Middle School Philosophy
The philosophical foundation of the middle school model is grounded and centered on what is best for the young adolescent student. In a 1963 address at Cornell University, Dr. William Alexander spoke of a new model of teaching for students between the ages of 10 and 15. This new model called for relevant curriculum and essential learning processes that were developmentally appropriate for the unique needs of this age group. Adopting this philosophy across much of the nation, middle schools have grown and evolved over the past 50 years to become progressive learning environments in the American school experience.
The basic foundational elements of an effective education for young adolescents includes providing experiences that are developmentally responsive to their unique needs; appropriately challenging curriculum and learning for all learners; strategically preparing students for their future; and purposely creating an equitable experience for all.
Middle school students are emerging adolescents who are experiencing profound changes in the intellectual, physical, social and emotional areas of their lives. It is vital for middle level educators to understand and strategically address the unique needs of this age group.
Curriculum and instructional practices must be challenging so that all learners can achieve high levels of success. Middle level students need opportunities to explore and expand their understanding through interdisciplinary studies so they can fully understand the how the world is connected in so many ways.
The education of middle level students also needs to focus on empowering students by providing them with a skill set that will transfer into the 21st century. Students need to continue developing their skills through high school in order to be ready for the workforce, and the work students experience in middle school provides the foundation.
A high-quality middle level education should be available to all children under the same conditions. Ensuring access and equity for learners means providing them with opportunities to learn based on their individual needs, preventing their personal circumstances from becoming a barrier to learning, and helping each child strive and grow into their potential.
What makes this a successful model of education for young adolescents is a school community that includes adult advocates who are committed to doing what is best for middle level students; guidance and support services that are available to support and reinforce healthy choices; and families who are invited to actively participate in the educational process.
The 16 Characteristics of Successful Schools
Association for Middle Level Education. (2010). This we believe: Keys to educating young adolescents. Westerville, OH: Association for Middle Level Education.