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10 Sep 2005 - 19:00 (pro-)Middle School site:
Converting a school system to a K-8, 9-12 configuration also eliminates the transition from fifth to sixth grade that occurs when there are 6-8 middle schools. As every parent knows, whenever a young person transitions from one level of schooling to another, whether that is from fifth to sixth grade23, or eighth to ninth grade, or twelfth grade to post-secondary education, there is potential for difficulty. These transitions require developing new relationships with adults and peers, negotiating unfamiliar and unwritten social norms, and responding to expectations of higher levels of academic performance. Particularly for young adolescents who are also experiencing a variety of developmental stresses, the transition from elementary to middle schools can be problematic. The experience of adolescent development is filled with variables and unknowns, and one can argue that a potential beneficial effect of eliminating the fifth to sixth grade transition is to reduce, or perhaps just delay, the problematic effects of some variables.24 One researcher concluded that the fewer school-to-school transitions children experience, the more likely it is they will have a positive academic experience. After analyzing passing rate data from 232 schools in a large Midwestern inner-city school system, she reported:source: Still Crazy After All These Years: Grade Configuration and the Education of Young Adolescents (pdf file)As grade span configuration increases so does achievement. The more grade levels that a school services, the better the students perform. The more transitions a student makes, the worse the student performs..The longer a student stays in a given school, the better the student performs.25The K-8 configuration may also lead to unanticipated political benefits for the school system. Families of young adolescents are understandably concerned about losing influence and control over their children. While many families are quite involved in their childrenís elementary schools, their participation declines dramatically when their children enter middle school. This is not entirely the responsibility of the parents; middle school leaders often make less effort to engage parents as full partners in the educational process.
Our middle school does not permit a parent-run after-school program or any other form of parent involvement that would allow parents to set foot inside the door. This is taken to such an extreme that, I'm told, the school has a formal policy against sending notices home in backpacks about school clubs & teams. (Naturally I'll be checking this out on back to school night. I could be wrong, though seeing as how my source is the PTSA president, I don't think so.) The administration believes that, at age 11, children must become responsible for themselves, so it's up to them to decide which clubs and teams to join, and to handle the details. This week a mom who has one child in college told me that, back when he was in middle school, she used to hang out in the parking lot so she could introduce herself to teachers walking out to their cars. My sister has been told exactly the same thing about middle schools in CA. not entirely the responsibility of the parents—I'll say. When middle school starts, the doors slam shut.
parent info night for Carolyn
research on middle & elemiddle schools
TIMSS & middle school scores
locker woes & locker instructions
all your children are belong to us
middle school math teacher blogs
Dan K on transition to middle school
Fordham debate on middle school in DC
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There are so many different issues mixed together in the comparison of middle school vs. K-8 that I think it all boils down to irrelevance. In the end, it is probably much more a matter of execution than design. A school that is well run works better, whether students stay there for nine years or only three. The trauma of these school transitions sounds pretty over-dramatized to me. The kind of transitions that are really harmful are those experienced by transient (typically low income) families that move frequently from district to district, or different schools within a district, or back and forth between Mexico and the U.S. I donít know if those are addressed in the paper referenced as endnote 25 in the paper to which you linked. I know that administrators make a big deal about attempting to acclimate freshmen into high school, but I find it really hard to see it as such a big deal. Similarly, if all the kids from my elementary school are feeding into a middle school, itís not like Iím alone in the wilderness or stuck in a crowd of strangers. I know that personal anecdotes donít generalize, but, hey itís a blooki, right? So I will share that I attended six different schools for grades K-8. My family never moved. We just lived in a rural area outside town, so we were going to be bused wherever we went. Whenever a school on our side of town got a new addition built, we got bused there. Sure I had a number of bad first days or first weeks at school, but all the kids on my bus route went through the same thing. No one treated us as transient outsiders or kids who needed to be hazed or something to join the school. We just went to school. No big deal. Last school year, my wife and I were both working, so we put our younger daughter in an all-day pre-school. She was four at the beginning, so there were some transitional problems. Thereafter, she was fine. This school year, she has started at the public school. We did our best to prepare her, andÖguess what?...sheís doing well. Is this unusual? Of course not. If a five-year-old can go from a private pre-school to a public school with zero classmates in common, I really think the major source of middle schooler traumaó-when all their classmates transition right along with themó-is due to everybody warning them that itís a big deal. Itís a self-fulfilling prophecy. I can certainly see that itís much different for parents, especially if teachers belligerently keep parents out. Even without that, the fact that there isnít one, clear homeroom teacher with which to interface makes it harder for parents. The upside, though, is that middle school and high school accommodate more tracking and electives. So, youíve got to take the good with the bad. So, to me, the question is much more about when students transition away from the homeroom-centric model to the subject-oriented class model. Whether that takes place in the same building as elementary school or not strikes me as a minor factor. Of course, you can probably get lots of research grants to study it, and administrators can look like theyíre doing something if they change the status quo to the opposite. -- DanK - 10 Sep 2005
allyourchildrenarebelongtous -- CatherineJohnson - 18 May 2006