Published on November 13, 2014 by Dr. Peggy Connell  

Samford University’s Orlean Bullard Beeson School of Education hosted a group of Alabama school leaders at the Middle Grades Leadership Academy (MGLA) Nov. 5 to address the changing dynamics for middle grade education in the state. 

Eight schools have been selected through an application process to participate in the pilot program that provides leadership development for middle grade leaders that will positively influence students’ academic achievement.

The MGLA is a partnership between Samford and the Alabama State Board of Education that provides educational leaders with critical practice models to enhance their leadership skills that are also aligned with Alabama’s Plan 2020.

Jeanie Box, School of Education dean, explained that research indicates many students in middle grades (6th-8th) do not perform at their highest academic levels, while research demonstrates a strong, positive correlation in student achievement and strong principal leadership. Effective principals create school climates in which student achievement improves.

The MGLA draws from a national team of experts to equip educational leaders with the knowledge, skills and strategies to activate students' interest and desire to learn, Box noted. Educational leaders in the program will develop skills to motivate teachers in their schools and to provide the necessary supports for increased effectiveness and continually improving processes.

"We are very proud to be able to help design, implement and assesses a state-of-the-art professional development model that is sustainable, research-based and one that can be replicated with proven results," Box said. "This is such an important time of development in the lives of adolescents and requires strong leadership to provide a culture of dynamic learning experiences that profoundly impact student achievement.”

The program supports school leaders through a three-year cycle of work that expands each year. When fully implemented, the leadership processes, strategies and practices will build leadership teams' capacity to create a culture of learning and continuous improvement. A culture grounded in collegiality and collective expertise will embed and sustain innovative leadership practices and will support the design of profound learning experiences that influence student performance.

The next meeting will be hosted at Samford in March.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.