New Bill Strives for Success in the Middle
Middle level reform is finally receiving national attention now that Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) has introduced the Success in the Middle Act (H.R. 3406). The bill, which would create a Middle Schools Improvement Fund, will likely be incorporated into the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
“Middle schools are a forgotten area in this whole NCLB reauthorization process,” Grijalva said in a press release announcing the bill’s introduction. “We need to invest in the most crucial years of the education pipeline to ensure our students succeed.”
The Success in the Middle Act was drafted by NASSP in collaboration with National Middle School Association, the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform, and a number of other education organizations. The groups joined forces earlier this year to promote joint recommendations for NCLB reauthorization, and the Grijalva bill is a key piece of the agenda to improve middle level education. Specifically, the bill would:
- Authorize $1 billion for the Middle Schools Improvement Fund to help local school districts improve low-performing schools that contain middle grades
- Require states receiving a grant to implement a statewide plan for improving student achievement in the middle grades
- Ensure that statewide plans describe what students are required to know to successfully complete the middle grades and succeed in an academically rigorous high school that prepares students for postsecondary education and the workplace
- Require states and districts to develop an early-warning data system to identify those students most at risk of dropping out and implement interventions that will help those students succeed
- Ensure that states and districts invest in proven intervention strategies such as providing professional development and coaching for school leaders, teachers, and other school personnel to address the needs of diverse learners and use challenging and relevant research-based best practices and curricula; and developing and implementing comprehensive, schoolwide improvement efforts in the nation's lowest-performing schools; and implementing student supports such as personal academic plans, mentoring, intensive reading and math instruction, and extended learning time, which help all students to stay on the path to graduation
- Authorize an additional $100 million dollars to facilitate the generation, dissemination, and application of research to identify and implement effective practices that lead to continual student learning and high academic achievement at the middle level.
The future success of NCLB rests largely on the shoulders of middle level leaders, teachers, and students. Students in grades 5 through 8 represent 57% (14 million) of the nation’s annual test takers, but students are leaving middle level schools underprepared for the rigorous academic and social demands of successful high school participation and completion. NASSP firmly believes that the Success in the Middle Act will ensure greater academic achievement in high school, lower dropout rates, higher graduation rates, and more students attending college in the future.
Take action! The House Education and Labor Committee is moving quickly on NCLB reauthorization and plans to mark up a bill when Congress returns from its summer recess in September. As a school leader, you are in a prime position to educate your members of Congress about the needs of middle level schools and their students. Visit the Principal's Legislative Action Center (www.principals.org/PLAC) and urge your members of Congress to cosponsor the Success in the Middle Act.