California Department of Education
Taking Center Stage – Act II

Photograph of the sign reading Eugene Tincher Preparatory School K-8.



Conferences and Events


Access that Promotes Success in the Middle Grades. This new professional learning activity is designed to: (1) acquaint educators with Recommendation 7—Access; (2) help educators assess how their schools are currently implementing strategies that provide all middle grades students with equal access to a rich learning environment; (3) showcase best practices about access currently being implemented in California middle grades schools; and (4) guide educators in adapting best practices to strengthen access in the middle grades.


Dropout Prevention: A Focus on the Middle Grades. An issue brief published by the National High School Center presents an overview of research related to dropout prevention and provides a tool designed to help high school educators identify students and implement interventions. The early warning system provides the research and theoretical framework to help schools think through how their existing data and interventions can be integrated to identify and respond to at-risk students. An effort is under way to adapt the tool for use in the middle grades.

California CareerZone Launches New Features. California CareerZone has updated its Web site. Designed especially for students, California CareerZone, a spin-off of the New York CareerZone, has a proven, successful career exploration and planning system. Job seekers, educators, and counselors, will also benefit from the wealth of information on the Web site.


TCSII Portal Change Logs

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Recommendation Seven
Takes Center Stage


Equity in the middle grades. "Equity" means fairness, justice, or impartiality. In education, equity means providing equal access to a standards-based education. Such equity is critical for California’s economic future. California policy makers have taken great strides in providing equal access to education by developing a coherent system of standards-based education that includes reliable state assessments to measure student achievement. Equal access alone does not automatically ensure equal outcomes in terms of student achievement, which may be affected by more variables than the school can control. In spite of the sometimes global challenges educators face in improving student achievement, many schools are making gains. This Recommendation looks at the strategies that help students excel by promoting fairness and equal opportunity.


Ensuring Equal Access for All Students. Equal access for all students is a fundamental concept embedded in a free, public education in America. One of the hallmarks of access is ensuring all students have access to a learning environment that includes grade-level standards-based instruction; academic interventions; learning resources; leadership and recognition opportunities; exploratory programs, sports, clubs, and enrichment activities; and, to the extent possible, placement in heterogeneous classes.

Addressing Student Needs Through Access. Meeting the needs of students one by one lies at the heart of access. Knowing the “whole” child and addressing his or her needs goes beyond just labeling students. While a label such as “English learner” may help educators know more immediately the challenges a student may be experiencing, it does not necessarily inform educators of ways to best address those struggles.


A Focus on Closing the Opportunity Gap. In an excerpt from her book, The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future, author, researcher, and education expert Linda Darling-Hammond urges educators and policy makers to focus not on the achievement gap but on the opportunity gap—“the accumulated differences in access to key education resources that support learning at home and at school.”

Making the Move: Transition Strategies at California Schools with High Graduation Rates (PDF; Outside Source). Successfully transitioning students from their middle grades experience into their high school environment requires careful planning, articulation with feeder schools, and a host of other strategies. A new study by the American Institutes for Research in partnership with California Comprehensive Center at WestEd titled Making the Move: Transition Strategies at California Schools with High Graduation Rates provides readers with information on successful transition strategies and ways other schools can successfully implement them at their sites.


California Middle Grades Partnership Network—Linking Schools of Uncommon Commitment. In 1988, the California Middle Grades Partnership Network (CMGPN) was established, bringing together educators from 100 middle schools, each with an “uncommon commitment” to middle school reform. CMGPN is a collaborative, principal-to-principal and school-to-school network sponsored by the California Department of Education. Local networks meet several times during the year to support, visit, mentor, and assist one another with issues and challenges specific to middle grades education and to improve student achievement.


Big Bear Middle School—From “Cool to be Cruel” to “Cool to Care.” Big Bear Middle School, located in San Bernardino County, offers a unique student leadership program focused on a fair, safe, and healthy school environment. Safe School Ambassadors are middle grades students chosen by their peers as being influential leaders in the school’s many “cliques,” resulting in a diverse student leadership group. Forty student ambassadors and seven adult advisors participate in
an off-campus, two-day interactive training to prepare them to “notice the hurts” and mistreatments students inflict on one another.

Twin Hills Charter Middle School—Special Education Students Gain Access to Regular Education Science Classes. At Twin Hills Charter Middle School in Sonoma County, special education and science teachers work together to create and implement a mainstreaming and support program to address the high failure rate of special education students in science. The program calls for special education and resource students to be main streamed into grades six through eight regular education science classes.