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The sessions on organizational issues in the middle grades focused on the questions · What are the important characteristics of school organization and mathematics programs that support teaching and learning meaningful mathematics in the middle grades? · How can the schedules of teachers and students be organized to implement what we know about effective teaching and learning in the middle grades? · What are the issues surrounding specialists vs. generalists? What kind of teach- ing assignments maximize program effectiveness in mathematics? THE ORGANIZATION AND STRUCTURE OF SCHOOLS AT THE MIDDLE GRADES: A PRINCIPAL'S PERSPECTIVE Stephen 0. Gibson, Patapsco Middle School, Ellicott City, MD. THE ORGANIZATION AND STRUCTURE OF SCHOOLS AT THE MIDDLE GRADES: THE ROLE OF DEVELOPMENT, SUBJECT MATTER, AND TEACHER PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT Mary Kay Stein, Learning Research Development Center, University of Pittsburgh. IMPROVING ACHIEVEMENT IN THE MIDDLE GRADES IN MATHEMATICS AND RELATED AREAS: LESSONS FROM THE PROJECT ON HIGH PERFORMANCE LEARNING COMMUNITIES Robert D. FeIner, National Center on Public Education and Social Policy, School of Education, University of Rhode Island. PANEL DISCUSSION ON THE ORGANIZATION OF SCHOOLS AT THE MIDDLE GRADES
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'- r. l I] Or :~ ·~-l~- L-~ ~ ~ Adapted from the Transcript of Remarks by Stephen 0. Gibson Patapsco Middle School, Ellicott City, MD The key word in the three questions we were asked to consider is "meaning- ful." At the middle level, principals and administrators often fall into a trap of offering programs that many do not consider meaningful. To ensure that we are looking at meaningful mathematics programs, we have to represent a full scope of the types of mathematics that we offer within middle schools. We need to look at the individual needs of students as opposed to placing everyone into a nice box starting here in math- ematics in sixth grade and ending there in eighth, knowing that our students do not come to us like that. One of the major key issues is the examination of data. All too often, our students come to us from elementary schools with testing that has gone on in first, second, third, fourth and fifth grades. They arrive at the middle level, and very few people review that data. The students are placed into an area and do not move. They stay within that functional mathematics program, or they stay in a (lesignate(1 mathematics program without any flexibility. In that regar(l, it is very important to look at the (lifferent levels that we can give to students. We see students who come into the classroom who are not achiev- ingwellinmathematics. Oneofthe things that you do is to ask some ques- tions and start examining behind the picture. Then you see there are just fun(lamental news in small areas that have prevented them from having achieved at the highest level. We need to use (lata effectively to be able to get that done. Within that structure, we must also make sure the schools are organize(1 well so that articulation can take place. A fundamental new that we have within the K-12 system is that levels (lo not
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articulate among each other. Students come to middle school. The middle schools have really never talked to anyone at the elementary school to see how these students are doing in math- ematics. What are the basic premises that we need to teach them? When students are not achieving and are not doing well in that first few weeks of school, all too often what we want to do is to point a finger at the grade level before and say, 'Lou did not teach them. You did not give them the capabilities, the skills to prepare them for middle- leve} mathematics." Conversely, the same thing happens when those stu- dents go on to high school, and our high school teachers say they are not ready or prepared for the rigorous mathemat- ics they need to be competitive with people across the world. We need to set up a process for articulation. It is important that we talk to fellow colleagues at the elementary level and set up those times where middle grade teachers can speak to the elementary teachers of mathematics because elementary teachers have the toughest job in the world. They are trying to deliver multiple skills and sometimes skills that they are not even prepared for as well. Articulation will give us a better picture. Also, we need to make sure we are taking a look at the assessments that we give students so that we are getting a real fee} for where ORGANIZATIONAL ISSUES students are as far as understanding and skills. If we can build a program where we are utilizing data, data that tells us a lot, then we wait start to build programs that allow us to have multiple levels that actually work. Schools need to be organized so they are not afraid to be risk takers. Schools can modify assess- ments. They can look at assessments that fit their particular building. We have a middle-level TT-type program. It is not taking our students two levels above, but one level above. How do we get students into that program? Is it by feel? Is it by guess? When we do that, we short-change youngsters. We set them up so they cannot succeed. You can (levelop assessments that actually match students anti content knowle(lge, and when students are put into those programs, it works better. A major flaw in what we are (loin" with students is not utilizing technology that is out there. There are students who, given the right tools, can be successful. ~ have a (laughter who (toes tremen(lously well if you give her the calculator as a tool. If you take that too} away, she is going to struggle. She knows the systematic way of doing things, but she may not always know how to (lo it correctly. She gets frus- trate(1 to the point where she can't put the calculations together. We have computer technology that has not been
