C&I

Curriculum and Instruction

Protocol for Developing an Awareness to The New York State Education Department’s Essential Elements of Standards-Focused Middle-Level Schools and Programs and Their Rubrics

 

Introduction and Background:

The Board of Regents, State Education Department personnel and middle-level educators around the state have been revising the goals and programs offered at the middle-level.  Since it is understood that this is a critical time in the academic, social, and psychological development, new policies and regulations were put in place to recognize, support and strengthen the middle-level program to ensure that this critical transition would be made successfully by all students.

In 2003, the Board of Regents adopted a research-based Policy Statement on Middle-Level Education that details what should be happening in middle-level schools.  To provide additional information and expand the policy statement, the Essential Elements of Standards-Focused Middle-Level Schools and Programs was then created. Lastly, in 2005, the Board of Regents adopted new regulations (100.3, 100.4, and 80-5.12) to clearly establish criteria for middle-level program models around the state. 

These new regulations will form the parameters for the construct of middle-level education programs for decades to come. Therefore, it is critical that all middle-level educators become familiar with them.  In addition, they must ensure that any programs in their buildings are consistent with the letter and spirit of the new middle-level education policy, the State Education Department’s Essential Elements of Standards-Focused Middle-Level Schools and Programs, New York State’s 28 Learning Standards, and other existing regulations and are implemented with fidelity.  It is hoped that this protocol will serve as a consistent statewide format to provide this valuable information to all members of the educational community.

Intended Use (Purpose):

The intended purpose of this protocol is to provide middle-level practitioners with a prescribed set of conditions and implementation steps to introduce/reintroduce the State Education Department’s Essential Elements of Standards-Focused Middle-Level Schools and Programs (and its associated rubrics).

Assumptions (Readiness Pre-Conditions): 

This protocol is predicated on the following assumptions:

  1. The facilitator is completely familiar with the Essential Elements, the rubrics, the Regents Policy Statement, and the new regulations on middle-level education, including information on Models A-C.
  2. The audience members (participants) are interested and willing to learn about the State Education Department’s Essential Elements of Standards-Focused Middle-Level Schools and Programs and their related rubrics.
  3. The Central Office is willing to take an active role in supporting the audience (participants) in their efforts to learn more about the Essential Elements and their rubrics.

Rationale:

This protocol is needed because:

  1. Strengthening middle-level education is a priority of the Board of Regents, the State Education Department, and local school districts.

  2. Recent actions by the Board of Regents require that local schools interested in securing Department support for creative and innovative approaches to improving their middle grades program complete a self study and develop a comprehensive, research-based school improvement plan that reflects the Essential Elements.

  3. Middle-level practitioners are seeking expert guidance – in the form of a prescribed set of conditions and steps – on how to determine the degree to which their middle-level school or program is research-based and reflective of best practice (i.e., based upon the Department’s Essential Elements document).
  4. Many middle-level practitioners – veteran as well as those new to the profession – are unfamiliar with the Essential Elements and the attributes of a high-performing middle-level school and need an introduction/awareness to the Essential Elements.
  5. Given all of the above, there is a Statewide need to:
    • Communicate consistent information accurately using a common language;
    • Connect current research and best practice with student learning and personal development (thus providing a basis for data-driven decision-making and informed school improvement);
    • Offer a set of sequential procedures for training and information sharing that can be replicated in multiple sites with integrity;
    • Allow for a continuity of training (using other protocols);
    • Empower local practitioners to assume responsibility for their own personal learning;
    • Inform middle-level practitioners of State policy and direction.

Target Audience: 

The target audience for this protocol should include middle-level teachers, middle-level administrators, other middle-level certified professionals (e.g., guidance counselors, school nurse, etc.), teaching assistants and aides, and Central Office staff.  A secondary audience might include elementary and high school staff, board of education members, parents and community groups, university professors, and prospective teachers as long as they are interested and willing to learn about the State Education Department’s Essential Elements of Standards-Focused Middle-Level Schools and Programs and their related rubrics.

