EdSource Announces Free Middle Grades Action Kit

It is only in the last decade that educators finally have access to high-quality, large-scale studies of what works and what doesn’t work to improve student outcomes is the middle grades. Particularly powerful was the monumental 2010 “Gaining Ground” study by EdSource, Michael Kirst, and the American Institutes for Research. Here at California GEAR UP we have successfully focused on middle grades for over 12 years with amazing results. It is research and tools like this EdSource kit that continues to support our work throughout California.

The “Gaining Ground” report is the largest study of its kind. EdSource and Stanford University researchers analyzed data and test scores from more than 200,000 students at 303 middle grade schools in California for the 2008-09 school year. They also surveyed the principal at each school, more than 3,700 ELA and math teachers in grades six thru eight, and over 150 district superintendents.

The key finding of the Gaining Ground study is that a relentless and intense schoolwide focus on improving academic outcomes most distinguishes higher- from lower-performing middle grades schools. That conclusion, says Trish Williams of EdSource, “came out on top no matter which analysis we ran.”

Now available from EdSource is a downloadable, free action kit based on the findings of the landmark study, and gives educators tools and provides schools with key strategies that will help prepare students for academic success in high school and beyond. The components include:

Middle Grades Playbook describes how the classroom, school, and district levels each can contribute to stronger middle grades education—including self-assessments and a compendium of actionable practices.

School profiles provide a window into how selected schools from the Gaining Groundstudy are thinking about, undertaking, and improving their practices.

Principal and teacher survey tools help you take stock of the existing foundation for improvement in your district or middle grades school and get people talking.

We highly recommend taking a look at the EdSource kit and put the research into action in your school community. It is the courage and commitment to use research based tools into good use at underperforming school and this is an essential tool not to be missed.

Helping Students Navigate the Path to College

As you may remember from previous posts, Doing What Works from WestEd, the American Institutes for Research and RMC Research Corporation, is a great multi-media site that is a wonderful clearinghouse for research based education practices online. This site from  the U.S. Department of Education offers an online library of resources that may help teachers, schools, districts, states and technical assistance providers implement research-based instructional practice.

This Practice Guide offers educators, administrators, and policymakers five research-based practice recommendations designed to increase postsecondary access, particularly for underserved, low-income, or first-generation college-going students. Fitting perfectly with the goals of California GEAR UP, each recommendation includes a summary of the research evidence and a level of evidence rating. Developed by an expert panel convened by the Institute of Education Sciences, the Practice Guide is the foundation for all the Doing What Works content on increasing postsecondary access.

As usual, the site provides easy to navigate tools and well produced multimedia all education professionals and families can use to help students navigate the path to college.

The Fostering College Aspirations section speaks directly to the GEAR UP community, which focuses on surrounding students with adults and peers who support their college-going aspirations. The practice guide and multi-media provides examples of ways schools can foster college-going aspirations beginning as early as middle school. Carefully designed mentoring programs connect students with college-educated professionals who can share their college experiences, talk about career planning, assist with the application process, and check on students’ academic progress.

Helping students navigate the steps to apply for college and understand financial aid is another extremely important piece of the college access puzzle. Knowledgeable school officials should offer one-on-one support regarding preparing for and taking admissions tests, searching for and selecting between colleges and other postsecondary education options that meet students’ needs, and completing the application and enrollment process. Under the Assisting with College Entry practice, the site provides additional support, downloadable guides, and video that further demystify the college entry process.

Checking out this extremely useful site is a must for all GEAR UP and education professionals concerned with college access. The wealth of materials and information is a one stop website that should be an automatic go-to for the GEAR UP community.

Let us know how you use the site on our Facebook page!