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Volume 12, Number 5
September/October 1996

Urban Middle-Grades Reform

Foundations Keep Trying


Educators in urban middle schools may have the last chance to keep poor minority students in the education system. Studies indicate that dropout rates climb steeply among this group once they leave middle school. Evidence also suggests that if young adolescents are not prepared early for multiple academic options in high school, such as a college prep track, there is little hope they can catch up after the middle grades. Focusing on this age group in inner-city schools, the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation of New York City has just completed a five-year investment in middle school reform in five cities and has started a new round of grants, again in five cities.

The Clark Foundation is among several major foundations committed to improving the life chances of middle-grade adolescents. Turning Points, a 1989 report from the Carnegie Corporation, summarized much of the research about the development of this age group and set out the rationale for successful middle-grades curriculum and student support. The California State Department of Education's 1987 report, Caught in the Middle, led to the establishment of regional networks for middle schools that were funded by various foundations. The networks provided professional development, especially for principals, and encouraged the sharing of best practice within the regions. New Futures, a $50 million investment made by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in five cities over five years, focused initially on reaching students in the middle grades. A major project of the Lilly Endowment, Inc., supported middle-grades reform in Indiana, and the Pew Charitable Trusts has done similar work with middle schools in Philadelphia.

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For Further Information

For Further Information

Believing In Ourselves: Progress and Struggle in Urban Middle School Reform. Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, 250 Park Ave., New York, NY 10177-0026.

Gaining Ground. New York: Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, 1992.

Changing the Odds. New York: Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, 1994.

Caught in the Middle. California State Department of Education, Sacramento, CA, 1987.

Turning Points: Preparing American Youth for the 21st Century. Washington, DC: Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development, 1989.

The Path of Most Resistance: Reflections on Lessons Learned from New Futures. Baltimore, MD: Annie E. Casey Foundation, 1995.