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utilized within our schools. It is prob- ably the biggest shame in American education. Principals and others wait admit to having 100 computers in their building. When you ask them how they are used instructionally, there are frowns on people's faces because they really don't know. Students are using computers at home all of the time. They come to school, their parents ask did you use computers today, and the answer is no. Are computers in the building? Yes. In visiting a school that was in reconstitu- tion, ~ had the distinct privilege of looking at a school that had four brand new computer labs, and nobody knew how to use them. We need to question whether or not the technology is there, whether it is being used, and how we effectively train our teachers to use it. Moving on to the other questions, students' schedules need to be put together so that they have opportunities to be able to move, to match those schedules effectively with other issues. Mathematics is not taught in a vacuum. Mathematics is part of a larger course of teaching; if mathematics is not used effectively across the different subject matters, then it is not going to be really learned well. It must be integrated into other things that are going on. We must utilize schedules that enable students to see the relevance of mathematics across multiple discipline areas. Mathematics A PRINCIPAL'S PERSPECTIVE can be used all the time. Writing, conversely, can be used the same way in mathematics. We have to make sure the students know the old fundamental question. How do ~ use algebra? How do ~ use geometry? How do ~ use calculus? There should be places for students to be able to see and maximize the use of that understanding in terms of their learning environment. If effective teaching is really going on within a building, teachers can collabo- rate anti talk across subject lines anti see how it all fits together for the rel evance of the student going to school. When students were two, three and four years ol(l, all of the things they put together were relevant to one another. They could figure out why they matched. We get to school, and all of a sudden everything is in an individual subject compartment or area. Perhaps the main issue in all of this is looking at the last one in the set of questions of generalists versus special- ists in teaching mathematics. Some generalists are outstanding mathematics teachers, and they call themselves generalists. However, if you watch them and sit in a classroom with them, they are no longer generalists they have worked exceptionally hard; they have taken course work; they have studied their materials. They have pushed themselves to a new level, and they are no longer generalists. They have
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become specialists in their areas. Perhaps the new in that is taking the teacher and then moving them around year after year and having them fee} they can teach this mathematics or that mathematics. So they no longer be- come a specialist. They are a generalist again. There are teachers who are trained as specialists who are in the same realm. They are pushed around. They do not get a chance to acquire the knowledge and the skills to be able to teach courses effectively. We must put together schedules that make things work for teachers. We should not put teachers into a bind of every year returning back to school, looking at a master schedule, and finding themselves scheduled to teach something different. They are, therefore, in a trap and a vacuum, starting day one off along with the students. It is a huge new. It is a problem that we create for teachers sometimes. ORGANIZATIONAL ISSUES As principals and effective leaders of the building, we have to be able to sit down and communicate with our teach- ers, to understand their skills and know the support that they need to succeed. We nee(1 to push them along. We nee to counsel them to push their classes. We need to observe their classes, ensuring that mathematics instruction takes place, where students actually learn, where students can ask ques- tions, and where students can succeed. Every student coming into the sixth grade or the seventh grade or the eighth gra(le can learn very quickly if given the proper tools, given the proper training, and, perhaps the most impor- tant thing of all, given a caring, nurtur- ing environment that says instructionally, academics are first and that we are going to make it work. But we are going to support you as an in(livi(lual in an academic environment so that you can fin(1 success.
