Middle School


Middle school is in the “middle” between concrete-and-cozy elementary school and independent-and-specialized high school. It is an essential and rigorous transitional period.

The grades in middle school vary – sometimes fifth through eighth, sometimes just seventh and eighth, etc. – however, the goals remain the same: 

  • Help young people embrace their identities, their peers, their communities, and their world; 
  • Nurture positive habits and lifelong skills like perseverance, organization, and growth mindsets; 
  • Maintain a safe and inclusive environment where everyone can flourish; 
  • Ready young people for academic vigor and specialization in high school and college.

Humans are social animals, and young adolescents are the most social humans – it’s in the hormones. If guided correctly in small, safe, nurturing environments, young adolescents can become the change we need in this world. If left to their own devices in large, unsafe, punitive environments, young adolescents will often perpetuate destructive behaviors: cliques, bullying, consumerism, conformity, and stereotyping. Young adolescents must feel and be safe, and middle schools must cater to their developmental needs. We cannot afford to take this unique developmental opportunity for granted. Smaller, nurturing learning environments make for optimal middle schools. The research says its true, and sound intuition agrees.


The best middle schools cultivate head and heart. In these schools Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is as important as academic work. In support of social and academic balance, AJLA’s high academic standards are at or above Connecticut Core Standards and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and our character standards are guided by the National Middle School Association (NMSA), the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools (CAIS), and the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). We believe in the symbiotic relationship of head and heart, and we seek to develop both.

Beyond academics and SEL, we support our students’ quests for balance, independence, and understanding by offering extensive co-curricular programs such as art, music, athletics, advisory, and STEAM. These co-curriculars are engaging, enticing, and eye-opening; moreover, they help middle-school students understand themselves and learn about self-advocacy, responsible decision-making, healthy relationships, and perseverance through challenges.

At AJLA our motto is “hope rising,” and we expect all of our students to be successful. In support of our motto and our mission, we hold the following “musts” to be true:

  • Educators must value working with this age group and be prepared to do so;
  • Leadership must be courageous, collaborative, informed, and innovative;
  • Shared vision and strategic planning must guide decisions;
  • The learning environment must be safe, inviting, supportive, and orderly;
  • The learning community must have lofty goals and high expectations;
  • Pedagogy must support discussions, research, choice, and active learning; 
  • Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) must infuse all we do;
  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ) must be a lens;
  • Each student must have at least one trusted adult/mentor;
  • Family and community partnerships must be nurtured and supported;
  • Students and families must focus on higher education, college, and/or careers;
  • Our support must extend beyond middle school to high school and college.