Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Essay: School Organization for Middle-Level Education

Ever wonder why middle schools are becomming more popular?  This essay, originally written in November, 2012, explains why middle schools are important.

The evolution of education is truly amazing as it has become one of the most important aspects of today's society.  It is extremely important to go to the highest measures when educating students.  Also, it is imperative to find the best education methods that benefit the students, especially those at the middle grades level.  There are many different ideas, philosophies, and beliefs about the best practices for educating young adolescents.  School organization is perhaps one of the most important topics when relating to middle-level education.  Many different categories fall under school organization such as grade configuration and teaming, but the whole idea of school organization and all its subtopics are extremely important when it comes to middle-level education. 

Thompson and Homestead (2004) claim that grade configuration, interdisciplinary teaming, scheduling, and specialized programs are the most important components for middle school organizations.  Therefore, it is important to implement each of these concepts at the middle level.  In addition, “the ways schools organize teachers and group and schedule students have a significant impact on the learning environment” (Association for Middle Level Education, 2010, p. 31).  Everything that has to do with the organization of the school can play a role on the learning and education of students, so it is important to find the best methods.

The evolution of grade structure in schools has changed dramatically.  Trends have shifted in grade organization.  The emergence of middle schools is a fairly recent phenomenon.  School districts across the country are moving from “a two-tier to a three-tier organizational plan” (McEwin et al., 2003).  At first, many school districts contained just two schools: one school designated for students who ranged from kindergarten to eighth grade, and the second school being a high school.  McEwin, Dickinson, and Jenkins (2003) stated that  “the view that K-8 schools are considered one of the least appropriate grade organizations for the education of young adolescents is reflected in the decreasing number of these schools over the last several decades” (p. 46).  Today, many areas have adopted elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools into one school district, as the K-5, 6-8, 9-12 plan is the most common organizational structure (McEwin et al. 2003).  It is now more common to have separately organized middle schools, which contain either grades 5-8 or 6-8. 

Districts with middle schools are considered to be more successful and more beneficial for adolescents.  According to Thompson and Homestead (2004), “the 6-8 grade configuration is considered the most likely to meet the needs of young adolescents” (p. 56).  Erb (2006) adds that “schools implementing the middle school concept are succeeding throughout the country; schools that are not – whatever their grade configurations – are not meeting expectations” (p. 4).  Research shows that districts with middle schools lead to more student success.  Students should always be put first, and since the middle school plan seems to be working, more districts should be making the switch.

Interdisciplinary teaming is also extremely beneficial for students at the middle-grade level.  With interdisciplinary teaming, students usually have two to five teachers and have many classes with the same students.  The purpose of teaming is “to provide opportunities for getting to know students, collaborative planning, fostering collegiality among teachers, and establishing a community of learners” (Thompson & Homestead, 2004,  p. 56).  Teaming creates a tight-knit community where students feel comfortable with both their teachers and peers.  By having this sort of connection, it creates a healthy learning environment, which would motivate the students to succeed.  The Association for Middle Level Education (2010) adds that “teaming is the foundation for a strong learning community characterized by sense of family” as it leads to “improved student achievement, increased parental contacts, an enhanced school climate, and positive student attitudes” (p. 31).  Teaming also consists of common planning, which also benefits the students.  The teachers can collaborate with each other to create lessons for the students.  The teachers will also have common students, so that they can share strategies and ideas that work best for that particular set of students.

Besides grade configuration and interdisciplinary teaming, other factors involving school organization benefit middle-level students.  Block scheduling has been found to be the most successful in middle schools.  Additionally, specialized programs are an important aspect of school organization because adolescents “should spend a part of the school day in elective courses in which they can discover and explore various topics” (Thompson & Homestead, 2004, p. 58).  In both electives and core classes, students can investigate and search for answers, and may learn a lot about themselves, especially since identity search plays a large part in adolescence.  Also, according to the Association for Middle Level Education (2010), successful middle grades schools use cooperative learning groups, independent study, enrichment programs, and other practices to respond to the variety of student competencies, interests, and abilities and meet the needs of advanced learners” (p. 33).  All these practices create a strong learning environment and give the students the best tools to do well.

School organization is important to keep in mind when teaching or creating a school district, especially grade configuration and teaming.  “Interdisciplinary teaming and 5-8 or 6-8 grade level structures have been the most successful organizational changes brought to middle level schools over the past 30 years” (Thompson & Homestead, 2004).  Different factors involving organization can affect the learning of an individual.  Students are the number one priority, as adjustments should be made that will help students succeed the most and feel the most comfortable. 


  • Association, N. M. S. (2010). This we believe, keys to educating young adolescents. (1st ed.). Westerville, OH: National Middle School Association.
  • Erb, T. (2006). Middle school models are working in many grade configurations to boost student performance. American Secondary Education, 34(3), 4-13.
  • McEwin, C. K., Dickinson, T.S., & Jenkins, D.M. (2003). America's middle schools in the new century: Status and progress (pp. 44-46). Westerville, OH: National Middle School Association.
  • Thompson, K. F., & Homestead, E. R. (2004).  Middle school organization through the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Middle School Journal, 35(3), 56-60.

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