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There is one reality that all school leaders face—"the test." Regardless of the state, all middle level students are required to take multiple yearly state assessments used to determine if a school has made AYP. And while we can argue all day long if this is or is not a fair and reasonable measure of progress, we do have a responsibility to our students to prepare them to the best of our ability to be successful in this endeavor.

This month's issue of Middle Level Leader is designed to give suggestions on preparing students to take their state assessments. And we do recognize that every state's testing process is different—for example in Oregon, testing is done online over the course of the entire year and students may take up to three assessments with the highest score counting. In Virginia, schools and/or districts choose testing dates within a window of time but not all students in a school have to test on the same day. The author of our lead article hails from Texas where all students within a grade level at a given school will take the same assessment on the same day. Regardless of your state's requirements, middle level leaders will find ideas to consider in Linda Robinson's article "Help! The Test is Only 'X' Weeks From Now!" and in suggestions given from other school leaders from "In the Field."

Patti Kinney
Principal, National Center for Middle Level Leadership

Help! The Test Is Only "X" Weeks From Now!
What can school leaders do to improve test scores in a short amount of time?
No matter how your school scored on "the test" last year, as a school leader you should never be satisfied! Whether you did not meet AYP and know that you need to make it this year or you did meet AYP but there is still room for improvement, you need a plan to ensure your school's growth to the next level. (Continue reading)

From the Field
Middle level leaders from around the country were asked how they help prepare students for taking their state assessments. Learn some valuable tips and tricks from their experiences. (Continue reading)

News and Notes

Middle Level Assistant Principal Earns Honor as Top AP
Melissa Shindel, an assistant principal from Patuxent Valley Middle School in Jessup, MD, has been named the 2009 NASSP/Virco National Assistant Principal of the Year. In addition to setting high expectations for herself and others, Shindel "has been instrumental in elevating the climate, sense of professionalism, and recognition of the accomplishment of students, staff, and faculty at Patuxent," according to the school's principal, Robert Motley. The award, sponsored by Virco Inc., includes a check in the amount of $5,000, which Shindel can use in her school or for her own professional development.

Breakthrough Schools Announced
Four middle schools and one K-8 school each received a $5,000 grant when they were recognized as 2009 MetLife-NASSP Breakthrough Schools. All of these schools serve large numbers of students living in poverty and are high achieving or dramatically improving student achievement. To learn about the work these schools are doing and discover how your school can apply for this recognition, click here.

Improving Instruction: Building a Culture for Differentiation
Come to the Washington, DC, area for a workshop and stay over for the Fourth of July! 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:

  • Understand what differentiated instruction and assessment is and what it isn't
  • Identify differentiated instructional and assessment practices in the classroom setting
  • Understand the connection between assessment and practice in the differentiated classroom
  • 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.

For more information or to register for this workshop, go to

March is Middle Level Education Month!
This year's theme is "Celebrating the Past, Looking to the Future," and in honor of the history of middle level education, we asked individuals who have made significant contributions to the field of middle level education to respond to the question: "What significant lessons from the past must today's middle level leaders not forget as we move into the future?" Their answers have been compiled into a series of short podcasts and are posted at Don't miss out hearing what advice long-time middle level educators such as John Lounsbury, Paul George, Sue Swaim, Nancy Doda, Don and Sally Clark, Ken McEwin, and others are giving to current educators.

Breaking Ranks: A Field Guide for Leading Change
***Use promo code FIELD for online orders and save 25%! (Sorry, phone, fax, and mail orders not eligible for this discount.) Offer valid through 4/30/09.

Don't miss out on getting the newest book in the Breaking Ranks series. Written with middle level and high school leaders in mind, this book provides the "how-to" for bringing about change in middle and high schools. Based on the core areas of Breaking Ranks II and Breaking Ranks in the Middle, the guide gives school leadership teams the tools to use and actions to take. The book is organized around a six-step "process circle" that asks school teams to gather data, explore possible solutions, assess readiness, create a plan, implement the plan, as well as monitor and adjust the plan—all while viewing the process through the lens of real school improvement plans with their successes and failures. To order, go to

Schools to Watch Conference
The National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform will be sponsoring its annual Schools to Watch Conference on June 25-27, 2009, at the Marriott Crystal Gateway in Washington, DC. For more information, go to