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Preface.

This final issue of Volume 10 of Middle Grades Research Journal reflects the perennial and multifaceted questions that scholars seek to explore regarding meeting the needs of this important target population. The transition from elementary grades to high school is fraught with developmental, organizational, and social changes that can severely affect the growth of the individual. At the same time, political reform of the educational landscape, specifically the launching of Common Core standards in English language arts and mathematics, has yielded a morass of concerns about teacher-accountability and student performance.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the articles in this issue pertain to key areas of inquiry regarding the middle grades: appropriate curriculum, teacher preparation, and the home-school connection. This triad of lenses allows the reader to examine and contemplate how middle grades students are faring in the current educational environment. Research into effective practices in the middle grades serves to inform those who understand how students in the middle grades learn and what internal and external factors affect that learning. The first three articles in this issue pertain to curriculum, while the remaining two articles address the roles of the stakeholders in the middle grades: the students, their parents, and their teachers. The researchers employed both quantitative and qualitative methodology, as appropriate for each study. Together, these articles provide a robust and multifocal view of the complexity that characterizes the middle grades.

In the first article, Jamie Mills investigated a specific area of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics preparation by exploring the performance of U.S. Eighthgrade female and minority students' achievement in learning statistics concepts using the data and chance content domain from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, 2007 (Foy & Olson, 2009). This study reinforces the need for additional research related to the teaching and learning of statistics concepts, with a particular focus on how to better engage and improve the achievement of female and minority students.

The next two articles focus on literacy in reading and writing. Kouider Mokhtari and Justin Velten assessed the promise of Word Generation, a research-based academic vocabulary program, on improving the reading achievement outcomes of struggling sixthgrade readers. The results of this quasi-experimental study suggest significant improvement in vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension performance among students using the Word Generation curriculum. The authors conclude that a modest dose of instruction in cross-disciplinary vocabulary instruction can help close the reading achievement gap between skilled and less-skilled sixth-grade readers.

In the middle grades, writing is becomes incrementally more important as students progress through the middle grades and move from input (reading) to output (writing.) Focusing on eighth-grade students, Joseph R. Boyle and Annemarie H. Hindman conducted an exploratory study in which they developed and tested a strategy to support middle grade students' persuasive writing skills. Their results suggested that, regardless of initial writing skill level, students who were trained in the persuasive writing strategy were able to implement the steps with fidelity and constructed higher quality written essays than students in the control group. The authors further discuss the implications of these findings for middle grades language arts instruction.

The final two articles turn the reader's attention to the interpersonal relationships that affect student progress in the middle grades. In a qualitative study, Amanda Wall and Samuel Miller examined four middle grades teachers' naive theories of motivation, and the links between those theories and their thoughts and actions related to motivation, as related to their overall visions for teaching and their strong identities as middle grades educators. The teachers' individual sense of belonging in the middle grades positively affected the sense of belonging among their students. The teachers also fostered success for their students by supporting student belonging by understanding individual students, relating academic tasks to their interests, and structuring class to support self-worth and self-efficacy.

Finally, in a complex quantitative analysis, Kenneth Tyler examined the relationship between middle school students' reports of perceived home-school dissonance in regard to academic cheating, a dilemma that has become more prevalent in the middle grades. Tyler examined the students' reports of academic efficacy, mastery goal orientation, performance approach goal orientation, performance avoidance goal orientation, and, finally, academic cheating. Regression analyses revealed that home-school dissonance significantly predicted all other variables, including academic cheating. Tyler also discusses the limitations of his study and implications for his findings. Nevertheless, he brings the reader full circle to the connectedness between home and school.

I am immensely proud of this final issue of Middle Grades Research Journal in my term as editor-in-chief. I believe it reflects the ongoing and concerted efforts among researchers in our field to understand and address the factors that affect the performance and well-being of youngsters in the middle grades. As a career educator, with more than 40 years of experience in our profession, I have long felt that the middle grades are the last and best place to affect the development of youngsters. The middle grades offer a golden opportunity to effect change while affecting student growth. With that opportunity comes the tremendous burden of acting responsibly. Research such as that we have in this issue helps both scholars and practitioners accept and pursue that responsibility.

As editor of this journal over the last 4 years, I have been grateful for the opportunities I have had to interact with scholars across the middle grades' community. Their commitment to students and teachers in the middle grades has inspired me. Their sincerity and altruistic commitment to their research have humbled me. To the authors, reviewers, and editorial board of this journal, I extend my sincere gratitude for allowing me to join our common effort. Thank you to Robert Capraro for suggesting I submit an application for this post and for his support as associate editor. Thank you, too, to Mary Margaret Capraro and Gerald Goldin, for their behind the scenes input as associate editors that has sustained me and kept me sane. A final thank you must also go to Founding Editor, David Hough, for his support and vision. I am immensely proud of my connection to Middle Grades Research Journal. I will always regard serving as editorin-chief of this journal as the capstone of my long and diverse career, both as a practitioner, teacher-educator, and scholar.

A TIME OF TRANSITION:

PASSING THE BA TON

This publication year, 2015, marks the end of the term of office for the current editorial team. Faced with myriad publication responsibilities in various other venues, Editor-in-Chief, Frances Spielhagen, and her team of associate editors, Robert Capraro, Mary Margaret Capraro, and Gerald Goldin, did not seek another term as editors. We are grateful for the support the journal has had from the Editorial board, our reviewers, and contributors over the last 3 years. We have strived to build on the legacy of quality and integrity that has characterized this journal from its inception. We are proud of the work we have done and look forward to supporting the next team as it moves this journal forward in the years to come.

In the spring, 2015, the Editorial Board of the Middle Grades Research Journal conducted an exhaustive search and review of applications for a new editorial team. Two very strong proposals emerged from this process, rendering the selection process difficult but assuring that the journal would benefit from the succession of strong personnel, regardless of the final selection. Therefore, we are proud to announce the new editorial team that will take the helm with the Volume 11, Spring, 2016, issue.

* Editor: Larry G. Daniel, Zucker Family School of Education, The Citadel

* Associate Editors: Renee N. Jefferson, Zucker Family School of Education, The Citadel; Aaron H. Oberman, Zucker Family School of Education, The Citadel

* Action Editors: Stephenie M. Hewett, Zucker Family School of Education, The Citadel; Tammy J. Graham, Zucker Family School of Education, The Citadel

* Style Editor: Mary Margaret Capraro, College of Education, Texas A&M University

* Editorial Office: Zucker Family School of Education, The Citadel, 171 Moultrie Street, Capers 307, Charleston, SC 29409

Transition to the new team took place during the fall, 2015, and is now complete. Frances Spielhagen will stay on as editor emerita, in an advisory capacity for the new team as needed.

Frances R. Spielhagen

Editor-in-Chief

REFERENCE

Foy, P., & Olson, J. F. (Eds.). (2009). TIMSS 2007 user guide for the international database. Chestnut Hill, MA: TIMSS and PIRLS International Study Center, Boston College.
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Author:Spielhagen, Frances R.
Publication:Middle Grades Research Journal
Date:Dec 22, 2015
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