Pennsylvania Association for Middle Level Education


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The 1970's

The Pennsylvania Association for Middle Level Education was established in 1975 under the name of Western Pennsylvania League of Middle Schools. Additionally, that year a conference, held at Raystown Lake. As it turned out, it was a working conference where participants were assigned to groups and the sessions produced position papers on selected topics.

On April 3, 1976, Dr. Donald Eichhorn was the keynote speaker at Trinity Middle School. At that event, Dr. Eichhorn’s comments included the following: “Middle school should be an experience center. Students should experience as many things as possible in an exploratory manner.” “Middle school should not be rigid and institutionalized. It should be open and receptive to new ideas.” This challenge helped to launch the first Pennsylvania middle level focused newsletter.

The first constitution was approved October 20, 1977. This charter document proposed that the purpose of the Western Pennsylvania League of Middle Schools shall be the general improvement of education for students of middle school age (10 – 14 years). That same year, an affiliation with the National Middle School Association was initiated. The Eastern and Western Leagues of Middle Schools became known as the Pennsylvania Middle School Association.

The 1980's

The first statewide conference was help at the Embers Hotel and Conference Center in Carlisle. The conference budget was $1200; with the Eastern and Western Regions each being assessed $600 to cover this cost. During this time period, conferences were held annually and typically registrations numbered in the 200-range.

The middle level newsletter evolved into a more professional format was its circulation grew. Middle level educators were interested in gathering and sharing as many ideas as possible.

During the 1980’s the executive board was very active as Ann Moniot was elected the first Executive Secretary. Pennsylvania was also represented at the national level as Ed Smith, Western Region, and Bill Daniels, Eastern Region, were elected as the first Pennsylvania Trustees to the National Middle School Association.

The 1990's

The 1990’s saw a change in the position of Executive Secretary and Len Ference was named the first Executive Director of PMSA. From that point, the executive board turned its efforts towards promoting the PMSA mission of articulating and promoting the philosophy of middle level education at the state and local levels. 

With that goal in mind, the executive board launched a number of new initiatives. An Awards program was begun to honor excellence in teaching, programs and students. A webpage was created and PMSA went online as, www.pmsa.org. A parent Advisory Committee was established which encouraged both regional and state level boards to have parent members. Two new regions were established and a plan for future growth was approved. Finally, the state treasury approached nearly $100,000.

The 2000's 

A Student Award was created under the presidency of Joan Jarrett. This award honors students who make positive contributions to their school and community. In 2001, the board decided to name the award the Joan Jarrett Student Award and is given annually at the state conference. Additionally, the world of middle level education was saddened, with the passing of long time advocate Don Eichhorn.

In the 2000’s, PMSA saw another boost of growth. A dual membership for PMSA and NMSA was researched and instituted for individual members. With the growth in membership, the board investigated the possibility of a paid Executive Director position to which Len Ference was hired for the 2002-03 program year. That same year, PMSA became incorporated in the fall and now has “not for profit” status.

PMSA continued to promote the mission, when in 2004 they were approached about hosting the 2005 NMSA annual conference. In November is 2005, thousands of middle level educators converged in Philadelphia for a time of enrichment, growth and networking. From those networking sessions, and the vision of the executive board, in 2006 PMSA became a member of the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform – Schools to Watch Program. This program joined with the existing school recognition program, the Don Eichhorn Award, to create a comprehensive school recognition system. Additionally, PMSA, under the leadership of Len Ference, joined the Learning First Alliance.  This partnership has worked to combine the efforts of many state and regional organizations in the area of middle level school reform.

Most recently, PMSA has grown to include the newly formed Southeast Region. This process has divided the previously established Eastern Region so as to best serve its’ members. The Southeast Region was created and began official operation in July of 2008.

The 2010's

After several years of consideration and study, the National Middle School Association (NMSA) voted to change their organizational name to the Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE) on July 1, 2011.  The reasons for the change are stated on their website as follows.

We're about kids ages 10 to 15, not the name on the school. Our organization supports those who work with kids in grades 5–9, regardless of the grade configurations of the schools that house them. The new name, the Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE), reflects the terminology used in the education field, represents our current membership more accurately, and welcomes more educators to join.

As an affiliate organization, PMSA decided it would be in our best interests to follow suit.  Therefore, effective July 1, 2012, our name was officially changed to the Pennsylvania Association for Middle Level Education (PAMLE).  Like AMLE, we represent and support kids ages 10-15 and the teachers and administrators who work with them regardless of the grade configuration of the building or the name on the marquee.

Other highlights include:

  • Partnership with Duquesne University for the Schools to Watch Summit
  • February, 2013- Began to partner with PASAP for the state conference.
  • January, 2015 – Began using a virtual format for an executive board meeting.
  • March, 2015 Dual-institutional membership between PAMLE and AMLE.
  • July 2016, Partnered with PASCD, PASA, PPA to conduct a summer PA Leadership Summit at the Penn Stater.
  • Hostedthe 2017 AMLE Conference
  • Hosted Summer Institute beginning 2015


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