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Mary Kay Stein Learning Research Development Center, University of Pittsburgh Middle school scholars and math- ematics educators agree on the broad goals for middle school reform: High- performing schools for young adoles- cents should be developmentally re- sponsive, academically excellent, and socially equitable (Lipsitz, Mizell, Jackson, & Austin, 19971. Despite this broad agreement on goals, however, these two groups have tended to advo- cate different strategies for reaching those goals. Middle school advocates favor a developmental approach, while mathematics educators favor what ~ will label a subject matter approach. The developmental approach to middle school reform is based on a well- establishe(1 literature which asserts that the imperatives of adolescence are too powerful to be ignored. Therefore, school practices must be adapted to meet these needs. In large part, the response of reformers has been to initiate organizational and structural changes aimed at creating small, consis- tent communities of learning for stu- dents. The subject matter approach, on the other han(l, is ([riven by the impera- tives of mathematics, particularly by the new ways of conceptualizing the teach- ing and learning of mathematics which have been recommended by the Na- tional Council of Teachers of Mathemat- ics Standards (NCTM, 19891. At the mi(l(lle school level, these stan(lar(ls call for the broadening of topics beyond the typical review of general arithmetic, an(l, at all grade levels, for more student- centere(1 forms of pedagogy, more cognitively challenging mathematical tasks, anti greater (1iversity in pe(lagogi- cal practices (e.g., the use of extended
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projects, small workgroup settings, and a variety of representations). In this paper, ~ suggest that each of these approaches is inherently incom- plete and propose a third approach one that attempts to build on and integrate the two. The proposed approach to middle school reform joins professional development for teachers and administra- tive functions giving rise to a new middle school organization and structure that is jointly informed by subject matter and developmental concerns. THE DEVELOPMENTAL APPROACH The developmental approach to middle school reform builds on our knowledge of the social, emotional, physical, and intellectual characteristics of students in their early adolescent years. Socially, we know that adolescents have great needs for peer affiliation, while at the same time struggling to establish a personal identity. Emotionally, adolescents are often torn between attempts to assert their indepen- dence, and feeling the need for adult support and guidance. Physically, adoles- cents are experiencing changes in the size and shape of their bodies, changes which are associated with anxiety and the need for physical activity. And, last but not least, adolescents are growing intellectu- ally. The expansion of their cognitive capacities to include formal operational thought and the ability to entertain "the ORGANIZATIONAL ISSUES possible" is a well-documented phenom- enon of this stage of life. In response to these characteristics, middle school reformers have set into motion a variety of structural and organi- zational changes that have resulted in middle schools which look very different from traditional junior high schools. For example, many middle schools have been reorganized into a series of smaller units (e.g., houses, teams, advisory programs, homebase groups, team-based mentorships) that are designed to encourage students to form stable relationships with a consistent group of peers and adults. Many schools have organized their faculty into interdiscipli- nary teams in order to better teach integrative and exploratory forms of curricula that are meant to challenge adolescents' expanding cognitive capa- bilities. Some reforms even extend beyond the physical walls of the school building by setting up home-school partnerships, liaisons with community organizations, and comprehensive · . ~ gulclance services. Over the past decade as these organi- zational and structural changes have taken hold, we have seen considerable progress in the creation of a new middle school climate, one that is discernibly warmer, more respectful, and more encouraging of adolescent development. Unfortunately, this improved climate has not been accompanied by increases in student achievement in the content
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areas. A variety ofstate,national,and international studies not just in math- ematics but also in reading and sci- ence, suggest that the performance of middle grades students can be charac- terized by academic stagnation ~ipsitz, Mizell, Jackson, & Austin, 1997) Why is this so? The theory was that the above changes would set the conditions for strong academic learning. ~ students felt secure, respected, and intellectually shmulated, it was argued, they would be motivated to engage with the cognitively challenging academic work before them. One hypothesis for the lack of academic progress is that the organizational rear- rangement and resulting climate changes have not been nearly as widespread as is often reported; this argument goes on to suggest that in those schools in which the changes have been successfully instated, students are showing learning gains (see Feiner, this volume). Another hypothesis, however, is that middle schools, across the board, have been overly focused on organizational and climate variables. While houses may promote a stable sense of community and rearranged schedules may permit students to have