April 18, 2011

Senators Introduce Legislation to Improve Middle School Achievement

Washington, DC – With too many American students falling behind as a result of underfunded and overcrowded schools, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has introduced legislation to help disadvantaged middle grade students reach their full potential. The Success in the Middle Act, cosponsored by Senators Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Al Franken (D-MN), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), would support American children by providing federal grants to help underachieving school systems.

“Middle school is a pivotal time for children in Rhode Island and throughout the country,” said Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. “By providing the financial support needed to improve struggling schools, this legislation will provide our children with the education they deserve.”

Senator Akaka said, “As a former teacher and principal, I know that students need a strong foundation during their formative years for long term development. The Success in the Middle Act will give our schools the tools necessary to help these students to excel through secondary and higher education.”

“I applaud Senator Whitehouse for leading this effort to target reforms to the middle grades, a critical time when too many kids fall off track and fall behind. This legislation will provide additional resources to improve our middle schools and help kids reach their full potential and successfully transition to high school, college, and the workforce,” said Reed.

“So often, our education system focuses most heavily on the first and last years of learning, but the middle grades are equally important to a student’s education. Achievement in middle grades can set up a pathway for success in high school, college, and beyond,” Brown said. “The Success in the Middle Act will provide resources to our middle-grades schools most in need of additional support, and will help prepare students for the transition to high school, higher learning, or the workplace.”

“Children who do poorly in middle school are more likely to do poorly in high school and less likely to attend college,” said Senator Franken. “This bill would make sure that Minnesota’s students have access to schools that will provide a comprehensive curriculum and prepare them to succeed in high school, college, and beyond.”

In 2009, less than 1/3 of 8th grade students scored proficient in reading and math on the National Assessment on Educational Progress (NAEP), and nearly 30 percent scored below the basic level in math. The effects of underperforming can be serious: Sixth grade students who do not attend school regularly, who frequently receive disciplinary actions, or who fail math or English have less than a 15 percent chance of graduating high school on time, and a 20 percent chance of graduating one year late.

The Success in the Middle Act would authorize $1 billion for fiscal year 2012, with additional funds for future years, to create formula grants for states to help local school districts improve low-performing middle schools. States and school districts would be required to invest the funds in proven strategies such as early warning systems and interventions for at-risk youth; transition programs between elementary, middle, and high school; professional development and coaching for teachers to improve curricula and better address the needs of all learners; and support programs for students – such as extended learning time and personal academic plans – to help maximize their learning experience. The bill would also invest in research to identify and implement best practices for middle school achievement.

The bill was originally introduced by then-Senator Barack Obama in 2007, and by Senator Reed in 2009.


Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921