Middle schools league names award for UF education professor

Paul GeorgeGAINESVILLE , FL—The Florida League of Middle Schools has established an annual lifetime achievement award in honor of a University of Florida education professor considered by many to be the nation’s leading expert on middle school education.

The 200-school league, founded in 1972, named the award for Distinguished Professor Paul S. George of the UF College of Education’s School of Teaching and Learning. George was honored recently at the league’s 34 th annual conference in Sarasota.

The yearly award will go to an educator selected for “leadership and service for the advancement of middle school education” in Florida. The first recipient of the Paul S. George Award was Orange County middle school educator Shirley Fox, who received her doctorate in special education from UF in 1993.

George has published 10 textbooks on middle school education and other topics that have been adopted for use by dozens of universities and school districts. The Middle School Journal described three of his books in one article as “classics in the field.” The journal also identified George as “the number one ranking scholar” in middle school education, based on a survey of 241 American university professors and deans.

The American Association of School Administrators has referred to George as “the foremost expert on middle schools in the country,” and he previously received the National Middle School Association’s Lounsbury Award for lifetime achievement in middle school education.

George has helped the UF College of Education maintain its reputation as the nation’s hub of middle-school education research and leadership. UF education professors were instrumental in advancing the middle school concept in the mid-1960s. They first proposed middle schools in 1963 as a preferred, transitional setting to the departmentalized junior-senior high school system for handling a child’s formative years. The college hosted a year-long institute in 1966 to study the middle school concept, involving 36 school teachers and administrators from around the South. Two years later, three UF professors co-authored what became the primary textbook on the emergent middle school at many universities.

George arrived in 1972 as the first professor hired for the college’s new middle-school teacher education program. By 1977, there were more than 5,000 middle schools nationwide. He has continued to carry the gauntlet for middle schools into the 21 st century, serving as an international consultant and publishing more than 150 books, journal reports, textbook chapters and multimedia presentations, many on middle school education issues. He recently has been investigating the change from middle school (grades 6-8) to K-8 schools in a dozen of America’s largest school districts.

George also has other research interests, ranging from Japanese education to the social organization of schools, and even the application of corporate organizational strategies to improving public education. H e also is one of the college’s most popular instructors and mentors for doctoral students in teacher preparation, having supervised some 35 doctoral dissertations.

Leadership in middle school education, though, is his legacy.

“This honor recognizes the important contributions Paul George has made to middle level education through over 30 years of extensive, carefully crafted scholarship,” said Tom Dana, chairman of the School of Teaching and Learning. “No one else in the world has had the impact he has had on policy and practice in quality middle schools.”