Middle Level Credit System

The State Department of Education (SDE) and the State Board of Education (SBOE) created the Middle Level Credit System in May 2007 with the purpose of improving rigor, relevance, and relationships in the middle grades; identifying pockets of success throughout Idaho to develop best practices for all middle schools; and ensuring every Idaho student is prepared to be successful in high school and beyond.

The Middle Level Credit System has focused on five key areas: Student accountability, middle level curriculum, academic intervention, leadership among staff at the middle level, and student transitions between the middle and high school grades.

The Middle Level Task Force was created in May 2007 to examine middle school issues as recommended by the High School Redesign efforts. Two goals of the task force were to ensure all students are prepared to be successful in high school and to increase academic engagement and student accountability for middle school students through a relevant and rigorous curriculum. Desired outcomes included ensuring all students are prepared to be successful in high school and beyond and to improve student preparation for high school and post-secondary education. To achieve these goals and work toward the desired outcomes, the Middle Level Task Force determined that students need to be introduced to the language and concept of a credit system before entering high school. The task force recognizes the need for flexibility for individual districts and schools to have credit requirements that can be fitted to their unique needs and structures and has kept this need at the forefront of their considerations.

This rule change would require each Local Education Agency (LEA) or district to design and implement a credit system starting no later than the seventh grade. The effective date is July 1, 2010 (for the 2010-2011 school year). Students entering the 7th grade at the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year would have to meet credit requirements or complete an alternate mechanism to be promoted to the 8th grade.

Each LEA's middle level credit system must include the following minimum requirements:

  1. Students shall be required to attain a minimum of 80% of their credits in order to be promoted to the next grade level.
  2. Students will not be allowed to lose a full year of credit in one area (i.e. a student would not be able to fail a full year of math) and automatically move on to the next grade level.
  3. Students not meeting (or in jeopardy of not meeting) credit requirements will be given an opportunity to recover credits or complete an alternate mechanism in order to be eligible for promotion to the next grade level.
  4. Attendance is a factor either in the credit system or the alternate mechanism or both.

The effective date of the middle level credit system rule is July 1, 2010.

An increase in courageous and collaborative leadership at the middle level and better support and training for middle level educators would benefit all members of the middle level community.

Recommendation for certification and/or endorsement for the middle level.

The task force is working with the division of Certification and examining the potential for middle level certification and/or re-certification and offering post-secondary courses focused on teaching at the middle level.

Statewide standards/best practices for advisory

The Task Force has developed standards/best practices for meaningful advisory programs in recognition of the use of instructional time and financial investment. Special thanks to Randy Jensen, Principal, William Thomas Middle School in American Falls School District for lending his expertise in developing these standards.

Benefits of an Advisory program

Many schools have unsuccessfully tried an advisory program. Some of these program have been little more than "homeroom" time which provided opportunities to do school paperwork, announcements, and social time. Research conducted by Brown University has found the following beneficial effects of an effective advisory programs:

  1. Academic achievement was improved, failing grades were reduced, and test scores increased.
  2. 46% of teachers believed they influenced several of their advisees to improve their grades.
  3. Student attitudes improved significantly (75% by one measure).
  4. Student-teacher relations improved.
  5. Number of drop-outs declined.
  6. Transition to high school was eased.
  7. Liaison for parents was provided.
Actions that would support a requirement for advisory:
  1. Each student will have a Personal Learning Plan that is maintained from the start of sixth grade through high school graduation.
  2. Each student will have a Person Adult Advocate to help him or her personalize the educational experience (student to advocate ratio should not be greater than 20 to 1).
  3. Provide opportunities for students to lead discussions about their own progress and their accomplishments with their advisor and family.
  4. Create a structured program that allows each student to address issues of self-awareness, interpersonal skills, decision-making abilities, and personal safety skills.
Organization components of successful advisory programs

Student advisory programs provide an opportunity for middle level student schools to introduce an adult advocate into the life of every student in the school. Many young adolescents suffer from feelings of isolation and loneliness, and advisory activities allow them to connect with caring adults and other student to help them through the rough spots during the middle level years. A review of the research and a compilation of countless accounts of successful advisories provide the following organization hallmarks of effective programs (from the National Middle School Association):

  • Advisory meets for 20-30 minutes daily but no less than three times a week.
  • All teachers serve as advisors.
  • Advisory meets in the morning rather than the end of the day.
  • Advisory groups are composed of 10-18 students.
  • Advisory groups have a space to meet in that is their own.
  • Each advisory has its own name and identity.
  • Activities used are varied and student centered.
  • Advisory groups occasionally meet apart from the school for a special activity.
  • Advisors know well the unique needs and characteristics of each advisee.

