What About K-6 and 7-12?
Q. For a
generation, we've had the grade school, middle school and high school concept
in most public-school districts. But people aren't happy with what happens in
the middle. They say it's a black hole, academically. Successful private
schools usually don't have middle schools. Perhaps we should copy them. Should
we get rid of middle schools and go back to the "grammar school" and "secondary
Possibly. That might be a productive change, although there is evidence
on both sides of the coin on whether it would pay off.
The "junior high" concept was intended to cushion young adolescents from
the sometimes inappropriate pressures of being around older adolescents. But
unfortunately, especially on the high end and low end of the achievement scale,
the middle school concept seems to be counter-productive. It appears to have
contributed to an epidemic of dropping out in the lower-income areas, and
concerns in higher-income areas that it's just a "holding pen" until stronger
students can get into high-school honors classes.
Most private schools offer an elementary track, usually K-8 but
increasingly K-6, and/or a secondary track, which is usually Grades 9-12, but
increasingly, Grades 7-12. It is thought that making one fewer transition to a
new school, new peers, new teachers, new curriculum and new expectations is better than the grade
school / middle school / high school model.
who support the middle-school concept counter that good teaching and a good school
environment mean a lot more than what grades are clustered together in the same
secondary educators who focus on at-risk kids, and those at the upper levels of
the academic ladder, appreciate a
chance to work with students two years earlier in their schooling careers. They
can begin grooming seventh-graders for challenging college-prep high school
work, and mentor the stronger students so that they can achieve even more.
say the vast majority of inner-city students have the same problem: they can't
read very well. With a hyperfocus on
reading and writing instruction, those same students can be brought up to speed
and prepared for high school by the same education staff who then are responsible
for preparing them for college.
especially a good idea for dropout prevention, educators in inner-city campuses
say, since reading disability is the No. 1 correlate of dropping out. Simply
giving kids hope that they can handle college-level work might be all the help
example, consider University Park Campus School in Worcester, Mass. It's a Grades
7-12 public school that has had extraordinary success with kids from working-class
families. It demands that they take honors-level curriculum, and over the past
several years, every single one of its graduates so far to college. Ninety-five
percent of those graduates are the first ones in their families to achieve
post-secondary education status.
Homework: Article, "Worcester's
Wonder," CommonWealth Magazine, Spring '04, and for a perspective
that is more positive for the middle-school concept, see www.MiddleWeb.com