Implementation:

To the Facilitator:

The role of the facilitator is critical during any work sessions.  It is important to keep the group focused and not to allow conversations to concentrate on issues outside of the group’s control (i.e., scheduling, leadership, district policies.) During this time the facilitator should obtain agreement from the group on a common problem and process before beginning and focus the group’s energy on common tasks.  (See Handouts, Worksheets, and Resources for suggested worksheets.)  He/she must remain neutral and not evaluate the group’s ideas.  This does not mean, however, that the facilitator allows a group to develop plans and processes that are ineffectual or useless.  Instead, the facilitator can offer alternative procedures and methods while sharing the research or reasoning behind his/her suggestion.  It is normal for the conversation to move into tangents from a central question or issue.  Sometimes these tangential conversations are productive and yield good ideas.  A facilitator must sense when the direction the conversation is taking is no longer productive and pull the group back.  Questions such as "How does this relate to our objective?" or "Have we moved off the track?" may help the group to refocus.  Sometimes it may be necessary to be firmer and say, "We have gotten off the topic and need to return to the issue/question of ________."   It is better to be firm than to allow a group to wander and waste time.

The facilitator should also protect individuals and their ideas from personal attacks.  This means he/she must be the guardian of team process and help the group find win/win solutions.  He/she should also be able to encourage participation from everyone.  Some members may be reluctant to speak out; others may not be able to get a word in because some may be dominating the conversations.  This situation provides an opportunity to underscore the importance of establishing norms.  The facilitator could ask open questions directed to the reluctant participants, or remind everyone to make sure all members are given a chance to provide their input. 

As the facilitator, it is important to keep an eye on the clock.  In too many meetings, members rush off without some type of closing because they have suddenly realized time is up.  It is important to make sure the group has some form of a closing; this contributes to a sense of accomplishment and purpose.  The closing or conclusion may be a summary of the progress made thus far, a scan of recorded information on flip charts, or an evaluation of the meeting.  Since the work begun in this session will only be the beginning of the conversations teams will have, the facilitator could also have the group create the agenda for their next meeting.  By doing that, all group members will know what is expected at the next meeting and what they still need to accomplish.

Successful completion of this protocol cannot occur in short-term, disconnected, single session training.  It was intended to be a series of integrated sessions with follow-up opportunities. These could include: A full-day Superintendent’s Conference with continuing follow-up; training, teacher/ administrator induction and/or orientation programs of more than a single day, Mentoring Programs that include multiple day training opportunities, Professional Learning Communities, Professional Development Plan courses.

The length of each session is dependent on the expertise of the audience, but no more than two hours at one time.  Middle-level teachers and administrators will require more time as they will need to develop a deep and complete understanding of the Essential Elements and the rubrics.  Other groups (the secondary audience) more interested in a basic awareness may not need as much time. Regardless, any sessions should be at least two hours in length, employ a variety of presentation strategies to take advantage of the current brain research and adult learning styles, and not schedule at the end of a full school day. 

Session 1:

The Needs and Characteristics of the Middle Grades Student

  1. Set the stage.  Clearly explain to those who will be involved in the training the reasons for the training (refer to the Rationale above), what the final result will be (a familiarity with the Essential Elements and their rubrics), and the form the training will take (what will actually occur during the session – a summary of the various activities).
  2. Participants need to be familiar with the needs and characteristics of middle-level students

    Supplemental Activity: to emphasize the importance of "knowing your students," show them the In-Transition picture.

    They are to first complete the –ING activity (see Handouts, Worksheets, and Resources), asking them to describe these learners using words that end in –ing.  After completing this exercise, the facilitator will divide the participants into three groups.  Each group will work on selecting the descriptors that fit in one of these three categories: physical characteristics, social characteristics, cognitive development characteristics.  Using their assigned targeted characteristic, participants will then brainstorm the types of classroom instruction that would best engage these students in successful learning and will discuss any other impact on instruction.  Each group will then report out their findings, using large chart paper or overheads.

  3. The facilitator will then share some of the research on middle-level learners, allowing participants to see how their charts/overheads compare and elaborating when appropriate.  End this segment by distributing the "When Children Turn into Cats" article.
  4. The facilitator will then conduct a summary activity where each participant will complete the following in the context of the needs and characteristics of middle-level students:
    • 3 things I learned
    • 2 ways I can implement what I have learned in my classroom/school
    • 1 question I still have

    Optional Activity: The facilitator may want to use, either in place or prior to the summary activity, the Powerpoint presentation on the Needs and Characteristics of Young Adolescents.

