Position Paper of National Middle School Association Middle Level Curriculum: A Work in Progress

We believe learning experiences for young adolescents should:

  • address their varied intellectual, physical, social, emotional and moral development
  • help them make sense of themselves and the world about them
  • be highly integrated and connected to life
  • include their questions, needs, developmental issues and ideas
  • involve them in rich and significant knowledge about the world
  • open doors to new ideas that evoke curiosity, the desire to explore, and, at times, awe and wonder
  • challenge students and encourage them to take maximum advantage of educational opportunities
  • develop caring, responsible, and ethical citizens who practice democratic principles

Further, we advocate learning experiences which:

  • value the dignity and diversity of all individuals
  • allow students to learn and express themselves in a variety of ways
  • use the full range of communication skills and technologies in purposeful contexts
  • engage students in problem solving through a variety of relevant experiential learning opportunities
  • involve students in meaningful service which encourages them to make a difference in the world around them
  • involve students in setting goals, planning, and assessing their own learning
  • include continuous, authentic, and appropriate assessment of students’ progress in academic achievement and the
  • acquisition of desired behavioral attributes

Such learning experiences, which must be accessible to all students, require environments in which:

  • challenging content in partnership with appropriate learning strategies becomes the key to significant learning
  • students and staff are safe, cared for, understood, trusted, and respected
  • each young adolescent can experience success
  • faculty is empowered and supported in creating developmentally responsive curriculum and instructional approaches
  • staff are positive role models
  • the family is actively involved in students’ educational endeavors
  • the learning community expands beyond the school

Because of these convictions, we believe the following conditions should be evident:

  • all areas of knowledge and skill are viewed as important and are integrated throughout the student’s school experience
  • students explore integrated themes which engage them in serious and rigorous study
  • curriculum is developed by careful and continuing study of students, social trends and issues, and research-supported school practices
  • flexible learning groups are based upon students’ needs and interests
  • active collaborative, self-directed learning is used
  • a variety of educational materials, resources, and instructional strategies are used
  • staff development promotes and supports developmentally responsive practices
  • the staff is organized in ways that encourage ongoing collaboration
  • all staff help plan and participate in long-term professional growth opportunities

Because of these convictions, we believe the following conditions should be phased out:

  • the curriculum consists of separate subjects and skills taught and tested in isolation from one another
  • content is judged to be more important than the process by which it is learned
  • students are labeled and tracked into rigid ability groups
  • lecturing, rote learning, and drill are used excessively
  • textbooks and worksheets dominate
  • faculty is organized by departments
  • staff development efforts are short term and non-productive

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