (We’ll save the grade configuration discussion for another day!)

For 25 years, Maine has had a national reputation as a “strong” middle level state. That is, a state with a focus on young adolescents in middle level schools and appropriate schools for them. While we are still without a separate middle level teaching certification (still another discussion for this blog), Maine has pioneered some of the best work in partner teams, integrative curriculum, literacy programs, and, of course, technology and learning through MLTI.

MAMLE, the Middle Level Education Institute, graduate programs in middle level education, the Bright Futures report, and best of all, the commitment of thousands of teachers in Maine’s middle level schools over the last 25 years have focused on the needs of young adolescents. But somewhere, some time that focus shifted to the standards movement, common assessments, NCLB, teacher accountability and many, many more initiatives. Where in all of this is the focus on young adolescents and what we know makes a difference in how they are engaged and how they learn?

I’m suggesting something very simple…that every middle level school in Maine return to several key documents to read or re-read and consider the key concepts and recommendations from the following resources.

Do you need to re-calibrate your middle level compass?

This post was written by Ed Brazee, a new member of the Bright Futures Partnership.

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2 Responses to “The New Normal?”

  1. Walter Wallace Says:

    Great post. At Brunswick Junior High School, we are focusing on the middle level learner by studying Bright Futures, Meet Me in the Middle, 2000 Voices, This We Believe, and Coming of Age. All have great messages and suggestions for working with this age group. To help with the practical aspects, we are very excited to have Jack Berckmeyer join us in March. Looks like a good year of reflecting on the unique needs of our students and improving our work with them.

  2. edbrazee Says:

    Glad to hear about the exciting work at Brunswick Middle School. The resources you mentioned are excellent ones for getting at the heart of teaching young adolescents…thanks for mentioning them. You’ll enjoy working with Jack B in March as he will bring a great deal of expertise and experience to BMS. It sounds like you are having a great year!

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