What Grades Are in Middle School?

Middle school is the period of time in a student’s education that bridges elementary and high school. It typically includes sixth through eighth grades.

Students explore the social, cultural and political forces that shaped the founding of our country in grade 8. Past projects have included an analysis essay and a presentation on civic activism.


Many middle schools — or junior highs, as they are sometimes known — provide students with an academic-focused environment to bridge elementary school and prepare them for high school. They typically offer courses in English, math, science, social studies and history, foreign language and fine arts.

In English, students sharpen their reading skills as they study whole-class texts and join authentic book groups, and they also work to become skilled, passionate writers. They learn to use a range of literary genres and develop their ability to craft, write and edit their own works.

In grade 8, students build on their previous experiences in service learning by identifying and advocating for a local, regional or global cause that matters to them. They design and present projects that help to advance their chosen cause, and they also hone their research, presentation and writing skills. Students also take a variety of math courses, with most completing pre-algebra by grade eight.


Middle school is a time when many students begin to participate in athletics. While some of them are very talented and can make the high school team, others might find that they are not good enough to play at the next level.

Typically, a minimum grade point average is required for participation in sports. This helps to ensure that athletes stay in school and value their academics.

In addition, students who participate in athletics are more likely to remain physically active and build relationships with other students. The excitement of a successful team can also bring positive attention to the school and the student body.

Students on sports teams also learn to work in a collaborative environment and develop leadership skills. However, it is important for parents to help their students understand that sports should not take priority over academics. Students should always complete their homework and strive to maintain good grades. They should also learn to respect their coaches and not get angry or cry on the sidelines.

Fine Arts

Students in the arts build creative thinking and problem-solving skills that are valued in all disciplines. These skills include shape recognition, color differentiation, letter and number recognition, sequencing, kinesthetic awareness, following directions, hand eye coordination, spatial relationships, and more. They also develop valued higher order thinking skills such as comparing and contrasting, classifying, making predictions and assessing significance.

Fine arts instruction fosters student creativity and self-expression, as well as promotes cultural exposure and teaches artistic history. In middle school, fine arts courses support a transition from weekly elementary art to more sustained focus of learning that requires student goal-setting and resilience.

Fourth- through fifth-grade students have the opportunity to experience visual art as their quarterly Connection course while sixth-through eighth-graders take semester-long classes in dance, music and theatre arts. Students in sixth-through eighth grade may also choose to hone their performance skills by participating in the year-long choral, band and orchestra groups. These performances are a great opportunity to showcase their talents in the community and at school events.


Middle school students need to start thinking about careers. Using career awareness activities like interest and preference questionnaires can help them understand what careers might be a good fit for them. Students also need to hear from adults who work in those careers every day if they want to truly grasp what the job involves.

In Afghanistan, Morocco, and Tunisia, middle school (also called intermediate school or junior high school) covers grades 7 through 9, which are equivalent to elementary school in the United States. The next tier is Bachillerato (eleventh and twelfth grade) or Ciclo de Formación Profesional, an improved type of vocational school.

Schools that serve middle school and/or elementary grades should refer to the Elementary and High School Academic Policy Guides for policy questions. They may also contact their academic policy, student and performance or curriculum and systems specialists for additional assistance. NYSED provides a number of resources to support middle school educators.

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