steady access to consis- tent mentors, all of these efforts, positive as they are, wall not in and of them- selves lead to improved student learn- ing. School principals and teachers must progress to the next step: the critical examination of their instructional programs. What is actually being taught and learned inside the classroom door? The failure of organizational changes to impact student achievement is not a new problem, nor is confine(1 to mi(l(lle schools. Throughout history there has been resistance to making profound, lasting changes in the educational core, that is, in "how teachers understand the nature of knowledge and the student's role in learning, and how these ideas about knowledge and learning are manifested in teaching and classwork" (Elmore, 1996, p. 21. Most of what passes for reform is the rearrangement of structures at an organizational level which although wellintended is not robust or potent enough to induce, let alone sustain, real improvements in classroom teaching anti learning. If the second hypothesis is accepted, the problem of the middle school reforms of the last decade can be recast as a problem of not penetrating the e(lucational core, a core that by (lefini- tion resi(les in teaching anti learning interactions inside the classroom door anti hence needs to be informe(1 by subject matter. Teaching and learning is always about something. THE SUBJECT MATTER APPROACH The subject matter approach starts at the e(lucational core with questions regarding the nature of mathematics anti how it is best taught anti learne(l. DEVE LOPME NT, SU BJ ECT MATTE R. AN D PROF ESSIONAL DEVE LOPME NT
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In fact, questions about issues of teach- ing and learning What does it mean to know mathematics? How can students develop deep and flexible understand- ings of mathematics? What is the role of the teacher in a mathematics class- room? define the reform movement in mathematics. With the release of three landmark documents (i.e., the Curricu- Ium and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics, 1989; Professional Stan- dards for Teaching of Mathematics, 1991; Assessment Standards for School Math- ematics, 1995), the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has stead- fastly called for deep epistemological shifts in how these questions are an- swered. In order to truly "know" mathematics, these documents argue, one must be able to use mathematical concepts and procedures to think with, reason about, and communicate with. In order to develop into mathematical thinkers, students must have the oppor- tunity to construct their own under- standings of mathematics. And in order for students to develop in this way, teachers' instructional practice must provide students with the opportunity to engage with cognitively challenging tasks and to learn to think, reason, and problem solve. Over the past decade, there have been encouraging signs that the "math- ematical core" is undergoing, or about to undergo, reconstruction in hundreds ORGANIZATIONAL ISSUES of middle school classrooms across the country. Largely through the outreach efforts of NCTM and other professional networks, middle school teachers are beginning to recognize the value of instructional programs and practices that are more student-centered and inquiry based. The signs of progress include increased levels of awareness of the NCTM Standards among teachers (Weiss, 1993), as well as beginning attempts to redesign curriculum, in- structional methods, and assessment practices to align with the Standards. In some schools and classrooms, substan- tial changes in how mathematics is actually taught and learned can be witnessed. Despite these efforts, however, middle school students' performance on national and international tests of mathematics proficiency has remained at low levels over the past decade. For example, on the Third International Mathematics and Science Study, U.S. Sth grade students' mathematics achievement was found to be below average internationally and lower than that of students in many countries which are our economic competitors (Silver, in preparation). These findings parallel the disappointing middle grades performance on the most recent Na- tional Assessment of Educational Progress. Why is this so? Similar to arguments
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that there has not been widespread adoption of the organizational and climate changes advocated by middle school reformers, the extent to which mathematics reform has actually reached most of our country's schools and classrooms has been brought into question. Although there are increasing calls for more widespread, often system- w~de changes in mathematics instruc- tional practice, there are few answers for how to do this effectively. It is more typical to find pockets of excellence than it is to see entire schools or districts enacting the mathematics reforms. Another (related) reason for the lack of progress in student achievement, however, is the ambitious nature of the reform itself. Learning mathematics in this way is very difficult for students who have been socialized into another way of thinking about what it means to know and do mathematics. When speed and accuracy have been the main criteria for successful performance, students are likely to fee} anxious (and sometimes resistant) when they first encounter tasks that demand conceptual understanding, problem solving, and communication. In addition, teachers are being expected to teach in ways that they themselves have never experi- enced and for which they have not been trained. And teachers are the linchpin in any reform effort. Students will not