How to Fix the Mess We Call Middle School

Elementary schools and high schools are tough enough to run, but middle schools are a problem unto themselves. Nobody quite knows what to do with students who are of age to be in what we call middle school. What we know about the developmental profile of kids from age 11 to 14 tells us that a traditional academic classroom experience is not the best option.

Puzzled educators have experimented for decades with the K-8 model, junior highs, middle schools (different from junior highs because they have earlier grades), and then back to the K-8 model. Nothing seems quite right.

In recent years many school districts have returned to the K-8 model,including in Washington D.C., where former schools chancellor Michelle Rhee promoted the model in part, she said, because kids performed better academically, though the research she cited is widely disputed.

In 2008, she created 17 PreK-8 schools, but, alas, the standardized test scores are no better than they were before, my colleague Bill Turquenotes in this story. (Yet another Rhee reform that didn’t quite turn out as great as all that.) Now D.C. schools officials are trying to solve, yet again, the middle school puzzle.

Here’s some of what we know about kids in this age group — and why it is past time to do something radically different:

* Students in this age group are known to be egocentric, argumentative, and — this is not small thing — utterly preoccupied with social concerns rather than academic goals, driven by the swirling of their hormones.

* They don’t always have solid judgment, but they find themselves in position to make decisions that can affect them throughout their lives.

* They enjoy solving real life problems with skills.

Via Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post.

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Career Readiness Certificate Lands Jobs

In July, Kimberly Jackson signed a three-year contract with St. Joseph Medical Center to complete her medical residency. Less than a year ago, as she was completing her degree, Jackson found herself in dire straits. She was expecting to work as an administrative assistant at the hospital but cutbacks eliminated the job she was supposed to fill, leaving her unemployed and ineligible for unemployment compensation.

She needed a good-paying job in a hurry and the National Career Readiness Certificate provided the means to land just such a job within weeks.

Jackson visited her local One-Stop and learned about the National Career Readiness Certificate, which is issued by ACT, the same organization that administers the ACT college admissions test. The Career Readiness Certificate is an evidence-based credential that measures essential skills used in the workplace using WorkKeys assessments.

Jackson practiced the modules online, took the test and was awarded a gold certificate. There are four levels of certification — bronze, silver, gold and platinum. They are awarded based on applicants’ scores in each of three core skills: applied mathematics, locating information and reading for information.

For a bronze certificate, applicants must score at least a level three in each of these core skills. Achieving the proficiency required for a bronze certificate ensures applicants are qualified for 16% of the jobs in ACT’s occupational database. Read more.

Via Maraline Kubik, Business Journal Daily.

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