Design Teams

Let's generate actionable ideas to transform middle grades programs, practices, and policies so that all young adolescents thrive.

Research presents us with the narrative that early adolescence is an extraordinary opportunity for long-lasting, positive learning and development, if approached at the right time and in the right way. The great challenge is that middle schools today, by and large, appear out of sync with the needs and interests of the middle schoolers who attend them.

There are many promising middle schools across the country, however, multiple data sources suggest that, on balance, many young people are not getting what they need in this particular segment of the pre-kindergarten through post-secondary continuum. In fact, data across the board shows that the steepest declines in student outcomes occur from sixth through ninth grades.1

The purpose of the Remaking Middle School Design Teams is to bring together innovative thinkers and doers to generate big, bold, and actionable ideas to transform middle grades programs, practices, and policies to ensure all young people have access to middle grades experiences that are aligned to and support their developmental needs. The aim is that ideas generated by the Design Teams can be prototyped, piloted, and evaluated in the field.

Each Design Team will focus on one specific priority area that was surfaced at the Remaking Middle School Summit. We will begin with the following three priority areas, which all had a number of tangible engagement opportunities come out of discussions at the Remaking Middle School Summit:

  • School culture and climate
  • Teacher learning and professional development
  • Translating research to practice - and practice to research

To start, teams will identify the goal that they are working towards in their priority area - their vision for the middle grades in relation to their area of work. They will then name the set of challenges that currently exist as barriers to that goal and identify one specific, user-centered problem to solve over the course of the Design Team process. Critical to the team’s success will be articulating clearly defined goals and deliverables.

1. Gallup’s Student Poll has consistently shown that while health and wellbeing measures actually remain relatively steady in this time period, student engagement in school drops markedly. A recent report from TNTP highlights how declines in student engagement with classroom instruction begin as early as third grade—and precipitously drop between fifth and ninth grades. And the Search Institute finds that young people start out from a high in sixth grade of just under 24 “developmental assets” (out of a possible 40) to roughly 19.5 assets by tenth grade.


Design Teams will begin in the summer of 2019 and work through the end of the year. Be sure to check back for updates!



    • Charity Brown Griffin, Winston-Salem State University, Assistant Professor
    • Dimelza Gonzales-Flores, Higher Achievement, Director of Site Operations


    • Gail Anderson, Stephens Middle School, 6th Grade Science Teacher & AMLE Board of Trustees
    • James Barnes, Chestnut Ridge Middle School, Principal & AMLE Board of Trustees
    • Lisa Harrison, Ohio University, Associate Professor & AMLE Board of Trustees
    • Jennifer Kovar, Hauser Junior High School, 6th Grade English/Language Arts Teacher & Team Leader
    • Daniel Oscar, Center for Supportive Schools, CEO
    • Robert Randall, Providence After School Alliance, Director
    • Chad Ratliff, Albemarle County Public Schools, Murray High School and Community Public Charter School, Principal
    • Jenny Roe, University of Virginia Center for Design + Health, Environmental Psychologist
    • Latisha Ross, University of Virginia Youth-Nex Center, Postdoctoral Research Associate
    • Nancy Ruppert, University of North Carolina at Asheville Department of Education, Chair
    • Elizabeth Santiago, MENTOR, Chief Program Officer
    • Jason Vest, Henrico County Public Schools, Teacher & Administrative Aide
    • Megan Vroman, DC Public Schools, Principal


    • Penny Bishop, University of Vermont College of Education and Social Services, Professor & Associate Dean for Innovation and Technology
    • Christine Thielen, Middle school math teacher and Chair of the Board of Trustees for the AMLE


    • Robert Berry, University of Virginia Curry School of Education and Human Development, Professor & National Council of Mathematics, President
    • Banhi Bhattacharya, Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), Senior Director of Program Review
    • Todd Bloch, Warren Woods Middle School, 7th Grade Teacher & AMLE Board of Trustees
    • Kyle Conley, Citizen Schools, Vice-President, Impact
    • Sarah Craig, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Social Innovation Fellow
    • Ingrid Grant, Henrico County Public Schools, Director of Middle School Education
    • Penny Howell, University of Louisville/ AERA Middle Level Education Research Special-Interest Group, Associate Professor/MLER SIG Chair
    • Nathan Pietrini, High Jump, Executive Director
    • Rachael Rachau, University of Virginia Curry School of Education and Human Development, Graduate Student
    • David Strahan, Western Carolina University, Taft B. Botner Distinguished Professor of Education
    • David Virtue, Auburn University School of Education, Professor & Department Head
    • Josh Walton, Walton Middle School, Principal


    • Aleta Meyer, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Senior Social Science Research Analyst
    • Katie Powell, Southmont Jr. High, 6th Grade Teacher


    • Todd Brist, Watertown Middle School, Principal
    • Lori Desautels, Butler University, Assistant Professor
    • Mike Di Marco, Higher Achievement, Chief Strategy Officer
    • Shereen El Mallah, University of Virginia Curry School of Education and Human Development, Postdoctoral Research Fellow
    • Phyllis Fagell, Sheridan School, School Counselor, Journalist, and Author—“Middle School Matters”
    • Seth Feldman, Bay Tech Charter, CEO
    • Meghan Forder, Center for the Developing Adolescent, Communications Director
    • Joanna Fox, Everyone Graduates Center, Deputy Director, Johns Hopkins University School of Education
    • Robyn Harper, Alliance for Excellent Education, Policy & Research Associate
    • Johari Harris, UVA Youth-Nex Center, Postdoctoral Research Associate 
    • Mike Lyons, University of Virginia Curry School of Education and Human Development, Assistant Professor
    • Stephanie Passman, Albemarle County Lab School Campus, Head Teacher
    • Chris Rehm, Rehm Consulting, Educational Consultant
    • Winsome Waite, Alliance for Excellent Education, Vice President