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Have you tried a work log? Either something they turn in daily or an ongoing journal that you check periodically.
It invariably comes down to assigning particular member tasks within a group, and the students receive two (2) components of a grade: personal and group achievement.
Incorporate an individual element such as assigned roles and functions within the group to the group work that is a part of the project rubric. This accounts for the group work as whole as well as for each individual student
Assigning each student a specific job, floating around the room to check in with each group, or having students write a paragraph about what they did/contributed to the group.
There are some great cooperative learning strategies you an use to hold all students accountable during group work projects. One is "Random Reporter". With the random reporter stately, all students have to prepare to answer a question, idea etc. Each student is assigned a number within the group. The teacher randomly calls out the number and the student who represents that number at each table must give the answer. So no one knows who will be called on, as a result, all are prepared. Another strategy is "prep the rep". This strategy entails tables working together to solve a problem, the teacher calls out a number and the table rep must get information from their table mates in order to answer the question completely. Also, working cooperatively and doing your part can be a class expectation and groups that show whole group participation can receive rewards and recognition.
Have you tried cooperative learning stations! There are dozens of station ideas for middle school ELA on www.literacystationinspiration.com! You can find all of the teacher monitor/facilitator printable to track progress.
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