Professor Micki Caskey, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and six of her colleagues from the National Middle School Association (NMSA) met with officials of the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) to brief them on the essential components for middle grades schools.
The group saw this as a “…critical step in bringing messages about middle level education to the attention of influential stakeholders,” according to Dr. Betty Green-Bryant, Interim Executive Director of the NMSA. The NMSA group was invited by Leah Raphael, Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow, U.S. DOE, Office of the Secretary, and 17 other USDOE staff to present their middle school research outcomes at an unprecedented summit in Washington, DC.
“This was a unique opportunity for professionals to come to the table,” noted Dr. Caskey, who was selected for the trip because of her prior experience in and passion for middle grades education. She explained that it is rare for a professional association and officials at the USDOE to convene.
Why middle school? “The middle grades are the last best opportunity to advance student achievement,” explained Dr. Caskey. “At this stage, students are at a critical turning point that can predict future success in high school and college.” The NMSA position statement delineates 16 characteristics of successful schools for young adolescents. (See This We Believe: Keys to Educating Young Adolescents, www.nmsa.org.)
The goal of the National Middle School Association is to find ways to partner with the USDOE in dissemination of the wealth of knowledge available to educators, policymakers, and parents, and to develop connections for future collaboration. For example, the What Works Clearinghouse (Institute for Education Sciences, USDOE) has abundant resources, but practitioners may be unaware of their availability. NMSA offered to help establish partnerships and exchange new information.
Dr. Caskey is a well-known expert on middle level education. She has written many articles and books on effective middle grades practices and programs. In addition to her work in the Graduate School of Education, she is the current chair of NMSA’s Research Advisory Committee and Editor of Research in Middle Level Education Online. She previously taught middle school for 19 years before moving into teacher preparation and middle grades research 13 years ago. This gives her a singular depth of perspective from both disciplines that is invaluable when working with policymakers.