Middle Grades

The Goal

Through youth-centered career exploration, every student should exit grade eight having found success in equity-centered career and technical education, academic, and social- emotional programming that cultivates student identity and inspires a path to postsecondary success. 

The Vision for Delaware 

The vision for middle grades is strong, equity-focused and well-rounded middle grades CTE programming that

Is open and available for all students to explore, grow, and learn before making critical decisions about high school and postsecondary plans

Eradicates the readiness gaps caused by an unequal playing field and inconsistent expectations of youth as they move through middle grades and transition into high school

Connects with elementary school and high school to create a continuum of educational experiences that prepare students for college, career, and life

Ensures all students arrive at high school with a healthy and positive image of themselves and a meaningful connection to their community, school, and their future identity

Equips all students with the academic, self-efficacy and social-emotional growth mindsets needed to succeed in rigorous high school coursework and early postsecondary experiences

Why Middle Grades

Middle grades (grades 5 through 8) are a time for students to explore their interests and develop a positive and healthy self-image as it relates to their school, community, and potential occupations.

For high school to be a launching place for young people to accomplish their postsecondary goals (whether it is to attend college, enter the workforce, etc.), middle grades must provide students with support, space, and programming that fosters exploration of interests, and makes intentional connections to career and postsecondary paths that young people can see, plan for, and actualize.

Read more on why middle grades: Broadening the Path: Design Principles for Middle Grades CTE (AdvanceCTE and ACTE) 

Profile of a HS Ready Student 

Designed by two Delaware students, rooted in research by ACTE and AdvanceCTE, and created by a diverse steering committee of partners with community feedback, the profile of a high school ready student outlines what skills and knowledge a student should leave middle grades with to be ready for high school and beyond.  

Career Exploration Standards

Rooted in the profile of a high school ready student and created by educators, the standards serve as a tool to support every middle school student in career exploration, identity development, and foundational career readiness knowledge and skills.
The domains of the standards mirror the six core areas of the profile of a high school ready student. They are not specific to any one pathway. Strong, equity-focused exploration aligned with academics and social-emotional learning in middle school is foundational for student success, no matter what pathway they choose in high school.
The standards, including the domains, learning priorities, and performance expectations, were crafted with partners across Delaware’s education community. They were initially drafted by a diverse team of emerging, current, and former educators and then given to a variety of partners for revision and feedback, including, but not limited to students, caregivers, teachers, school counselors, industry leaders, DDOE staff, and experts in other states.
Find additional resources like crosswalks, research, and more under “Middle Grades Exploration Initiative and Pilot” below.

Connecting In and Out of School Experiences 

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Work Happening 

1. Middle Grades Exploration Initiative and Pilot

In January 2022, the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) and Rodel embarked on an initiative to rethink middle grades from a student-led career exploration and equity-centered lens. The initiative launched a diverse steering committee of partners across the state who co-created the goal and vision of the middle grades work. 

Led by the steering committee, this work consists of three initial phases:

  1. Create a profile of a high school ready student and career exploration standards
  2. Develop and pilot implementation models
  3. Connect in- and out-of-school learning to support student development and transition.

While the work is ongoing, the steering committee has created numerous resources in concert with partners across the state. These resources include an equity framework, the profile of a high school ready student, a standards writing framework, the career exploration standards, and more.

Exploration Programming Pilot

In the 2022-23 school year, Rodel and DDOE launched a grant opportunity for schools to plan for and pilot programming rooted in the CTE exploration standards and supported by the profile of a high school ready student. Schools selected to participate will contribute to an implementation guide to inform and support exploration programming in middle grades statewide. Schools participating in the pilot during the 2023-24 school year include:

  • Las Américas ASPIRA Academy
  • Appoquinimink School District (Redding and Meredith Middle)
  • Bryan Allen Stevenson School of Excellence (BASSE)
  • Capital School District (Middle School of Innovation and Middle School of Excellence)
  • Colonial School District (George Read Middle)
  • Kuumba Academy
  • Red Clay Consolidated School District (Stanton and A.I. DuPont Middle) 

Initiative Resources

Pilot and Implementation Resources

Literature Review Summary

Kuumba Academy Case Study


AI DuPont Middle School Case Study

2. United Way of Delaware Landscape Study and GUIDES Program
Part I: Landscape Analysis

Landscape study was conducted across 10 middle schools and communities resulting in the Delaware 211 Out-of-School Time Resource

Summer Programs – Delaware 211

Part II: GUIDES Program 

GUIDES are full-time UWDE team members embedded in school during the school year and hybrid during the summer, with time split between training, program development, school-based engagements with students, and community partner coordination.

GUIDES engage in school day, after school and evening activities that connect students in school learning and out of school resources.

There are 4 pilot schools (Bayard, Kuumba, School of Excellence, School of Innovation) and two GUIDES, including one lead, assigned to each school.

Part III: Research and Scalability

Conducted by University of Delaware in conjunction with UWDE’s input and debriefing of Part I and II,  University of Delaware will review and assess UWDE Middle Grades GUIDES model and process to inform DDOE on how to best replicate and scale services that increase the connection between middle schools and out-of-school providers. 

Student Voices

Beatriz Ramirez , Student at William Penn

“Now I know what I want to do with my life, thanks to the focus on careers at William Penn. At first, I picked culinary arts because I didn’t know what else to do. But I fell in love with it!”