The Critical Middle: A Reason for Hope

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State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick established the Middle School Steering Committee in September 2006 to improve teaching and learning in the middle grades. It was composed of teachers, administrators, parents, college faculty, MSDE staff, and members of the business community.

The Committee was asked to review the previous work on middle schools and establish a list of issues where transforming practice offers the greatest impact on student learning; recommend ways to put those practices into effect; and report to the State Board on those recommendations. In charging the Committee, Dr. Grasmick asked that members consider bold new practices that will forever transform the middle school and what we expect of students there--practices that will prepare students for college and for 21st-Century careers. The Critical Middle: A Reason for Hope is a publication of the Committee's findings.

The Critical Middle: A Reason for Hope offers strong evidence that the arts have a significant positive impact on achievement across the curriculum, test scores, motivation and self-awareness. Pages 9, 14 and 30 offer a wonderful articulation of the Fine Arts recommendations that support the project's goals. According to findings reported in The Critical Middle, “While the fine arts—music, theater, dance, and visual arts—have intrinsic value as intellectual disciplines, they also have a significant impact on achievement across the curriculum. High-quality arts education raises test scores, improves motivation and attendance, enhances students’ social interactions, and boosts teacher retention and parent involvement.”

Download a copy of The Critical Middle: A Reason for Hope.

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