  5. It might be helpful, if the participants are veteran staff members, to have them share challenging situations that might have developed in dealing with middle-level learners and how each was handled.
  6. At the end of Session 1, distribute the following to the participants:
    • Regents Policy Statement on Middle-Level Education and Schools with Middle-Level Grades (2003);
    • The Essential Elements of Standards-Focused Middle-Level Schools and Programs (2003);
    • Background on the Essential Elements and their development;
    • Short history of middle-level education;
    • A Review of Research and Literature on Middle-Level Education;
    • Middle-Level Education Action Plan Issues Report (2001);Selective Bibliography
    • Relevant Websites.
  7. Follow-up: Each participant is to keep a log of unusual situations that might have developed with middle-level learners and how each was handled.  Each participant is to also consciously implement two strategies that were identified during session 1 and report on their implementation.

Session 2:

The Essential Elements of Standards-Focused Middle-Level Schools and Programs – A Research-based Approach for Promoting the Academic and Personal Development of Young Adolescents Consistent with Their Needs and Characteristics.

  1. Participants are to share their follow-up experiences.
  2. The facilitator will utilize the Essential Elements Powerpoint to give a general overview of the 7 Essential Elements.

    Optional Activity: The facilitator may want to use, either in place or prior to the Essential Elements Powerpoint presentation, the icebreaker activity ("the Trophy") as a lead-in or focusing exercise on what it means to be a high-performing, successful middle-level school.

  3. Participants will be divided into 7 groups 2. Each group will be given one of the Essential Elements.  For each of the Element’s subdivisions, the group is to develop a rationale for its inclusion, based on the characteristics of middle-level learners discussed in the previous session.  They are also to keep a list of those subdivisions for which they cannot identify a characteristic.
  4. Groups will report out their findings using key phrases or examples of what each Element might look like as it is implemented.  The facilitator would help the participants with any subdivision for which they could not identify a characteristic. 

  5. End Session 2 with a wrap-up exercise:
    • Ask each of the groups to rate their school – based upon evidence they can provide – on each of the seven Essential Elements using a 1 to 4 rating scale (1 = little or no implementation; 2 = partial implementation; 3 = considerable, but not complete, implementation; 4 = full and complete implementation). Ask them to use .5 increments (e.g., 1.5, 2.0, 3.5, 4.0, etc.)
  6. At the end of Session 2, distribute the rubrics for the Essential Elements indicating that they play a crucial role in the Needs Assessment protocol.

Handouts, Worksheets, and Resources:

The following handouts, worksheets, and resources will be needed by the facilitator for this protocol:

  • Worksheets to identify roles and responsibilities;
  • Worksheets to establish group norms for completing the work;
  • Short history of middle-level education;
  • A Review of Research and Literature on Middle-Level Education;
  • Middle-Level Education Action Plan Issues Report;
  • In-Transition picture;
  • Worksheet for the –ING activity;
  • Powerpoint presentation on the needs and characteristics of young adolescents;
  • Characteristics of young adolescents;
  • Research on the characteristics of young adolescents;
  • Article titled: "When Children Turn into Cats;"
  • Regents Policy Statement on Middle-Level Education and Schools with Middle-Level Grades (2003);
  • NYS regulations including the three-model strategy;
  • State Education Department’s Essential Elements of Standards-Focused Middle-Level Schools and Programs (2003);
  • Rating Form for the Essential Elements;
  • Bibliography of important publications (Canon);
  • List of key websites.
  • Icebreaker activity called "the Trophy";
  • Powerpoint presentation on the Essential Elements developed by the New York State Middle School Association;
  • Background on the Essential Elements and their development;
  • Essential Elements rubrics;
  • Facilitators’ Checklist.

1. For purposes of this document, the term "protocol" is defined as a prescribed set of conditions and implementation steps to achieve a desired end or goal.

2. In small schools with few staff, it will be necessary to modify how participants are grouped.  For example, participants might elect to discuss each Essential Element as a large group or they may have fewer groups and assign each group more than one Essential Element.

Last Updated: April 7, 2009