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Fate of middle schools - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Fate of middle schools
I'm reading about the great middle school debate.

Apparently, the current common pattern of separate schools serving grades K-5 (starting age 5-10), 6-8(age 11-13), and 9-12 (age 14-17) is under examination, as high school freshman are coming in somewhat unprepared (and probably, to be honest, because it's better than flailing around). The options seem to be to go down to two schools--either old-fashioned K-8 (grammar school) followed by high school (9-12), or elementary school (K-5) followed by extended high school (6-12).

Having grown up in a small town, it didn't matter at all to me. I think they've rearranged since my stint, when the town had a K-6 and a 7-12, but you're with the same kids, more or less, from the time you enter school, no matter how the buildings are set up. The only changes come if students move in or out of town. The same people I was playing with in third grade, I was graduating with at the end of twelfth. That's going to be the same if they have a middle school, or a K-8/9-12, or a K-5/6-12. The only change is the address.

But in the cities, it's different. Elementary schools tend to be smaller and neighborhood based, middle-schools slightly less so, and high schools often gigantic and based on a system that's not geographical. (There are advantages and disadvantages to this.) Even in suburban areas, you tend to go from local elementaries up to regional high schools. So the question matters for a majority of American students, and I can see the intellectual arguments on both sides, but with my personal experiences being totally alien to the argument, I don't have a real feel for it.

The argument in favor of the grammar school/high school split seems to be a chance to keep them in the smaller, local school, where they feel safe, and are focused on the more basic tasks of getting a broad-based education before high school. There's not a lot of pressure to choose a future, and when the oldest kids are 13-14, it's not rushing them toward a lot of social pressures that are on older kids.

The argument in favor of the elementary/expanded high school split seems to be that a more continuous experience would have more controls in place to see to it that they mastered the material they'd need for their particular high school. Kids would have more exposure to reaching for future goals (like college) and have older students to look up to.

What do you all think? Any thoughts on the subject at all?
53 comments or Leave a comment
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victorialupin From: victorialupin Date: February 26th, 2007 08:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
I do think that just having two schools would work well, but honestly I don't see much of a difference. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, but neither seems to address the problem: that kids are coming to high school unprepared?

This solution would be great if they meant unprepared socially, but I'm assuming that it refers to academics. Shouldn't they be concentrating more on the actual curriculum than how to break-up the schools? :\
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 26th, 2007 08:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Shouldn't they be concentrating more on the actual curriculum than how to break-up the schools? :\

Oh, but making sure that they understand the multiplication table and how to parse a sentence is so much less fun than trying to engineer their social lives! :eyeroll:

To some extent, there's a question involved on what the academics should be. The K-8ers seem to favor layered-on general education for a few more years, while the K-5ers want to start focusing on particular things earlier. I think.
tdu000 From: tdu000 Date: February 26th, 2007 08:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
K-6 Grammar Schools! That explains why I read a fic that had Snape leaving Grammar School to go to Hogwarts. In the UK they're age 11 - 18 selective high schools.
mamadeb From: mamadeb Date: February 26th, 2007 08:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes. In the US, grammar school is a synonym for elementary school, which is usually K-6, but sometimes K-5. (Also note: kindergarten is not preschool, precisely. It's the year before first grade, and is considered an essential part of elementary school.)
luminousmarble From: luminousmarble Date: February 26th, 2007 08:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
I went K-6, 7-8, and 9-12. I think this worked; we had continuity through elementary school, were isolated in our immaturity but had a space of our own for two years, and had good continuity through high school, minus the fact that only a handful of teachers from my freshman year were still teaching during my senior year. I think it was advantageous to have big chunks of time at a single school.

I worked in a district that had (generally) a k-5, 6-8, and 9-12 plan. K-5 was okay, but in that setup, 5th graders were *very* problematic. (I also knew of some K-3 schools, which I thought was pretty cool, though what that does to 4th grade, I dunno.)

I went mainly to k-8 after that, with a separate area of the school for 6-8. In that setup, it meant that kids had a home base for 9 years. 4t and 5th grade, as the middle of the pack, didn't seem to show the aggressive, hormonal tendencies common in other setups, the 6th graders were really sweet and excited to be in a "new" part of the school, and the 7th and 8th graders seemed to have a safe space to show off the angst without the peculiarities of pressure from upper grades. It was a mixed school--local upper-class kids and kids mixed in from poorer neighborhoods, but didn't have the problems one might expect. Having 4 or so classes of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders meant that they all knew their teachers and their teachers knew them, and they were really involved in the school culture.

