The Middle School Muddle
never liked the middle-school concept. Right when they are in those difficult
preadolescent years, the "tweens" get lost in the shuffle. It seems as though
the peer pressure and emotional abuse among tweens is rampant when they are
conglomerated like that, without any kids who are younger or older to balance
things out. The middle-school years tend to be academic wastelands, too, right
when we should be really motivating and encouraging youth in their academic and
career pursuits. Educators say you can't expect tweens to focus on academics;
as a parent, I say baloney to that. Academics is just what they need, to get
over the emotional whitewater of that age! I think the K-8 and 9-12 concept is
much better for kids. Does anybody else see the problems with "junior highs"
that I do?
Yes. It's already happening in New York City, Baltimore,
Cleveland, Cincinnati and Philadelphia. Among others, the Pittsburgh Public
Schools may join urban districts nationwide that are reducing middle schools in
favor of more kindergarten through eighth-grade schools. Their study has found
that middle-school students feel more socially isolated and report more
physical and emotional problems than their age-peers in 11 other Western
"When you make international comparisons and get
results like ours, that's a wake-up call," said Jaana Juvonen, a UCLA
psychology professor who co-authored the study for the Rand Corporation.
The study suggests that fewer school transitions would be
easier on students. It also found that although math, reading and science
scores have improved among middle-school students since the 1970s, American
students still lag behind their international peers.
Eighth-graders who attend K-8 schools in Pittsburgh score an
average of 28 points higher in math and 96 points higher in reading than their
middle-school counterparts, according to PSSA scores in 2003.
School officials believe returning to K-8 schools would
improve academic performance and would reduce the number of behavioral problems
among middle-grade students, said Nancy McGinley, executive director of the
Philadelphia Education Fund, a nonprofit organization that raises money for the
In Pittsburgh, Dowd said the school district has trouble
retaining children in the middle years.
About 77 percent of the city's elementary-age children
attend Pittsburgh Public Schools. The number drops to 67 percent, however, when
children reach the middle-school grades but climbs to 81 percent in the high
Schools in the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh always have
used the K-8 format, said Superintendent Robert Paserba, explaining that having
older children in elementary schools serve as role models for younger students.
Homework: This bold and brassy columnist
blames the colleges of education for dreaming up middle schools, which she says
have failed dramatically: