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.