Downside for them? Fewer potential boyfriends and girlfriends (social), and greater difficulty in scheduling electives, especially for things like band, choir, and theatre, which a larger school can more easily support in practical student-teacher ratios.

I tend to think that the biggest reason for isolating 9-12 and 10-12 has more to do with access to cars, alcohol, and sexual issues than anything.
bwinter From: bwinter Date: February 26th, 2007 08:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was in 8 years of primary school followed by 4 years of "liceum" and I have to say I'm in favour of the model - it let us get through the bird-brained tween years safely (in the same group where dynamics have been setting since age 7) and assured we had a modicum of maturity by the time we had to pick a liceum and decide at least partly about our future, since they all had different primary subjects and specialties.

Right now Poland changed to the 6-3-3 model and it's a mess. Middle school is a hotbed of bullying, since hormone-crazed 13-year-olds get dropped in it with strangers, and 3 years of high school with the same four-year programme mean that standards are dropping across the board. Personally I think they'll go back soon enough.
a_t_rain From: a_t_rain Date: February 26th, 2007 08:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Middle school is a hotbed of bullying, since hormone-crazed 13-year-olds get dropped in it with strangers...

That was my experience with the 6-2-4 model, too, and one of the reasons why I think kids should stay in smaller neighborhood schools through grade 8. I can see some advantages to bigger schools at the high school level, when kids start taking lots of electives and getting involved in extracurricular activities, but a pack of 12- and 13-year-olds thrown into a big warehouse of a school and cut off from older role models or younger kids who look up to them is just a recipe for brutality.

Actually, if I ever have children, I'm going to give serious thought to home-schooling them for the middle school years, because my own experiences were so horrific.
mamadeb From: mamadeb Date: February 26th, 2007 08:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I went to a 7-9 and to a 6-8 Junior High School (we moved between 7th and 8th grades). I taught in a 6-8 junior high school that was just the last three years of K-8 elementary school - the three of us organized things independently, the students moved from classroom to classroom for different subjects (I was social studies and English, and 8th grade homeroom) and the kids wore different uniforms (this was a Catholic school.) I also subbed in a 7-8 "Intermediate" school.

From all of this - I'm not terribly sure how much kids actually learn at 12 and 13. I'm serious - the hormones are flowing and the bodies are changing, and the minds are fairly self-absorbed. I don't mean this in a bad way - they're changing so rapidly that they don't have room for "inconsequentials" like math.

There are times I believe that instead of school, 7th and 8th graders should be doing volunteer work or out in the fields or something.

That said, the Catholic school kids loved that they got extra responsibility and were good with the elementary school grades, which I would argue was good for them.
rikibeth From: rikibeth Date: February 26th, 2007 08:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
From all of this - I'm not terribly sure how much kids actually learn at 12 and 13. I'm serious - the hormones are flowing and the bodies are changing, and the minds are fairly self-absorbed. I don't mean this in a bad way - they're changing so rapidly that they don't have room for "inconsequentials" like math.


You have just described my 11-year-old, throes-of-puberty daughter. The one who started her period last month and is nearing my height and is wearing my shoe size. The one who can spend hours recording a spoken tape for her friends, but can't seem to get it together to turn in homework (even if she's DONE it).

There are times I believe that instead of school, 7th and 8th graders should be doing volunteer work or out in the fields or something.

I am RIGHT WITH YOU. Let her come back to math and history in a couple of years when her body's settled down and she has a BRAIN again. For now, let her read stories to the little kids at the children's hospital, or stock the shelves in a food pantry, or something.

She'd be SO much easier to deal with!
alchemine From: alchemine Date: February 26th, 2007 08:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Our school zone is K-3, 4-6 and 7-12. I like the K-3 part of it a lot because it means smaller classes and more focus on the needs of the younger kids, and I don't think 4-6 will be a problem, although it is sort of a weird place to break. However, I am vehemently opposed to the 7-12 setup. My daughter already looks older than she is and appears to be headed for an early puberty, and it just seems like it'll be courting disaster to send her off to school with 16-year-olds when she's 13.

