During the 1990s, states concentrated educational efforts on the "bookends" of schooling — early childhood education and high school graduation requirements. At the same time, the middle grades languished into patterns of lagging achievement, unfocused academic programs, unprepared teachers and insufficient instructional leadership and resources.
SREB recognized that, to improve graduation rates, schools needed to improve students' readiness for high school. In the late 1990s, SREB began researching the critical issues facing middle grades and defined a number of actions that states, districts and schools can take to improve student performance in the middle grades.
The result of this research was the Making Middle Grades Work (MMGW) school improvement design, the nation's first large-scale effort to engage state, district in school leaders in partnerships with teachers, students, parents and the community to raise student achievement in the middle grades. The network has grown to include more than 350 middle grades sites in 19 states.
MMGW assists middle grades schools to implement the essential elements in the comprehensive improvement framework by creating key conditions that support improved academic achievement and by developing readiness indicators for students exiting the middle grades. As school sites identify the help they need to implement the framework, SREB links them to specific professional development resources. The program's workshops, school visits and Middle Grades Assessment are vital tools for educators. In addition, the Staff Development Conference helps site leaders learn what works with other middle grades and high schools and plan further actions to improve student achievement.