No Child Left in the Middle


Darnell_b120x148Guest post submitted by ASCD Annual Conference presenter Bobb Darnell.

Is it heresy to talk about really spending more time and/or money on student learning for the “average kids”?

So much of today’s educational and governmental conversations, funding, programs, and significant concerns are targeted toward at-risk and low-achieving students. Should we spend more time and resources on these students? Absolutely!

What about the students on the honor rolls with parents who have bumper stickers to prove their child’s highest achievement? Should we recognize the potential of these students and spend more time and resources on them? Absolutely! But what about the “kids in the middle”?

We all know the kids who are average, doing OK, making some progress, and yes, maybe even slipping through the cracks. They’re the students who don’t seem to show improvement rates as high as the lowest and highest achievers in the norm-referenced data sets. For example, many standardized test results show a type of “soup-bowl effect” where the average students don’t have as much growth as the students scoring the lowest and the highest scores. Why is this, and how widespread is the soup-bowl effect on other standardized tests and even performance in the classroom? Who will be the advocate for the average students?

In my session, No Child Left in the Middle (3271), participants will explore explicit instructional strategies that teach students essential learning-to-learn skills needed to achieve higher levels of learning and performance. They will see how teacher inquiry and decisive action using research-supported practices will reduce the achievement growth gap for the overlooked students—the doing-OK kids, the average kids, the kids in the middle.

If you need more motivation to help these students, read this student-authored, anonymous poem:


I don’t cause teachers trouble
My grades have been OK
I listen in my classes
And I’m in school every day

My teachers say I’m average
My parents think so too
I wish I didn’t know that
Cause there’s lots I’d like to do

I’d like to build a rocket
I’ve a book that tells you how
And start a stamp collection
Well, no use in trying now

Cause since I found I’m average
I’m just smart enough to see
It means there’s nothing special
That I should expect of me

Nobody ever sees me
Because I’m in between
Those two standard deviations
On each side of the mean

I’m part of the majority
That “hump” part of the bell
Who spends his life unnoticed
In an “average” kind of hell

Bobb Darnell presents No Child Left in the Middle (3271), 1:004:00 p.m., Monday, March 8, 2010, at ASCD’s Annual Conference in San Antonio, Tex.