There's a huge debate raging right now between the school district and other parents who feel the same way, and no one knows yet how it's going to end up. Most of the parents are pushing for either K-5, 6-8 and 9-12, or K-8 and 9-12, and I'd be okay with either of those. If they end up keeping the 7-12 setup, then we'll either be moving, or she'll be going to private school for 7th and 8th grade. Luckily, we've still got 4 years to work it out.
rikibeth From: rikibeth Date: February 26th, 2007 09:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
Lucky you! melovechocolate was a flower girl two weekends ago, and the adult bridesmaids all thought my 11-year-old was SIXTEEN! Which mean s she must have been on her good behavior and acting reasonably mature... to my eyes, she looks thirteen at most, but it's a toss-up whether she acts sixteen or SIX.

Oh, and that thing with TC and the roller skating and the skirt? Gotta warn you, that sort of stubborn doesn't dissipate at ALL by eleven. I was reading it going "oh yeah, me too."

At eleven, though, they're maybe a little more swayed by the argument that someone might see their underwear.
charmling From: charmling Date: February 26th, 2007 08:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
My school district growing up was such a disorganized mess as far as buildings went. Two separate K-2 elementary schools, 3-5 Intermediate School, 6-7 Middle School, 8-12 High School. However, they tried to separate the 8th graders from the rest of the school as much as they could, which really just made 8th grade an even more awkward and hard time than it already was. The only benefit to it was that we got to start languages a year earlier.
rikibeth From: rikibeth Date: February 26th, 2007 08:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
My daughter just shifted schools this year from an elementary school that went K-8 to a different school that runs 6-12. Both were magnet schools -- the K-8 had a "character development" curriculum, while the 6-12 is the Classical Magnet -- Latin and supposedly rigorous academics. I'll give them this, she's in pre-algebra in sixth grade, but I still don't know how good a job they're doing at teaching English grammar.

It's been a rough transition for her, although that may have more to do with external factors like the divorce. Socially she's enjoying it... she definitely has more friends at this school than at the previous one. On the other hand, some of her friends are older, and WOW, has my eleven-year-old become a teenager. (I'm fine with the music and the fashion. If she wants to dye her bangs red and purple and wear Tripp pants below her uniform shirt, that's okay. Just PLEASE let her not go boy crazy yet!)

Academically -- I think she is surprised that these teachers actually expect her to complete assignments to specifications and on time.

I guess it's best that she work it out NOW so that by the time she's in the 9-12 grades, she's got it under control.
ratcreature From: ratcreature Date: February 26th, 2007 08:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Here it's split into elementary school (grades 1-4, starting at age 6, though a year of preschool often done at the same place) and the secondary school of grades 5-9/10/13 depending on which kind of school you qualify for after elementary school (you get evaluated again after grade 6 whether you stay in that kind of school or have to switch), and I liked to be together with the same people and get familiar with all the teachers, but then my school, while in a big city, was not that large, only about 500-600 students in grades 5-13, and my year was particularly small (about 65 or so in grade 5 and about 40 in grade 13). There weren't a lot of truly problematic students in my secondary school, since most students were middle class and it had the option to shunt all academically underperforming or problematic students into one of the other school forms (which is why for example it didn't offer a school psychologist or any kind of counselling), which is evident from the declining number of people in my year. Obviously this kind of system puts elementary school students under considerable pressure though, because it is always harder to change upwards in school forms than to be kicked downwards, even though in theory changes in both directions are allowed.
singingtopsy From: singingtopsy Date: February 26th, 2007 09:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
My school district had K-6 elementary schools, 7-9 junior highs, and a 10-12 high school, and I think that works fine. I'm particularly in favor of having a three-year high school, though I understand that there are real disadvantages to that system. But personally, I'm glad I wasn't thrown to the wolves as a ninth grader, and there was more continuity for me than if I had gone to a two-year junior high. I know there's some concern about putting relatively older freshman in with the seventh graders, but I don't remember being hassled by ninth graders as a seventh grader, and I certainly didn't mess with or even really associate with seventh graders as a ninth grader. Most drama came from within my own class :).
As for academics, I can't really say, since my town had an excellent public school system and the freshman didn't suffer for lack of good classes at the junior high level (we had AP and honors Spanish at the junior high level, though they're changing that now, and advanced math in addition to GATE and advanced English, social studies, etc), which is probably not the norm for most districts.
I felt that both of my secondary schools seemed more cohesive and less threatening than the 6-8, 9-12 model and I'm in favor of it.
matril From: matril Date: February 26th, 2007 09:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
I went to a K-6, 7-9 and 10-12 setup, though by the time I was senior they were shifting it to a K-5, 6-8, 9-12 system. *shrugs* It worked pretty well for me. My junior high school years were fairly miserable, but that was mostly because all my friends from elementary school went to the other junior high - it was an issue of geography more than anything else. We were all reunited in high school. I didn't feel particularly unprepared, socially or otherwise. I was an ultra-geek with a tiny group of friends, but I can't imagine that being any different if they had divided the grades differently. ;) Academically I was fine.