Taking the Lead in Implementing and Improving Advisory by Robert C Spear. This is part of the National Middle School Association's Middle Level Leadership Series. Published in 2005. This publication will assist you in determining how advisory can work to help students discover their positive possibilities. It also deals with the issues of advisory-scheduling, assigning groups, developing curricula, and more. Information on planning continuous professional development for teachers and conducting an assessment of advisory will allow you to improve the advisory program for every student.

Breaking Ranks in the Middle: Strategies for Leading Middle Level Reform by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Published in 2006. This revolutionary new report focuses on making collaborative leadership, personalization and academic rigor the centerpieces of middle level restructuring efforts. Middle level administrators can count on the guide's illustrations of possible areas in which to begin reform, strategies for implementing successful reform, and real-life case studies of successes, challenges, and results of implementation.

This We Believe: Successful Schools for Young Adolescents by the National Middle School Association. Published in 2003. This new, expanded edition of our association's position paper must be read thoughtfully by every middle level educator, policymaker, parent, and anyone interested in the best thinking about Successful Schools for Young Adolescents, the very apt subtitle. Presenting a vision of a developmentally responsive middle school, this resource opens with a section on the importance of middle level education from the point of view of young adolescents and our changing society. This is followed by the heart of the document, an elaboration of the 14 characteristics of successful middle schools. A Call to Action then provides specific suggestions for using this document as a tool to improve middle level schools. An important concluding feature of This We Believe is a completely rewritten section of the characteristics of young adolescents, prepared by noted scholar, Dr. Peter Scales of the Search Institute. This new This We Believe is truly a significant document that will be read and studied widely and should be used in every middle school.

Turning Points 2000: Educating Adolescents in the 21st Century by Anthony W. Jackson and Gayle A. Davis. This is a Report of Carnegie Corporation of New York. Published in 2000. Make no mistake - this is one book that every middle level leader should read! Turning Points 2000 is the book that everyone will be talking about for many seasons to come. And not only middle school educators will be doing the talking, Turning Points 2000 will draw an audience that includes policy makers, think tank analysts, education reporters, and advocates of educational reform.

Changing Systems to Personalize Learning: Discover The Power of Advisories by Debbie Osofsky, Gregg Sinner and Denise Wolk. Published by The Educational Alliance at Brown University in 2003.Entire text available on-line. The Power of Advisories workshop, as one of six workshops in the Changing Systems to Personalize Learning series (Personalized Learning, The Power of Advisories, Teaching to Each Student, Integrating Curriculum to Meet Standards, Flexible Systems and Leadership Roles, and Engaging the Whole Community), is designed to help teachers and school leaders develop and assess advisory programs in their own schools. The workshop is a product of applied research and development conducted by the LAB under contract number ED-01-CO-0010 from the U.S. Department of Education as part of the LAB's initiative focusing on student-centered learning in high schools.

Advisory: Definitions, Descriptions, Decisions, Direction by John Galassi, Suzanne Gulledge, and Nancy Cox. Published by NMSA in 2003. This book clearly defines advisory programs by rationale and gives educators critical information for designing their programs. A hands-on activity is included that will assist faculties in reaching consensus about the right program for their school.

From Advisory to Advocacy: Meeting Every Students' Needs by Michael James and Nancy Spradling. Published by NMSA in 2001. No longer just a separate program during a specified part of the day, advocacy should permeate every minute and every activity. Advocacy refers to the conscious, ongoing relationship of every adult to every student. In this book, the authors provide a compelling rationale for student advocacy, list its implications and challenges, and provide specific activities for considering such a change. If your school is revamping an existing advisory program or thinking about starting one, this book is must reading.

Professional Development Kit: Launching a Successful Advisory Program by John M. Niska and Sue C. Thompson. Published by the National Middle School Association in 2007. This mixed media resource will guide a faculty in implementing that most widely recommended but most difficult to achieve middle school component, an advisory program. The print guide leads faculty through nine modules for discussion and debate. In the accompanying DVD, faculty and students from a range of schools that have implemented effective advisory programs talk about their experiences and illustrate various concepts in the guide.

The Advisory Guide: Designing and Implementing Effective Advisory Programs in Secondary Schools by Rachel A. Poliner & Carol Miller Lieber. Published by Educators for Social Responsibility in 2004. This comprehensive guide helps secondary educators design and implement an advisory program tailored to their school's needs and goals. The design chapters present various advisory models, while the implementation chapters offer facilitation tips and over 130 sample activities organized around ten themes, including student orientation, community building, and career exploration.

Schools to Watch
  • Eagle Middle School - Meridian
  • Lowell Scott Middle School - Meridian
  • Pathways Alternative Middle School - Meridian
  • Crossroads Alternative Middle School - Meridian
  • Lake Hazel Middle School - Meridian
  • Vera C O'leary Jr High - Twin Falls
  • Lone Star Middle School - Nampa
  • William Thomas Middle School - American Falls
  • Rocky Mountain Middle School - Idaho Falls

Frequently Asked Questions

Student Accountability