receive the opportunities to learn mathematics well unless their teachers are well prepared and supported. Seen in this way, low student perfor- mances on mathematics assessments is at least partly attributable to a failure on the part of the e(lucational system to adequately educate its teachers to teach in this new and demanding way. Most professional development consists of one-time, pull-out workshops with little or no attempt to transfer what has been learned to teachers' day-to-day working environments ~oucks-Horsley, Hewson, Love, & Stiles, 19981. Fre- quently, teachers select professional development sessions from a district- generate(1 menu of options, with little or no continuity from one session to the next and little or no connection to the overall goals of their school or district. Aware of these shortcomings, profes- sional development experts have begun to recommend more focused, continu- ous, cIassroom-based forms of profes- sional development. In addition, they point to the need for professional development that connects to the curriculum that teachers are implement- ing, as well as to their school's overall improvement plant Given the current structure of the educational system, however, there is little chance of such forms of professional development nourishing in the near future. In most schools and districts, profes- sional development is organized and DEVE LOPME NT, SU BJ ECT MATTE R. AN D PROF ESSIONAL DEVE LOPME NT
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teacher-student ratios (i.e., one teacher per 20-25 students), advisories occur- ring with relatively high frequency (e.g., four or five times per week), and teacher-student ratios in advisories of 20-22 or less were weighted as having more fully implemented the creation of "small communities for learning." Not surprisingly, these schools also showed critical changes in the school context and in the teaching and learning pro- cess. Schools that showed patterns of instruction, decision-making, and teacher norms consistent with the educational practices that attended to the developmental issues of adolescents also were generally included in the highest group. Schools in the initial "partial imple- mentation" group were those schools that had implemented at least some of the key structural changes at high levels but were not yet showing the levels of instructional and contextual changes that were typical of the high group. The schools in this group had made the structural changes either more recently or at lower levels than those in the most fully implemented group. Finally, those in the "low implementation" group included those schools that were not yet making significant progress on imple- mentation and that looked most like traditional junior high schools in their organization and functioning. In considering the findings that ORGANIZATIONAL ISSUES follow, the rea(ler is again remin(le(1 that the assignment of schools to a LO} group was (lone on the basis of their relative similarity (within groups) and relative difference (across groups), not on the basis of some absolute scale. Moreover, in assigning schools to groups, an(l, more specifically, in estab- lishing "boundaries" between groups, we also considered sociodemographic characteristics of the schools to maxi mize comparability of the groups. As a result, there were three sets of schools that, although clearly differing in level of implementation, are (lemographically comparable in terms of size, percentage of free/re(luce(1 price(1 lunch students served (an indication of family income), anti per pupil expenditures. It is not the case, as some might suspect, that the highly implemente(1 group are all affluent, suburban schools anti the least implemente(1 are poor, urban schools; rather, each group contains a represen- tative mix of schools rejecting the (liversity of schools in the sample. STUDENT OUTCOMES Figure ~ shows the average achieve- ment scores in reading, mathematics, anti language arts that were obtaine(1 by schools in each of these groups. There is a total number of more than 15,000 students anti nearly 900 teachers in
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these schools. The average score for all schools in the State of Illinois on each of these achievement dimensions is 250 with a standard deviation of 50. The data show that across subject areas adolescents in highly implemented schools achieved at much higher levels than those in non-implemented schools and substantially better than those in partially implemented schools. Average achievement scores shown in this and later charts are a composite of sixth and eighth grade scores. The states' achievement tests are constructed so that scores across grade levels are comparable, and can therefore be averaged to create a single school-w~de composite, as we have done here. It is important to note, however, that com- bining sixth and eighth grade scores into a single index is a more conserva- tive test than if only eighth grade scores were used, which some would argue represents a truer assessment of the power of the conditions that appear to influence achievement. Renecting longer exposure to these conditions, differences between groups when only eighth grade scores are used are sub- stantially larger than with the combined sixth/eighth grade index. A critical feature of our design is that we have attempted to obtain multiple convergent measures on aspects of both the implementation of reforms and outcomes across related (limensions. Hence, for these initial LO] analyses there were a number of other student outcomes that were considered includ- ing additional indicators of achievement. These indicators included the percent- age of students who are performing at grade level and scores in subsets of Figure 1. Stuclent Achievement Test Scores by Schools' Level of Implementation of High Performance Learning Communities Dimensions Mathematics Achievement Scores 248 Language Achievement Scores 248 Reading Achievement Scores 247 Project Initiative Middle Schools' Implementation Level of Middle Grades Practice High Partial None Note: State mean = 250, Standard deviation = 50 IMPROVI NG AC H I EVEME NT I N TH E Ml DDLE GRADES