At this point in my life, though, I'm having trouble summoning up much anxiety for how they reorganize the various grades into schools unless it has an enormous impact on special ed. My son's going to have trouble fitting in no matter what, so unless a 7-12 system miraculously cures his autism, it's all kind of meh to me. Personal bias, of course. :)
petitecrivan From: petitecrivan Date: February 26th, 2007 09:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
While the two school idea seems good on paper, I don't think it would work too well in an actual school. Imagine sticking angst-filled 13-year-olds who are trying to adjust to this strange new level of hormones in their body in the same school as little 5-year-olds who are terrified to be in a Big Kid School. I can't see it working. Then imagine putting those angst-filled 13-year-olds in the same school as 18-year-olds who are getting ready to go to college...who find 14-year-old freshman freaking annoying. Again...it would not end well.

I think 7th and 8th graders fit in their own school. There's really no way around it, in my opinion. These kids need to be stuck in one school together to get through all the crappy angst that they're going through, and they don't need to trouble 5-year-olds or 18-year-olds with it. The problem with my middle school is that we didn't learn anything. I spent 8th grade language arts class going to Barbie.com and watching Gone With the Wind over and over again. There's nothing academic that I learned in middle school that I've retained, except for maybe some basic first year French. However, I did learn a lot about myself and how to deal with other people, which is part of why I think students of this age should be kept by themselves instead of squashing them in with older or younger students. 12, 13, 14...it's a hard age to be.

Sorry if I seem ranty. Middle school was such a horrible experience for me that my brother was homeschooled.
From: octobersnow Date: February 26th, 2007 09:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

Though if I had to choose one of the K-8/9-12 or K-5/6-12 set ups I would have to choose the K-8/9-12 dynamic.

The silliest set-up has to be what my district went to the year after I left; K-5/6-8/9/10-12, with all the 9th graders being in their own building, but doing all the extracurriculars with their respective high schools, of which there were two. I thought it was a recipe for disaster. (I could just imagine the days before the big North/South rivalry football game.) I need to go see what's gone on in those 8 years.
rabidsamfan From: rabidsamfan Date: February 26th, 2007 09:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
In a perfect city, I'd like to see middle schoolers have the choice of staying at their elementary school for two more years (till the eighth), or moving to the high school at grade 7. I'll admit that I'm influenced in this by having worked next to the Rafael Hernandez, which lost a lot of its 6th grade to the exam schools, but still had classes for the 7th and 8th graders who chose to stay and pick a high school at grade 9. I think it would be nice for parents to be able to choose between wanting their kid to play mentor to younger kids or be sat on for their health by older ones.

Me, when I went to school it was K-6, 7-9, 10-12, but we moved before my ninth grade year to Omaha, where I had a choice between going one year to a middle school or starting highschool right away. My mom (and I) chose the high school, which meant I was in a small freshman class (most of the kids were either from Catholic elementary schools or had just moved to town) and I thrived on the stiffer academic standards of the teachers. But I can see where that wouldn't be true of everyone.
ladyvorkosigan From: ladyvorkosigan Date: February 26th, 2007 09:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
My understanding is that the other advantage of keeping middle school kids in elementary school is that elementary schools often have a sense of community (with parental involvement and the like) that middle schools lack, so they're hoping to keept that a big longer too.

