The MMGW Key Practices provide direction and meaning to comprehensive improvement for increased student achievement.
- Aligned academic core: Provide rigorous content in all middle grades academic core classes, and align core classes with performance standards that clearly state what students must know, understand and be able to do to succeed in college-preparatory English, mathematics and science courses in high school. Enroll middle grades students in core curricula that accelerate their learning, challenge them and appeal to their interests.
- Engaging classroom practices: Design classroom practices and instructional strategies to engage students intellectually, emotionally, behaviorally, and socially in learning rigorous academic content. Young adolescents need varied learning activities linked to challenging academic content and opportunities to use newly acquired skills and concepts in hands-on, real-world applications so that they can understand and explain their interests, talents and aspirations.
- Literacy across the curriculum: Embed reading and writing standards and strategies for learning into all courses to advance academic and reading achievement and to help students become independent learners. Provide reading instruction in all academic curricula through grade eight and utilize research-based literacy strategies across content areas.
- High expectations and a system of extra help and time: Hold students to grade-level standards aligned to readiness standards for high school, college and careers. Organize time and resources to ensure students receive the extra help needed to meet high standards and expectations. Middle grades students learn in different ways and at different rates, and some will need more time and help to meet more grade-level standards. The complete middle grades curriculum should be focused on accelerating achievement for all students.
- Intervention program for at-risk students: Identify at-risk students in grades six, seven and eight who need accelerated instruction in mathematics, language arts and reading to be prepared for college-preparatory high school course work, and implement strategies and programs that target their needs.
- Comprehensive system of guidance and advisement that involves parents: Engage teachers, students and parents in a comprehensive guidance and advisement system — including academic advisement, career exploration and educational planning — that leads to a successful transition to high school. Involve parents in the school improvement process by informing them of the school’s mission and assisting them to understand the higher standards of performance now required of middle grades students and to support students to make greater effort and work hard.
- Teachers working together: Provide teams of teachers with time and support to work together — within and across disciplines — to integrate mathematics and literacy concepts across the curriculum, analyze teacher assignments and student work, and help students succeed in challenging academic and exploratory studies.
- Quality professional development to support teachers: Provide teachers with extensive, ongoing professional development on research-based instructional practices aligned with the school’s mission and school improvement plan. Today’s teachers must acknowledge that student failure is no longer acceptable and that they need extensive content knowledge coupled with effective, research-based teaching strategies to incorporate rigorous, engaging assignments and activities, and formative and summative assessments into their instruction.
- Use of technology for learning: Middle grades classrooms in all subject areas should view technology as a tool for learning. Schools can support teachers to plan units of instruction that allow students to conduct research, write papers, communicate globally, prepare presentations using electronic tools and resources, and explore the use of technology to address an array of contemporary problems and projects linked to a range of broad career areas.
- Continuous improvement through strong leadership: Develop strong instructional leaders who take an active role in engaging teachers in continuous improvement of school and classroom practices. Middle grades schools need effective principals who encourage, support and actively participate with teachers in planning and implementing research-based school improvement strategies. Schools must continuously gather and use data on student, school and teacher performance to review and revise school and classroom practices as needed.