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South Carolina
Association for MIddle Level Education

Schools to Watch Criteria

Academic Excellence:

High-performing schools with middle grades are academically excellent. They challenge all students to use their minds well.

  1. All students are expected to meet high academic standards.
  2. Curriculum, instruction, assessment, and appropriate academic interventions are aligned with high standards.
  3. The curriculum emphasizes deep understanding of important concepts and the development of essential skills.
  4. Instructional strategies include a variety of challenging and engaging activities that are clearly related to the grade-level standards, concepts, and skills being taught.
  5. Teachers use a variety of methods to assess and monitor the progress of student learning (e.g., tests, quizzes, assignments, exhibitions, projects, performance tasks, portfolios).
  6. The faculty and master schedule provide students time to meet rigorous academic standards.
  7. Students are provided the support they need to meet rigorous academic standards.
  8. ‚ÄčThe adults in the school are provided time and frequent opportunities to enhance student achievement by working with colleagues to deepen their knowledge and to improve their standards-based practice

    Social Equity:
    High-performing schools with middle grades are socially equitable, democratic, and fair. They provide every student with high-quality teachers, resources, learning opportunities, and supports. They keep positive options open for all students.

    1. To the fullest extent possible, all students, including English learners, students with disabilities, gifted and honors students, participate in heterogeneous classes with high academic and behavioral expectations.
    2. Students are provided the opportunity to use many and varied approaches to achieve and demonstrate competence and mastery of standards.
    3. Teachers continually adapt curriculum, instruction, assessment, and scheduling to meet their students' diverse and changing needs.
    4. All students have equal access to valued knowledge in all school classes and activities.
    5. Students have ongoing opportunities to learn about and appreciate their own and others' cultures.
    6. The school community knows every student well.
    7. To the fullest extent possible the faculty welcomes and encourages the active participation of all its families and makes sure that all its families are an integral part of the school.
    8. The school's reward system is designed to value diversity, civility, service, and democratic citizenship.
    9. ‚ÄčTo the fullest extent possible, the school rules are clear, fair, and consistently applied.

      Developmental Responsiveness:
      High-performing schools with middle grades are sensitive to the unique developmental challenges of early adolescence
      1. The staff creates a personalized environment that supports each student's intellectual, ethical, social, and physical development.
      2. The school provides access to comprehensive services to foster healthy physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development.
      3. Teachers foster curiosity, creativity and the development of social skills in a structured and supportive environment.
      4. The curriculum is both socially significant and relevant to the personal and career interests of young adolescents.
      5. Teachers use an interdisciplinary approach to reinforce important concepts, skills, and address real-world problems.
      6. Students are provided multiple opportunities to explore a rich variety of topics and interests in order to develop their identity, learn about their strengths, discover and demonstrate their own competence, and plan for their future.
      7. All students have opportunities for voice-posing questions, reflecting on experiences, and participating in decisions and leadership activities.
      8. The school staff members develop alliances with families to enhance and support the well-being of the children.
      9. Staff members provide all students with opportunities to develop citizenship skills, to use the community as a classroom, and to engage the community in providing resources and support.
      10. The school provides age-appropriate, co-curricular activities to foster social skills and character, and to develop interests beyond the classroom environment.

      Organizational Structures and Processes:
      High-performing schools with middle grades are learning organizations that establish norms, structures, and organizational arrangements to support and sustain their trajectory toward excellence.
      1. A shared vision of what a high-performing school is and does drives every facet of school change.
      2. The principal has the responsibility and authority to hold the school-improvement enterprise together, including day-to-day know-how, coordination, strategic planning, and communication.
      3. The school is a community of practice in which learning, experimentation, and time and opportunity for reflection are the norm.
      4. The school and district devote resources to content-rich professional learning, which is connected to reaching and sustaining the school vision and increasing student achievement.
      5. The school is not an island unto itself; it is a part of a larger educational system, i.e., districts, networks and community partnerships.
      6. The school staff holds itself accountable for the students' success.
      7. District and school staff possess and cultivate the collective will to persevere, believing it is their business to produce increased achievement and enhanced development of all students.
      8. The school and district staffs work with colleges and universities.
      9. The school includes families and community members in setting and supporting the school's trajectory toward high performance.

      About us

      The vision of South Carolina Association for Middle Level Education, the leading proponent for the education of young adolescents, is to serve as an advocate for quality middle level education; promote public awareness and create support; and provide quality member services.

      Become a member

      Join the growing list of middle level educators in South Carolina by signing up for active memberships in the only organization in SC devoted solely to middle level issues.

      Contact us

      South Carolina 
      Association for Middle Level Education

      225 Gardenwalk Drive
      West Columbia, SC 29170

      Phone +1.803.261.6117 (call or text)


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