Academic Excellence

High-performing schools with middle grades are academically excellent. They challenge all students to use their minds well.

All students are expected to meet high academic standards.

  1. Curriculum, instruction, assessment, and appropriate academic interventions are aligned with high standards.
  2. The curriculum emphasizes a deep understanding of important concepts and the development of essential skills.
  3. Instructional strategies include a variety of challenging and engaging activities that are clearly related to the grade-level standards, concepts, and skills being taught.
  4. Teachers use a variety of methods to assess and monitor the progress of student learning (e.g., tests, quizzes, assignments, exhibitions, projects, performance tasks, and portfolios).
  5. The faculty and master schedule provides students time to meet rigorous academic standards.
  6. Students are provided the support they need to meet rigorous academic standards.
  7. ​The adults in the school are provided time and frequent opportunities to enhance student achievement by working with colleagues to deepen their knowledge and to improve their standards-based practice

Social Equity


High-performing schools with middle grades are socially equitable, democratic, and fair. They provide every student with high-quality teachers, resources, learning opportunities, and support. They keep positive options open for all students.

  1. All students, including English learners, students with disabilities, and gifted and honors students, participate to the greatest extent possible in diverse classes with high academic and behavioral expectations.
  2. Students are provided the opportunity to use many and varied approaches to achieve and demonstrate competence and mastery of standards.
  3. Teachers continually adapt curriculum, instruction, assessment, and scheduling to meet their students’ diverse and changing needs.
  4. All students have equal access to valued knowledge in all school classes and activities.
  5. Students have ongoing opportunities to learn about and appreciate their own and others’ cultures.
  6. The school community knows every student well.
  7. To the fullest extent possible, the faculty welcomes and encourages the active participation of all its families and makes sure that all its families are an integral part of the school.
  8. The school’s reward system is designed to value diversity, civility, service, and democratic citizenship.
  9. ​To the fullest extent possible, the school rules are clear, fair, and consistently applied.

Developmental Responsiveness


High-performing schools with middle grades are sensitive to the unique developmental challenges of early adolescence.

  1. The staff creates a personalized environment that supports each student’s intellectual, ethical, social, and physical development.
  2. The school provides access to comprehensive services to foster healthy physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development.
  3. Teachers foster curiosity, creativity, and the development of social skills in a structured and supportive environment.
  4. The curriculum is both socially significant and relevant to the personal and career interests of young adolescents.
  5. Teachers use an interdisciplinary approach to reinforce important concepts and skills and address real-world problems.
  6. Students are provided multiple opportunities to explore a wide variety of topics and interests in order to develop their identity, learn about their strengths, discover and demonstrate their own competence, and plan for their future.
  7. All students have opportunities for voice-posing questions, reflecting on experiences, and participating in decisions and leadership activities.
  8. The school staff members develop alliances with families to enhance and support the well-being of the children.
  9. Staff members provide all students with opportunities to develop citizenship skills, use the community as a classroom, and engage the community by providing resources and support.
  10. The school offers age-appropriate co-curricular activities to help students develop social skills and character, as well as interests outside of the classroom.

Organizational Structures and Processes


High-performing schools with middle grades are learning organizations that establish norms, structures, and organizational arrangements to support and sustain their trajectory toward excellence.

  1. Every aspect of school change is driven by a shared vision of what a high-performing school is and does.
  2. The principal has the responsibility and authority to hold the school-improvement enterprise together, including day-to-day know-how, coordination, strategic planning, and communication.
  3. The school is a community of practice in which learning, experimentation, and time and opportunity for reflection are the norm.
  4. The school and district devote resources to content-rich professional learning, which is connected to reaching and sustaining the school vision and increasing student achievement.
  5. The school is not an island unto itself; it is a part of a larger educational system, i.e., districts, networks, and community partnerships.
  6. The school staff holds itself accountable for the student’s success.
  7. District and school staff possess and cultivate the collective will to persevere, believing it is their business to produce increased achievement and enhanced development of all students.
  8. The school and district staffs work with colleges and universities.
  9. The school includes families and community members in setting and supporting the school’s trajectory toward high performance.