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schools that administer the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, the California Test of Basic Skills and similar nationally norm referenced assessments. Generally, these additional indicators show strong association with the state-level scores. We also examined different domains of student outcomes as they related to the level of implementation that schools had obtained. These include teacher ratings of student behaviors as well as student self-reports of behavior, depres- sion (fear, worry), anxiety, and self- esteem. Here the patterns of teacher reports of student behavioral problems, including aggressive, moody/anxious, and learning-related behavior problems, are highly correlated with the patterns noted earlier within achievement data, butin the desired opposite direction. In the most fully implemented schools, teachers report far lower levels of student behavior problems than do teachers in less implemented and non- implemented schools. Similarly, teach- ers in the partially implemented schools still perceive students as showing fewer behavioral problems than those in the leas/implemented schools. Similar patterns were found for student self- reports of a representative set of the domains of socioemotional function that were measured. Clearly, across quite (lifferent types and sources of data (e.g., achievement tests, teacher reports, student self ORGANIZATIONAL ISSUES reports) there are distinct differences between schools that have attained differing levels of implementation of the recommendations for High Perfor- mance mi(l(lle anti other schools. Such patterns are important indicators of the reliability anti vali(lity of the joint outcomes. The above findings notwithstanding, the data reported above are limited by their cross-sectional nature. The focus of the current evaluation is a long-term longitu(linal stu(ly in which we are following schools as they move through (lifferent levels of implementation. We will then consi(ler the association of such changes in implementation within schools as they relate to shifts in contex- tual conditions and, ultimately, student achievement anti relate(1 outcomes. The focal question here is, does student performance anti adjustment improve as the level and quality of implementation increases over time? As in the cross-sectional analyses, schools in the longitudinal analyses are categorize(1 according to level of imple- mentation. These categorizations, however, have been expan(le(1 to con- si(ler both the level of implementation obtained, as in the cross-sectional analyses, anti the (1egree of change over the past year. Consequently, a Level 5 school is one that is non-implemente(1 or only marginally so in the previous year anti has ma(le no changes (luring the
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current one. Level 4 would include those schools that were not or only marginally implemented in the previous year but over the intervening year had initiated planning processes and begun to make some structural changes that, while important, wait in the future require further refining to be truly effective. Level 4 schools would also include those that had moved to teams of 130-150 or more students, with teachers having perhaps one to two planning periods, and where the plan- ning did not yet resect any instructional changes. By contrast, Level ~ schools include those that had attained the highest levels of structural changes, had implemented key changes in instruction and (recision-making, anal, importantly, were showing continuing refinements in these latter critical areas of teaching and learning processes and practices. These continuing refinements show that even our most fully implemented schools had, and continue to have considerable room to improve, particu- larly in areas of instructional change and in the extent to which HiPlaces recommendations are embraced by all teachers within the school. A first set of analyses considered the simple correlations between changes in level of implementation across one and two year periods along with changes in reading and mathematics scores. As schools move up in their level of imple mentation of the recommendations of concern from 1991-92 to 1992-93, the one-year correlation of such changes with increases in eighth grade reading scores was .51 (p < .001) and with increases in eighth grade mathematics scores was .30 (p < .0011. Similar patterns were found for two-year changes in implementation level and achievement scores (from 1991-1992 to 1992-1993), with correlations of .53 and .35, respectively (I oth p < .001) . It is encouraging to note that longer-term analyses, if anything, tended to yield findings that were as strong and stable or stronger than did shorter-term change analyses. Patterns similar to those found regarding achievement score gains were also found when we examined indicators of students' experiences of school climate, student adjustment, and health indices. These data complement the cross-sectional data described earlier, showing that whatever the pre- existing levels of student outcomes in these areas, as schools move through levels of implementation of the elements of middle grade reform, there appear to be associated gains in key areas of student behavior and socioemotional adjustment. We also examined, in a comparison group fashion, the relative magnitude of the gains that were associated with differences in levels of implementation. IMPROVI NG AC H I EVEME NT I N TH E Ml DDLE GRADES
