While I’m as guilty as the next formerly-awkward teenager to want to forget the braces, bad hair, and questionable fashion of my 13-year-old self, the middle school years cannot be undervalued as a critical time for child development. It’s in middle school that many students begin to take ownership of their learning and their academic future, and according to a 2008 report by the college admissions testing company ACT, “the level of academic achievement that students attain by 8th grade has a larger impact on their college and career readiness by the time they graduate from high school than anything that happens academically in high school.”
It was this belief — and the data behind it showing that the middle school years were not working for students in their community — that prompted E3 Alliance, a StriveTogether Cradle to Career partnership in Austin, TX, to launch RAISEUp Texas: a three-and-a-half year demonstration project aimed at implementing an evidence-based model for “whole-school transformation” in six middle schools serving 13,000 students.
Matt Pope, a former math teacher and assistant principal at Simon Middle School in Kyle, Texas during the launch of RAISEUp Texas, now leads the project. Pope is an #ImpactAgent for middle school transformation after going “all in” on school change, and it’s paid off in incredible ways for middle school students.Simon Middle School went from being on the state watch list for underperformance to ranking in the top 10 middle schools in the state in closing performance gaps for struggling students. Among many accolades, the school was named a “2014 National School to Watch” by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform.
You can read more about Pope’s work and what’s next for RAISEUp Texas in our latest #ImpactAgent story, a campaign that aims to celebrate people and organizations who have changed the way they do business every day, based on data, to improve the lives of students from cradle to career.
Jillian Kuhlmann is the Communications Specialist for KnowledgeWorks.