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Remember middle school - that beautifully awkward time between wanting to be an adult and actually having adult responsibilities? Academics became more serious, relationships started to seem more complex, and striving toward independence we often felt misunderstood. Middle school is a time of transition; a challenging, yet significant period of life that we can all identify with.
What we probably did not realize while in middle school was its paramount importance to our lives’ paths. But looking back, we remember how significant middle school was to the rest of our lives. Social and academic development during these years is a highly influential factor on the rest of a child’s life.
During middle school, children should develop the social, emotional, and academic skills necessary to progress intellectually. And the degree to which children develop these significant skills can place them on two very different paths. One path enables a developing adolescent to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to be successful in high school and graduate with the potential to succeed in college or enter into a meaningful career. The route of the second path – a winding road where the potholes of an inadequate education replace the smooth bricks of developmental support – often results in a dimmer future. Not having received the skills necessary during middle school, adolescents placed onto this path are more likely to drop out of high school and experience hindered progress and stinted potential for the rest of their lives. This is why Middle School Matters.
The middle school years are the best, and perhaps last time in a child’s life where the adults around them can have a positive impact. This impact is so powerful that it can allow a child to fully experience the vast opportunities of 21st century America and mature into an active citizen, equipped to overcome the challenges of an increasing global economy. According to the Center on Education and the Workforce, a person with a high school degree will earn about $569,000 more than a high school dropout in their lifetime. A person with a Bachelor’s degree will earn about $2.1 million more in a lifetime than a high school dropout. The amount of preparedness a child receives in middle school is major determinant in which of these categories they will grow into: high school drop-out, high school graduate, college graduate. Middle school matters.
I remember my own middle school experiences well, but now, as the mother of a young child, I think more about the type of middle school my child will one day walk the halls of. I want to be assured that no matter what middle school he attends, he will receive the development necessary to one day grow into a successful adult, able to achieve in a 21st century world. And I know all of you wish the same not only for your own children, but for all of our Nation’s students. That is why middle school matters.
Knowing the consequences for students who receive an inadequate middle school education, we must make it a priority and work together to dramatically increase the number of students who graduate middle school prepared to complete high school. It is the Bush Institute’s hope that all middle schools will engage in the process of implementing research-based instructional practices that build a support structure for middle school learners.
On June 9-12, 2013, the Bush Institute and its partners will host its first annual summer conference in Austin, Texas. The Middle School Matters (MSM) Summer Conference will focus on academic interventions, social supports, and performance management. Participants will attend sessions led by Middle School Matters Institute researchers and practitioners on these topics and will use that knowledge to develop a Middle School Matters Implementation Plan for their campus to implement the practices outlined in the MSM Field Guide.
Please note, the 2013 conference is designed for select middle schools that have completed and summited the online application and Middle School Matters District Readiness Assessment. The Bush Institute will provide free registration, meals, and lodging for six members of a school leadership team that qualify to attend the 2013 MSM Institute. Expert researchers including Dr. Robert Balfanz, Dr. Steve Graham, and Dr. Sharon Vaughn are among the many highly respected MSM Institute content providers.
This post was written by Gina Rodriguez, the Program Manager for Middle School Matters at the George W. Bush Institute.
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