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For these data we have four years of observations of changes in achievement scores (i.e., from the school year 1990-91 through 1993-1994. These data are available even for schools that joined after 1990-91) and attained changes in L01 from 1991-92 forward. We considered both one and two year changes in achieve- ment scores in mathematics and reading (the most consistently available data for all schools) across L01 change and attain- ment categories. In all analyses of both one and two year data there were large and meaningful} differences between schools that had reached the highest levels of implementation, or those that hall ma(le the most progress towar(1 high levels of implementation, arid hose schools in which lithe implementation had occurrent where relatively smaller LO] changes hall occurred. To illustrate the general pattern of these findings, Figure 2 shows the combined average gain in reading and mathematics scores across two sets of changes obtained by schools in each category across two years (i.e., 1990- 91 to 1992-93 and 1991-92 to 1993-941. Figure 2. Average Changes in 6th and 8th Gracle Reacling/Math Achievement Across Two Years Amount of Change in Achievement Scores 1/2 Standard Deviation -0.98 Little/No Partial Partial Highly Highest I mplementation I mplementation I mplementation I mplemented I mplementation (Category5) Little Refinement Greater Improvement More Recent Ongoing Refinement (Category4) (Category 3) (Category2) (Category 1) Note: All scores are the combination of the average gains in 6th and 8th grade Math and Reading achievement scores in participating schools across two, 2-year periods. ORGANIZATIONAL ISSUES
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L01 attainment and change scores are based on 1994 and prior data, as 1994- 95 implementation data was not yet fully available for these analyses. As can be seen in Figure 2, the average gain in mathematics/reading achieve- ment scores across two 2-year periods in the most fully implemented schools (Category ~ described above) was nearly 21 points (recall that 25 points is a full half standard deviation on these scales). Schools that had at- tained high levels of implementation structurally, but had done so most recently and thus had rather moderate levels of change in the core teaching and learning processes (labeled Category 2: "highly implemente(l, more recent") showed average achievement gains of more than 15 points. Those schools that were not yet highly implemente(l, but that ha(1 shown several categories of L01 gain (labeled "Category 3 - Partial imple- mentation, greater improvement"), had average gain scores of nearly 12 points. By contrast, schools in Cat- egory 4: "partial implementation, little refinement" (i.e., where little improve- ment had recently occurred) showed average gains of less than 3 points, and those schools that had made little or no movement toward implementa- tion showed "negative" average gains scores. In other words, achievement in these schools actually declined. Taken together, the above findings are extremely encouraging and show the potential impact on the achievement anti adjustment of adolescents of the ~mplemen- tation of the elements of high performance mi(l(lle schools that are consistent with most current recommendations for mile level practice. Yet as teachers and adm~nis- trators in our Category ~ schools would quickly point out, these highly imple- mented schools are far from fully trans- formed, particularly in terms of actual changes in instruction at the classroom level. Hence, if we consider that our most fully implemente(1 schools are only part way there, then the potential positive impact of the comprehensive transforma- tion of a school to resect the recommenda tions appears to be well beyond what we have already obtained. This is an issue we will explore further in our ongoing efforts. What we happen if schools fully imple- mentthe recommendations? How (lo we get there and what have we learned about the current process that can help? These are the focus of our ongoing work. SUMMARY AND CONCLUDING COMMENTS For the current paper and this Convo cation, the results of the above analyses anti our continuing work in(licate clearly that it is not the recommen(la- tions for middle level best practice that IMPROVI NG AC H I EVEME NT I N TH E Ml DDLE GRADES
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have turned the middle grades into a "vast wasteland" in which our young adolescents are underachieving and failing to learn. Instead, it is the failure of schools to actually implement those recommendations and their clinging to practices that do appear to be far less effective (i.e., instruction and structural- procedural conditions that have long been characteristic of the American high school and the junior high school ORGANIZATIONAL ISSUE S that seeks to emulate it) that appear to constitute the problem. It is important to note that these failed models (i.e., increased emphasis on specific, isolated course work) are in keeping with much of what is now seen as the solution to the problems of middle level achieve- ment. Our results clearly indicate this is the wrong conclusion resulting from a poorly framed understanding of what is actually happening at the mi(l(lle level.
