Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Success in the Middle Act

This past week something of significance occurred on Capitol Hill and I almost missed it. One could hardly place blame for missing this small bill introduction, especially from the beaches of South Carolina. The Success in the Middle Act (H.R. 1547/S. 833) was reintroduced by Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to renew an effort to strengthen middle level education as a way to increase high school graduation rates; something that many reform efforts have neglected.

In Senator Whitehouse’s statement on the Senate floor, he stated, “This bill recognizes the role of the middle grades as a tipping point in the education of many of our nation's students, especially those who are at risk of dropping out…" He continued to say, "Success in the Middle invests much-needed attention and resources in middle grades education, requiring states to create plans to specifically address the unique needs of students in the age group, and focusing on schools that feed into some of our country's most dropout-prone high schools so they are ready for the curriculum and the unique social pressures they will encounter there."

This bill is a collaborative vision from NASSP, NMSA, and the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform, as well as many other educational groups. Furthermore, it incorporates many of the practices outlined in Breaking Ranks in the Middle and The Essential Elements of a Standards-Focused Middle-Level Schools and programs. Specifically, it would:
• Authorize $1 billion annually for grants to local school districts to improve low-performing schools that contain middle grades.
• Require states receiving grants to implement a plan that describes what students are required to know and do to successfully complete the middle grades and transition to and succeed in an academically rigorous high school that prepares them for postsecondary education and the workplace.
• Require states to develop early warning and intervention systems to identify those students most at-risk of dropping out and intervene appropriately to help them succeed.
• Encourage states and districts to invest in proven strategies, such as: 1) Providing professional development and coaching to school leaders, teachers and other school personnel in addressing the needs of diverse learners and in using challenging and relevant research-based best practices and curriculum; 2) Developing and implementing comprehensive, school-wide improvement efforts in eligible schools; and 3) Implementing student supports, such as extended learning time and personal academic plans that enable all students to stay on the path to graduation.
• Authorizes an additional $100 million to facilitate the generation, dissemination, and application of research to identify promising practices in middle grades education, as well as review existing research on middle grades education practices.

I was extremely pleased to see this bill brought back to life with lawmakers. To me, it signifies a sense of intelligence as we seem to be enduring too few thought-out manifests coming from the government regarding education. I believe in having a strong middle-level as a way to improve the high school dropout situation. This is not to understate the importance of other levels, it is simply my belief that without a middle-level which incorporates the principals of the Essential Elements, we are not providing the education our children need and will be unable to improve the dropout situation. I encourage you to contact your federal representatives and tell them that you support Success in the Middle Act (H.R. 1547/S. 833).

Have a great weekend.