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Middle School Leaders Call for Change

Contact: Media contact: Kay Hyatt at (207) 581-2761

ORONO– The National Middle School Association has taken a major step toward debunking the myth that middle schools are too soft and lack academic rigor, according to University of Maine Professor Edward Brazee. The research to back up effective middle schools as centers of academic and developmental growth was presented at the National Press Club, along with the announcement of 14 qualities essential to providing the best education for young adolescents.

“A strong case is made for the courageous leadership needed by middle grades teachers and administrators,” Brazee said at the Nov. 5 news conference in Washington, D.C. “Middle schools work when principals, teachers and parents work together to achieve a common vision and place a strong emphasis on student learning and creating a culture of caring and support.”

Brazee, editor of NMSA publications, and other officials of the national organization, called for policymakers to act now to implement the recommendations, which include, among others: educators trained specifically to work with young adolescents; leaders willing to change practice and take risks; challenging and relevant curriculum; assessments designed to improve learning; and family and community partnerships.

The recommendations are part of the NMSA’s revised position statement, This We Believe: Successful Schools for Young Adolescents. The new Research and Resources document supports the effectiveness of the 14 qualities, when all are in place.

 “Fifty years of lessons learned in middle level education have taught us what will make a difference in the lives of the 20 million young adolescents in our middle schools,” said John Lounsbury, a founder of the Middle School Movement in the United States; “This is our call to communities and schools through the nation: if middle schools are based on these 14 qualities, students will succeed,” he emphasized.

NMSA is the only national education association dedicated exclusively to the growth of middle level education. In addition to Brazee, other NMSA leaders speaking at the news conference were Executive Director Sue Swain, Westerville, Ohio; President Linda Robinson, principal of Alvin Junior High near Houston; Phyllis Toy Wong, board of directors member and teacher at Walter Clarke Middle School, El Paso; and Lounsbury, consulting editor and former dean of education, Georgia College.

Fourteen Characteristics in This We Believe: Successful Schools for Young Adolescents, published by National Middle School Association, 2003

The National Middle School Association believes successful schools for young adolescents are characterized by a culture that includes

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