California Department of Education
Taking Center Stage – Act II

Time to Meet Student Needs

Middle grades philosophy and the resulting middle grades reform movement list many of the developmental needs of adolescents (for more on the developmental characteristics of adolescents, refer to Recommendation 4—Relevance).

A compilation of recommendations and findings from This We Believe: Successful Schools for Young Adolescents and Turning Points 2000 states that among other things, middle school students need to:

  • Be physically active.
  • Have an adequate diet.
  • See their physical changes as normal.
  • Experience a wide variety of learning experiences.
  • Learn how to accept self and others.
  • Participate in interesting, challenging curriculum.
  • Learn to use abstract thought.
  • Practice using planning and organizing skills.
  • Build positive relationships with peers and caring adults.
  • Explore new types of experiences through enrichment or electives.1

In addition, struggling students also need intensive engagement and remediation in the middle grades—before the rigors of high school seem overwhelming. Since many researchers agree that repeating a grade is not an effective strategy for helping struggling students succeed, the middle grades present the last chance to provide students with critical skills and knowledge before dropping out appears to them as the only option. For information on statistics related to retention, please see the section on Retention Options.

Summer bridge programs offer an alternative to both social promotion and the alternative—dropping out. See the discussion about social promotion and summer bridge programs in Recommendation 6.

Related Links

  • Retention options, Recommendation 2—Instruction, Assessment, and Intervention, TCSII.
  • Transitions, Recommendation 6—Transitions, TCSII.

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Footnote
1Fundamentals for Student Success in the Middle Grades (Outside Source). Westerville, Ohio: National Middle School Association, n.d.

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