Middle School

Theme - Recognition, Intervention, and Adjustments

Best Practices

  • Climate of mutual respect and responsibility.
  • Resources applied to intervene to remove barriers to learning and prevent need for remediation.

Higher-performing schools operate within a district climate of mutual respect and responsibility. Both formal and informal recognition for students and professionals tend to be for enacting the lived mission, and this recognition becomes part of the ongoing dialogue about the mission. The district supports opportunities for students to demonstrate success in the classroom as well as in the arts, on the athletic field, and/or in the community. The district also ensures that students are able to take part in interventions designed to help them be more successful.

In higher-performing schools special and regular education and AIS (Academic Support Services) are tightly connected. Emotional and social well being are seen to be intertwined with academic performance, so schools provide formal and informal mentoring and support. In higher-performing schools, academic teams first seek to remove barriers to learning through differentiated instruction and/or in consultation with specialists such as social workers and guidance counselors, who serve on “student support groups” along with teachers.

Schools not only honor academic achievement, but also recognize effort and character. The focus is on developing good citizens who show caring for others and their community in addition to high academic performance.

Classroom instruction is differentiated to try to ensure the success of every student. Grade-level teams of teachers are likely to make these adjustments to instruction in conference with each other. Students who need support beyond the regular classroom are served through tutorials in before school, after school, and/or summer programs. This support comes from classroom teachers who either work with the tutored children during the school day or who collaborate with specialists to ensure support is linked to the classroom content, knowledge, and skills.

Some differences between higher- and average-performing schools

In the higher-performing schools, recognition and rewards for teachers and students are tied to the school’s mission and goals and are specific; for example, students might win a poster contest about good citizenship or receive an award for completing 100% of their homework over a five-week period. In the average-performing schools, rewards are more general and not specifically tied to the central mission; for example, teachers might receive holiday gifts or flowers, and students might be recognized for “general improvement.”


Special education and regular education in the higher performers are coordinated and connected, with as many students as possible included in a regular classroom with differentiated instruction and/or supportive services (inclusion); special and regular educators often co-teach, and special educators know curriculum (by content and day) to be able to support students also served in a resource room. Although both sets of schools express a desire to provide a successful learning environment for all students in the classroom, in the higher-performing schools this is intrinsic to the mission. In the average-performing schools, the goal to declassify more students seems prompted more by extrinsic pressure (e.g., from the state).

While many of the average-performing schools are striving to establish a climate of mutual respect and responsibility, the higher-performing schools have come closer to achieving that ideal.

Selected Evidence 

In Niagara Falls, teachers and administrators follow an established cycle to continually review and refine the curriculum.

Queensbury Middle School uses parent and student pledge forms for participation in an after school tutorial. Vernon-Verona-Sherrill Middle School uses a form to outline the mutual responsibilities of teacher, student, and parent; there parents seeking weekly reports begin the process with this form.

At Port Chester Middle School, daily team planning time allows teachers to regularly make adjustments to their instruction.