Middle School Science

Theme - Staff Leadership, Selection, and Capacity Building

Best Practices

  • Teachers who are interested in working with middle school kids and have preparation in science content and pedagogy sought after and hired.
  • A well-established professional learning community supports new teachers and the science department in connecting to other content areas.

Candidates with science content knowledge, experience, and pedagogy are actively recruited; other key qualities are a desire to teach at the middle level and good fit with district, school, and department culture. Special efforts are made to support new teachers and those with less science preparation, for example, elementary-certified teachers, particularly colleagues teaching at the fifth- or sixth-grade level.

Some differences between higher- and average-performing schools

The higher performers have a well-established, collaborative professional community that shares a philosophy, culture, goals, and instructional focus. Average performers are beginning to establish a collaborative culture or are struggling to do so.

Although professional development opportunities may be abundant in the average performers, these opportunities are not necessarily focused on what matters most to improving student performance in the school’s particular context. In the higher performers, professional development is focused on what is shown in the data to have the greatest impact on student performance; some offerings are specific to science instruction.

In the higher performers extra care is taken to support new teachers or those with little science background; this support includes opportunities for support from mentoring and collaboration with colleagues, other professional development opportunities, and a well-articulated curriculum. In average performers, typical school practice has no systematic or culturally expected process for helping new teachers, and professional development to increase their science content and pedagogy is unavailable.

Selected Evidence:

Greene’s comprehensive mentoring program seeks to increase retention, promote personal and professional well being, transmit the culture of the school, and provide reflective practice and leadership opportunities for new teachers.

Jamestown’s recruitment materials promise candidates growth opportunities. A three-day orientation begins the process and is followed by a well-defined annual performance review process.

Wayne’s Annual Professional Performance Review is also well defined and includes rubrics and self-assessment forms; it begins by laying out the criteria, which include the use of research to guide performance.

Johnson City encourages teacher collaboration and professional growth through mini grants and other opportunities.

Among the professional development offerings available to Greene teachers is a facilitated discussion for middle and high school teachers to discuss issues of curriculum, instruction, and assessment across schools and districts.