Essential Element 3 – Organization and Structure


An organization and structure that support both academic excellence and personal development.


Young adolescents learn and develop best in a school that is organized and structured to promote academic achievement and personal development.


Standards-focused schools with middle-level grades are organized to promote academic excellence and personal development, to establish within staff and students a feeling of belonging and a sense of personal identification with the school and its purposes, and to help young adolescents make a successful transition from the elementary grades to the high school grades and from childhood to adolescence.


A standards-focused school that enrolls young adolescents should:


3.1       Have teacher teams sharing responsibility for the education and personal development of a common group of students.

3.2       Have common planning time for those teachers and teacher teams sharing responsibility for a common group of students.

3.3       Have schedules with flexible time assignments within blocks of time to encourage interdisciplinary programs and the creative use of time.

3.4       Contain at least three of the four middle grades (the four middle grades being grades 5, 6, 7, and 8).

3.5       Have comparatively small enrollments so that every student is viewed as an individual and receives personal attention.  When the school population is large, have “houses” or schools-within-schools to promote a sense of family, to reduce the feeling of anonymity and isolation among students, and to engender within staff, students, and the community a feeling of belonging and personal identification with the school and with its purposes.

3.6       Be structured to create close, sustained relationships between students and teachers.

3.7       Ensure that all students, staff, parents, and families feel secure, valued and respected as significant contributors to the school community.

3.8       Provide, for those students needing additional help to meet the State’s standards, opportunities for additional time, instruction, and personal support (e.g., after school, before school, summer school, reduced class size, tutoring, pupil personnel services, etc.).

3.9       Provide a variety of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.

3.10    Provide opportunities for students to participate in youth service, community service and/or service learning activities.

3.11    Encourage active parent involvement through a variety of activities.

3.12    Establish ties with the school community that strengthen connections between school/education and career opportunities.

3.13    Promote and encourage appropriate participation of pupils with disabilities in all curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular activities.

3.14    Have students with disabilities or other special needs, as well as their programs and services, integrated throughout the school building to ensure access to the same instruction as their peers.

3.15    Provide support services such as guidance, counseling, and health-related services to all students.

3.16    Integrate technology into the educational program so that it supports student learning in a purposeful way.

3.17    Provide a gradual transition from the more self-contained classrooms of the elementary school to the more departmentalized structure of the high school, providing students with opportunities for increasingly independent learning experiences and responsibilities within a safe and structured environment

Resources and Best Practices for Essential Element 3

Common Planning Time
Vertical Teaming
AIS Looping
Common Planning Time
Student Team Advisor
Daily Physical Education
Friday Night Recreation
Intensive ELA Block
Support for Reading Instruction in Content Areas
In the Middle Family Night
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