ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

One Size Doesn't Fit the Middle Grades

We love a good one-size-fits-all approach. It's uncomplicated and seems to get to the heart of the problem without being bogged down in the details. It gives us focus and helps us know where to invest resources.

The problem is, issues involving humans are rarely, if ever, straightforward and simplistic enough for this kind of approach to be successful. In few cases is this truer than when it comes to the problems we face ensuring the success of each student during the middle grades.

Research has shown that no one factor, such as teacher support or parent involvement, is the key to a winning formula. While many factors are important, each one has only a modest effect. Only when multiple factors come together can we consistently and powerfully support students in making progress.

To further complicate education and development of students during the middle grades, most young people are consumed with trying to determine who they are, who they want to become, and how to establish their independence. Middle school educators are faced with droves of students who resist the one-size-fits-all approach at every turn.

Although we must attend to students' need for freedom, choices, and opportunities to explore and express their identities, these needs cannot trump the academic learning that must occur. To guarantee that we are successfully supporting, developing, and educating students in the middle grades, we must take a "both/and" mentality to maintain an equal commitment to their academic success and personal growth.

Throughout April, we're looking at what research and experience tell us about creating "both/and" middle grade environments where students thrive and educators maintain their sanity. Download the most recent Whole Child Podcast, read and post your comments here on the Whole Child Blog, and e-mail us resources and examples of promising practices.

Have you signed up to receive the Whole Child Newsletter? Read this month's newsletter and visit the archive for more strategies, resources, and tools you can use to help ensure that each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.

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