I kind of like the idea; I would think it might be good for 12 and 13-year-olds to have a get a bit of responsibility and leadership as the oldest in the school instead of being thrown into a new, isolated angst factory with nothing to do but angst and create social drama. (On the other hand, I suppose it could manage to not have any effect other than to torment the younger kids with it).
springdove From: springdove Date: February 26th, 2007 10:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
The set up where I mostly grew up was K-4 (elementary school), 5-6 (intermediate school), 7-8 (junior high), 9-12 (high school). I actually rather liked that setup, as the number of people in the school was never overwhelming, but it increased bit by bit as you got older (and theoretically better able to deal with more people). (There were quite a few K-4 schools, only 3 or so 5-6 schools, one 7-8 school and one high school.) Now in the same town, the set up is K-3, 4-5, 6-8 (middle school), 9-12. *shrug* I think the strange break-up of grades is based on the actual capacity of the buildings to hold kids. The change to middle school occurred while I was in the 7-8/6-8 school. It was a junior high in 7th grade and a middle school in 8th. Now, granted, going through a change is always difficult, but having been in both the junior high and middle school atmosphere, I have to say I preferred the junior high atmosphere. I felt it was a better stepping stone to high school than middle school currently seems to be. I also think that 6th graders are just rather young to be thrown in with 7th and 8th graders who generally have raging hormones and just a different mode of being.

Personally, I'd like to see a setup that goes K-6, 7-9, and 10-12. I think it betters fits the way kids tend to learn and the maturity levels that you typically see in those ages. I appreciated having another year of "elementary school" in 6th grade where I had only a couple of teachers and more cohesive curriculum. I don't think I would have been socially ready for an environment like high school in 7th grade, though. I also liked having the junior high apart from the high school.

The extended high school idea sounds a little scary to me, as you might guess, because I'd rather see 6th graders have the opportunity to stay kids a while longer than make them jump up to that high school level so fast. I'd definitely lean toward the old-fashioned grammar school followed by high school idea. I worked in a charter school that was set up like that, and it worked rather well. Our kids were very bright and usually went on to do well in high school.

I hope this makes some sense. I feel rather muddle-brained at the moment.
trinity_clare From: trinity_clare Date: February 26th, 2007 10:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't have much of an opinion, since I went to a little Catholic school K-8 and a slightly bigger Catholic high school 9-12. But ditto on keeping the same friends all through school. When I got to high school I flailed a little bit because I hadn't really needed to deal with more than one or two new friends at a time. And then I went to a college where I literally knew two people going in, and I flailed a lot.
tdu000 From: tdu000 Date: February 26th, 2007 10:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
I seem to be having a different experience with my 12 year old daughter to those of other parents with children of a similar age. Here in Australia we have K-6 primary schools and then 7-12 high schools. My daughter's just moved to high school this year and it's wonderful. She no longer has to have lessons with the same children all day everyday. For Science English and Maths she's in a streamed class (different for each subject), languages are done by choice and the other subjects are in groups (for one group of subjects she's with one set of kids and then they're mixed up again for the other combination). It's wonderful. She mixes with a wider range of children, only has the girl who's spent the last two years bullying her in the same class for two subjects and is taking a great deal of responsibility about her homework and getting to the right class at the right time. They have some "pastoral care" time with girls from across all the years in her house (it's an all-girls school, many of the high schools in our area are single sex) and another period when it's cross-year interest groups (she's doing astronomy but there's things like fashion, jewelry making, IT, extra sport, all sorts). I can see that this wouldn't suit every child but I'm really pleased I didn't send her to a school that worked on a middle school model. (Although there are no middle schools here, many schools try to use a middle school model for the first couple of years of high school).

It seems to me that there isn't going to be a one-size-fits-all solution. It would be a shame if schools in the US (or anywhere) changed their system just because they want to be seen to be doing something about social issues.
stars_fell From: stars_fell Date: February 26th, 2007 10:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh, I will say that moving five hours away and starting high school in a place where you know absolutely no one sucked major ass. :)

I sort of viewed middle school as a gradual easing-up towards high school from elementary school. We got lockers and class changes but by and large were still treated mostly like older elementary school kids. So we got used to having more freedom before we got catapulted straight into the big kids zone.

