Discipline. Student management. Behavior. Detention. Suspension. Words that can strike fear in the heart of many middle level leaders. Looking up the word discipline in the dictionary, I find two definitions: 1) Training to ensure proper behavior, and 2) Punishment designed to teach somebody obedience. Which definition best describes the philosophy of the student management program at your school?

How a school designs, organizes, and implements their student management system has an enormous impact on the culture of the school. Our lead article shares the experience of Essex (VT) Middle School as they made the shift from basing their policies on punishment to training. Written from three perspectives, principal Ned Kirsch (former NASSP Board Member and a current member of the Middle Level Task Force) shares how his experiences as a high school assistant principal shaped the policies he put in place when he became a principal; Superintendent Jim Fitzpatrick explains how he is leading a district-wide approach to shared responsibility; and teacher Lindsey Halman gives her viewpoint from the classroom.

Patti Kinney
Principal, National Center for Middle Level Leadership

Seeds of Change: Disciplined Growth and Shared Responsibility
In a district-wide effort, a Vermont principal, superintendent, and teacher completely transformed their approach to school discipline. Early in the process, Essex Middle School stopped handing out detentions—a punishment with no subsequent learning taking place—and began implementing a more effective program of shared responsibility. Instead of letting the system itself drive punishments, the district now uses a set of schoolwide core values to build relationships and teach behavior, not punish misbehavior. (Continue reading)

From the Field—Positive Behavior Support
Employing programs that focus on positive behavior support and that create a sense of ownership enjoyed by all students, Cascade Middle School in Eugene, OR, and Louis L. Redding Middle School in Middletown, DE, share how certain incentives motivate students to take responsibility for their actions. (Continue reading)

News and Notes

Attend the Differentiation Workshop
Save the Date! On June 29 and 30, NASSP will be presenting Improving Instruction: Building a Culture for Differentiation with internationally known author and consultant Rick Wormeli, in Reston, VA. Rick is the author of Fair isn't Always Equal and Differentiation: From Planning to Practice Grades 6–12. This highly interactive two-day workshop is designed to help school leaders:

  • Develop a knowledgeable and responsive mindset toward differentiation
  • Understand what differentiated instruction and assessment is and what it isn't
  • Understand the connection between assessment and practice in the differentiated classroom
  • Identify differentiated instructional and assessment practices in the classroom setting
  • Implement cognitive strategies that enhance differentiation practices
  • Examine how school and classroom grading policies impact differentiation practices
  • Support teacher efforts to learn and implement differentiation strategies
  • Model differentiation practices in the school's professional development efforts.

Plan to come to the event and stay over for the Fourth of July events in Washington, DC. Costs are $295 for NASSP members, $350 for non-members, and $275 each for teams of three or more from the same school (one attendee must be an NASSP member). Contact Patti Kinney,, for more information.

Register Now for the NASSP Convention
This year's Convention will be held in San Diego, CA, from February 27 to March 2. Each time slot will feature several breakout sessions specifically designed for middle level leaders. Come hear well-known presenters such as Nancy Doda, Cathy Berger Kaye, Linda Robinson, Howard Johnston, Debbie Silver, Terry Wolfson, and many more. To register, go to

Apply for the Keep Gym in School Grant
The Keep Gym in School program is working with partners across the country to combat the childhood obesity epidemic by helping more kids gain access to quality PE programs. Already this year, NFL teams and players including Kurt Warner, Antwaan Randle El, Donnie Edwards, and Deuce McAllister have helped refurbish school gyms and fields, provide new equipment, and launch a football-themed fitness challenge motivating kids to be active. This year, NFLN is offering a grant of $10,000 to one middle school to help improve and sustain its physical education program—build a new track or playing field, refurbish a gym or indoor PE facility, purchase new equipment, or supplement a teacher's salary. Visit for more information and to nominate your school for the $10,000 grant.

Taking Center Stage—Act II
We have recently added an additional breakout session to the NASSP Convention in order to share a free Web resource for middle level educators. Those in attendance will be able to learn about this California innovation that any middle level educator worldwide can use to enhance their school and district practices. The Taking Center Stage—Act II (TCSII) Web portal provides easy access to information about adolescents and effective strategies to keep them engaged in active learning throughout their middle level experience. Built on 12 research-based recommendations for middle grades, this free resource contains interactive research, videos, and best practices. And if you can't attend the Convention, check it out at

Breaking Ranks in the Middle Training
Start planning to bring a leadership team to the next BRIM training that will provide middle level leaders the tools and strategies needed to help address the unique challenges facing middle level schools. The next national training will be held in the Washington, DC, area on April 3–4. For more information on this training or on how to bring training to your school, contact Rebecca Wise at 800-253-7746, ext. 329, or