The University of Texas at Austin's Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk has partnered with the George W. Bush Institute to launch the Middle School Matters Institute (MSMI).
The Meadows Center, which is housed in the College of Education, will be using a three-year, $2.6 million grant to complete the project.
"The institute will focus on gathering evidence-based research on students' success in the middle grades and disseminating that information to educators," said Sarojani Mohammed, director of the institute. "The middle school years are such a critical time for students, and we're losing far too many eighth-grade students. The goal of Middle School Matters is to better prepare students for high school, help them stay in high school once they get there and, ultimately, raise graduation rates."
The MSMI offers an online public clearinghouse of research- and evidence-based practices and resources. The clearinghouse is free to all educators and contains information on implementing 13 key elements that major scholars have determined to be essential to middle school success. These elements include everything from the qualities of highly effective teachers and desirable school climates to research-based instructional strategies. The clearinghouse and its free resources are referred to as Tier I support.
Tier II of the institute's services will include annual summer conferences for schools that apply to attend and are accepted. At the conferences educators will learn about best practices for the middle school classroom and how to translate research into practice. They also will develop strategic plans tailored to the specific needs of their schools. Online applications for the June 2013 conference are due March 1.
Tier III will involve targeted, intensive support from the MSMI staff to a small number of schools. Institute staffers will be available to the schools (including onsite visits) to help educators transform their implementation plans and practices into action. Schools will be selected for this level of assistance from those that attend the summer conference.
The institute is one branch of the larger Middle School Matters initiative, which is administered by the Dallas-based George W. Bush Institute. The Bush Institute uses leading research to develop and implement solutions for pressing global problems such as economic growth, health care and education reform.
The MSMI will be working with the Middle School Matters Coalition, which is led by the Bush Institute and an eight-member advisory board that includes members from universities nationwide, school districts, the Meadows Center and the Bush Institute.
"Middle School Matters is the most significant education initiative that the Bush Institute has undertaken," said Mohammed, "so we're very honored to become partners in this ambitious project. If educators can help middle grade students who are at risk and give them targeted support that's been proved effective, that could be the key to significant numbers of the students going on to enjoy fulfilling careers and lives."