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~r 1 B414 ~'r .d ~ Marl ~3 The panel, consisting of Stephen Gibson, principal from Patapsco Middle School, Ellicott City, MD; Mary Kay Stein, mathematics education re- searcher from Learning Research and Development Center, University of Pittsburgh, and Robert FeIner, Director, National Center on Public Education, University of Rhode Island, responded to a set of questions prepared in light of the previous day's discussions as well as questions from the noon "How (lo you organizationally foster attention to students and, at the same time, to content, thinking of departmen- tal structure in terms of content and a team structure in terms of students?" Ms. Stein responded that the heavy demands of content knowledge on the part of teachers make it unreasonable to ask them to teach across all content areas. Consequently, we have to pay attention to the development needs of children within a department structure ofIearning mathematics. Mr. Gibson agreed and added that compartmentaliz- ing students in a given program does not always meet the diverse needs of a student. Mr. FeIner identified the issue as one of trying to serve student needs through special programs instead of understanding that the way instruction is carried out can meet students' needs. He added that the instruction for all students discussed at the Convocation is the same kind of instruction often prescribed for those identified as "gifted." "How can we ensure that inner city and poor community middle grades children have the same opportunities as suburban and affluent to take challeng- ing mathematics? What structure or system will support this?" Mr. Felner indicated that there are contexts that can allow all students to do well, but we need to help teachers understand that lowering expectations as an act of kindness is not a good thing. To alibi that "it's not fair to expect this from students" aggravates the prob- lems. Mr. Gibson reinforced the notion of raising expectations and of looking beyond where students come from to
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increase both teachers' and students' belief in what the students can do. He cited an example of a Saturday school program for inner city students where, when given relevant challenging tasks, the students did the work because they wanted to prove they were smart. He went on to say that we should commend those students for getting where they are without any resources; think of what they can do if they are given resources and support in using them. Ms. Stein agreed but indicated we need to under- stand what it means to educate children that bring varying kinds of both exper- tise and problems to the learning situation. She believes that we need to understand how to use assessment to inform teachers about instructional strategies with movable and flexible groups to make up for past deficiencies. We must move away from "pockets of excellence," but to do so we have to level the playing field by ensuring there are teachers of comparable quality in suburban and inner city urban schools. "How can we structure schools that are attentive to students' differences without short changing their future opportunities?" Mr. Gibson replied that as middle schools were developed, the initial premise did not include ensuring aca- (lemic excellence; there was no attempt to make sure that mi(l(lle schools were content driven. He caped for research ORGANIZATIONAL ISSUES into what we know works and to avoid changing structures at will (e.g., 42 minute periods, block scheduling) without helping teachers understand how to use the structure to maximize achievement. Ms. Stein respon(le(1 that the best gift possible for middle grades students is to educate them wed in critical areas such as algebra so they can build confidence and move forward whatever their aspirations. Mr.FeIner indicated that we have to shift to a mode where there are no acceptable casualties, something that has not ever been the presumption of American education. He use(1 the metaphor of buil(ling cars, where in to(lay's worI(1 we have special needs kills (Ferraris) that nee(1 to be hand built. There is a factor of ten to twelve times more to know today than yesterday. Detroit (toes not even try to build twice as many cars, half of which are more complex and need to be hand built, in the same number of hours and same ways with the same norms for building. While there is a public sense that schools are not (loin" well, he feels the contrary is true. We are doing better than ever the level of the task keeps rising. All students nee(1 algebra today whereas in earlier years, it (li(1 not matter if some (li(1 not have it. We have to re engineer a system in which the task is lifferent. The audience raise(1 the issue of teacher turn-over within schools anti
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within grades. Officials in North Caro- lina project they will need to hire 72,000 new K-12 teachers over the next eight years. How can we set up a reform environment when you do not have a stable staff to create that environment? Ms. Stein's response indicated that involving the classroom level in the organizational structure may increase the chance of keeping some teachers in the same positions. She also mentioned the need for local training institutions for new teachers so that staff develop- ment does not have to start at ground zero for every new teacher that is hired. Mr. Gibson received applause when he described his school's staff retention rate of 98% during his nine years as principal. He spoke for instructional leadership and the need to include principals as well as teachers in the conversation, matching principals to teams of teachers, and working with principals to ensure they bring growth to their staff and students. When pushed by the audience to describe the blend of content area specialists and attention to children, Ms. Stein described the need for a teacher to understand the mathematics she PANEL DISCUSSION teaches in a profoundly deep way and how this should be put into the fore- ground in teaching mathematics and in thinking about how mathematics relates to other content areas. Mr. FeIner responded that a careful analysis of the NCTM standards reveals that most of the teaching processes and ways to teach students to think about mathemat- ics are taught in all the core subjects. While it is important to have teachers proficient in mathematics on the team, teaching in an integrated unit takes people who know what they are (loin" and how to work together to make the integration happen. Problem situations such as Marcy's Dots should be seen by all teachers as an expansion problem, not just searching for patterns. Teach- ing students how to think in terms of a super structure will give them con- structs around similarities and issues that can be used in any subject. Mr. Gibson believes that teachers should not look at themselves as a single entity in terms of teaching one subject but must integrate that with recognizing they are teachers in general with a vision that goes beyond their own particular subject.
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Representative terms from entire chapter: