School Beat: Middle School: Bridging the Gap from Elementary to High School 

By Mike Ramm

Principal – East Rockford Middle School

The middle school years are a pivotal and awkward time in the education of a child.  Let’s face it, at what other time can a student successfully exclaim maturity by outwardly sporting a peach fuzz mustache, yet internally feel uncertain about beliefs, preparedness, and the future?   Middle schools are responsible for educating young adolescents that are undergoing rapid and dramatic changes in their physical, intellectual, social, emotional and moral development. Programming must be focused on nurturing the needs of incoming 11-year-old elementary students while ensuring the 8th grade 14-year-old student leaves prepared for high school.    Below are some characteristics of the Rockford Middle Schools specifically targeting the whole child developmental needs of our community’s middle school students:

  • Relationship-focused adults who are motivated to prepare and get to know our students
  • Research-based best instructional practices based on the Gradual Release of Responsibility (Fisher and Frey)
  • Core academic (language arts, math, science, and social studies) programming for students capable of participating in accelerated curriculum, as well as courses that support the needs of students in need of additional assistance
  • Sixth grade teaming (scheduling students with two primary teachers for core classes) to support the transition from one core area teacher in 5th grade to four separate core area teachers in 7th grade
  • Opportunities for students to explore a variety of elective courses designed to inspire and promote college and career readiness
  • Counseling and other supportive services that program for building-wide social/emotional educational needs, as well as support individual students and families through challenges
  • School-wide Positive Behavior Intervention and Support system to implement proactive strategies for defining, teaching, and recognizing appropriate student behaviors, thus adding to a positive school environment
  • Robust cocurricular academic and athletic offerings rooted in a participation-based philosophy
  • “Growth Mindset” – Personal improvement and goal setting approach to student achievement

The three years of middle school present a unique time in the lives of adolescents.   Partnering with parents to prepare an elementary student for high school is a journey.  Ensuring individual and system- wide research-based programming is in place is imperative to ensuring preparedness.   A school building full of adults that are passionate about inspiring students is also essential.  Rockford Middle Schools possess all of these qualities, and like other RPS schools, are proud of the service we provide to our students, families, and community.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about middle school education in Rockford Public Schools, please feel free to contact me.