Academically, I can tell you that I absolutely was not prepared for my ninth grade social studies class--Alabama history. I'd spent the previous eight years learning South Carolina history. :D Otherwise I think the school system I'd come from was more advanced than the one I joined in high school--we had been on the six-point grading scale, whereas in high school it was the ten-point scale--so I didn't feel like I was floundering at all.
midnitemaraud_r From: midnitemaraud_r Date: February 26th, 2007 11:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
My elementary school was K-6. In 6th grade we had 5 classes of kids. We had our "home" class (for instance I was in 6-B with Mrs. Grumm) but we switched teachers for most subjects - i.e. we went to Mr Dirlam for Social Studies, Mr Ward for English, Mr. Dowd for Reading, etc. This got us used to switching teachers and classrooms, since before that we always had the same teacher for everything. But the whole class switched together. While 6-B had Social Studies, 6-A had Science, 6-C had Math, 6-D had English and 6-E had Reading.

Middle school was grades 7 and 8. We had an orientation towards the end of 6th grade and everyone was assigned a 7th grade "mentor" who took us to their classes with them for the day, showed us around, taught us about lockers, etc. We had a general assembly where things were explained, but it was much better and much easier to actually experience it rather than just being told about it.

Also, there were 5 elementary schools in the district, so it wasn't just the same kids when I got to middle school - there were students from the four other schools, too.

High school was 9 - 12, and I don't recall anyone having problems adjusting because it was very similar to middle school - just twice as many kids and a bigger building. After the first two weeks of learning our way around and remembering our locker combinations and stuff, it was fine.

My HS graduating class was 548 kids. Breaking it down, we had @ 110 per grade in each elementary school which merged into @ 1100 total students in middle school, which doubled to @ 2200 in high school.

I also grew up in the suburbs of Long Island, New York. But our system worked quite well. If there's a problem with kids being unprepared, I wonder just how much that has to do with the curriculum as opposed to the structure of the schools

izhilzha From: izhilzha Date: February 27th, 2007 01:22 am (UTC) (Link)
As I was homeschooled, I have almost nothing to add to this conversation. :-)

However, I have friends who were homeschooled through 8th grade and then put into high school, as well as some who were put into regular school at grade 6. Those who went in at grade 8 seem have (by and large) had a much better/easier time of it, both with schoolwork and with peers.

If I had to vote, the old grammar school/high school split seems most logical.
kelleypen From: kelleypen Date: February 27th, 2007 01:55 am (UTC) (Link)
I went from 1-8 with the same group of catholic school kids: Very few changes each year, Same bunch of 35 in my class. What did it do? It entrenched us in our roles. Geeks were geekier, brains were brainier, bullies were surer of their status, and the popular kids were that much more popular. Academically it did some good things, but socially? It sucked.
aeterna13 From: aeterna13 Date: February 27th, 2007 02:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, I went K-8/9-12, and it worked well enough for me. I agree with whoever it was who liked having K-8 with a separate area for the 6-8th graders, because then, a floor away from the "little kids" the middle-schoolers can be middle-schoolers and start getting used to having lockers and maybe not having classes with the same people all the time.

Another convention that I had both in elementary/middle and high school (at completely unrelated schools that somehow came upon the convention independently) was grouping two adjacent grades together. In my elementary/middle school, Kindergarten and 1st grade were both single, unmixed classes, but after that, there were two 2/3 classes, two 4/5 classes, and so on. My 6th grade year, the 6th grade class was separate and 7/8 were grouped together, but then my 7th grade year, it switched the other way 'round, and 8th grade was separate.

I liked this convention because you end up with a different combination of the kids somewhere around your age level every year, so you're not stuck with the same people all the time. Also, you get the added change-up of being back with the kids in your grade-level for math, because it's grade-specific.

My high school had the same sort of program, only a little different. They had combined English, Science, and Social Studies classes for Freshmen and Sophomores, alternating every other year between two cirricula for each subject, but since you signed up for the classes that worked for your schedule (rather than having your schedule preordained by the administration), you ended up with a different mix of freshmen and sophomores in each class. (Junior- and senior-level classes were generally more specialized). Again, Math was organized by grade-level (though students generally came to high school at all different kinds of math levels. I was a year ahead of most of the others in my class just because my middle school started me a year earlier than usual.)

At any rate, as a freshman, I really appreciated learning with the sophomores because they were old enough to know their way around, but not so old that they found us lowly freshmen irritating. And as a sophomore, I was happy to socialize with the new freshmen and help them out.

Of course, none of this switching up and shuffling around of grade groupings makes any difference without quality education to back it up.
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 27th, 2007 06:22 am (UTC) (Link)
I read a book titled The Crack In The Cosmic Egg by Joseph Chilton Pierce at an impressionable age and have thought that our entire system needs to be scrapped.

People are not interchangeable parts that can all be treated the same way. Kids need to be learning "the physics of being alive" when we are cramming left-brained tasks into them. It short circuits the way our brains are hard wired. Until a kid has permanent teeth in their mouth, the last thing they should be doing is sitting for prolonged periods of time and being force-fed abstract ideas about a squiggle on a paper representing a sound that combines with other designs to.... well you get the picture.

And a thirteen year old doesn't need to be tossed into a herd of raging-hormonal seventeen year olds.

There needs to be less age segregation, which would seem a bit contradictory to that last entence, but there is nowhere else in life where people are segregated into spending most of their waking hours with people who are within five years of their own age. It stifles the ability to relate to a varied age-spread without feeling completely incompetent, and forces the missing out on mentors and apprenticing.

So, basically, there is no point in worrying about grade school vs middle school vs high school, when the whole thing needs be tossed and started over fresh.

I believe in this so strongly that I home schooled my kid using these principles. He was completely comfortable (at twelve years of age) to walk up to the Governor of our State and put the guy on the spot about a huge environmental-political problem the Gov was waffling on. Our State's law was that on "odd numbered years" the home schooled kids had to take the standardized tests (number 2 pencils colouring in circles) that the public school kids did (so that the officials could decide if home schooling could continue or if they should intercede in the obviously misguided attempts of a parent). At their fifth grade level, he scored at a Freshaman-College level in several of the areas; they tossed his scores so that it wouldn't make their curve go bad. Some of this is due to his inate intelligence, some because he wasn't "dumbed down" or squelched when he wanted to study any particular subject.
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 27th, 2007 06:25 am (UTC) (Link)
Sorry, something went wonky and the above posted before I was done.

Each person needs to be "taught" to their own level. The current system doesn't do that.

dalf From: dalf Date: February 27th, 2007 07:56 am (UTC) (Link)
My home town when I want to school did:

k-6 (elementry)
7-9 (jr. high)
10-12 (high)

But has now changed to:

k-5 (elementry)
6-7 (middle school)
8-9 (jr. High)
10-12 (high)
miss_daizy From: miss_daizy Date: February 27th, 2007 05:19 pm (UTC) (Link)

Way too much of my thoughts...

My girls go to a city Catholic school with a Pre-K through 8 format, which is very different from my education (public, outlying suburbs, a number of different schools) at their ages. I have to say I see a lot of benefits to it, especially compared with my experiences.

My oldest who is that very difficult age of 12 and in sixth grade has had a much smoother transition than I did. I think a lot of it has to do with having less to adjust to. She's moved into having greater expectations of and responsibility for her own education without the additional struggles of adapting to changing school schedules, social structures and familiar surroundings.

The kids in her class have a level of accepting each other that I don't remember from my own schooling. She's bossy and driven, but everyone expects that from her by now, just like they accept that A. brags, T. talks too much, C. is shy, etc. And this at a time when girls can really struggle socially with cliques and cattiness ~ it's a relief to see, especially since my younger daughter is less socially adept than many. She will really benefit from being in a classroom full of kids who have known and liked her for many years, despite her quirkiness.

And I do think this matters academically. No one is afraid to be smart or do well. It wouldn't work to seem not smart for popularity ~ their history would show that for false. Might as well be yourself with this crowd because they know who you are as much as you do. They are able to focus on schoolwork over friendship..well, as much as any 12 year girl is going to do that. Maybe equal to friendship would be a fairer way to put it.

The teacher from last year shares with the teacher from next year what everyone's weakness and strengths are ~ who needs a firm hand, who benefits from a little slack, who could use extra time with math and an extra challenge in reading. Sure, you can get that everywhere, but to have that flow of information being constant and each year building on the last for the first 9 years of education seems to be extra beneficial to me. With the breaking up of elementary and middle school, it seems our kids are losing that at the time they can least afford the extra challenges and lack of continuity.

Of course, I still feel that I was not well served by my schooling until I left the public system and moved into Catholic private school. I'm probably prejudiced by the fact that I had primarily negative experiences and my girls aren't dealing with any of the same sort of problems I had ~ they have different ones, I'm sure, and until they are reflecting back on their own education, I won't really know how it helped them.
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