Anna North thinks it’s time to ban middle school:

But separating middle schoolers out may actually be counterproductive. Mr. West said his research couldn’t pinpoint the exact reasons for the cliff, but the most likely explanation was that “there’s something about concentrating early adolescents in the same environment without the presence of students of different ages that creates challenges for education.” Essentially, throwing a bunch of 12- to 14-year-olds together with nobody else to mitigate their 12-to-14-ness might be a bad idea.

“It seems that there are benefits to students in early adolescence of the presence of much younger students,” he explained. “Perhaps that provides opportunities to be a leader, to be involved in mentoring relationships that are beneficial to students as they make the transition into adolescence.”

Middle schools may have some benefits for districts, Mr. West noted, like creating a diverse environment by drawing from multiple elementary schools. And until we know why middle school is bad for kids’ achievement, we can’t necessarily be sure getting rid of it will fix the problem. But, said Mr. West, “our research and that of others makes a strong case that districts should seriously consider alternatives to stand-alone middle schools.”

The logic makes sense to me. To me, one of the nuts I have yet to crack is a need for school, combined with the dangers of social norms being developed by youngers in large part due to their interactions with other youngsters. Having those awkward 12-14 year olds all together could exacerbate it.

Middle school is as close to hell as some people will ever see. This is known.

One of the big surprises, when I was doing the substitute teaching thing, was how much I liked middle school. It was probably my favorite assignment. If you’d have told me that before I started, I would have laughed.

The grade school kids are fun, no doubt, and it’s always an adventure. The high schoolers are more developed, and you can communicate with them in more of an adult fashion. But it’s a bit hard to connect with grade schoolers, and by the time they get to high school, the light in their eyes has dimmed. Grade schoolers have an enthusiasm for school and often for learning. By the time they get to high school, they’re in the holding tank. Middle school is that happy middle ground between the two. Happy for me, though probably as unhappy for them as it was for me when I was their age.

I don’t have strong opinions on whether or not middle school is something that should be done away with. My experience is that middle school was a very different environment from grade school because of the whole “switching classes” thing and the measure of independence that came with it. Independence which I consider to be a good thing.

My own middle school was grades 6-8. In arapaho, it was 7 and 8. I know in some places it is 7-9. Sixth graders were, in my view, too old to be in grade school, and too old to have the structure that goes with it. I actually think the same is true of fifth graders. If you were to collapse K-8, I’d prefer to see it done in a way that mitigates that. The problem is that having a bunch of students wandering the halls in between classes requires a degree of segregation that I am not sure doesn’t negate the alleged benefits presented for doing away with middle schools.

On the other hand, the data says what it says, and maybe delaying the autonomy is outweighed by other benefits?


Category: School

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4 Responses to Post #6727

  1. fillyjonk says:

    “Middle school is as close to hell as some people will ever see.”

    Quoted for truth. The worst year of my life, hands down, was seventh grade. A big part of that was my peers – at that age, kids know JUST what to do to push other people’s buttons but have not yet developed the tact or compassion (IMHO) to decide that they don’t want to do that. (It didn’t help that several of my teachers that year were “law of the jungle” types who never intervened in bullying, etc., even when they saw it happening in front of them.)

    I don’t know the solution. Maybe have a dedicated 6th grade, an 8th and 9th grade school, and put all 13 year olds into “twilight sleep” for a year. (Yes, I’m joking, but just barely.)

    • trumwill says:

      Sixth and seventh grade were the worst. Eighth grade was remarkably better. In part because there was nobody older than me, in part because some relationships I had cultivated stated paying off, and in part because there was a new school that year and there were a lot fewer people. The size of the school was the exact wrong size my 6th and 7th grade year, too small to be anonymous but too big to be friendly.

  2. Mike Hunt Ray Rice says:

    Middle school was so traumatic for trumwill that he couldn’t even come up with a title for this post.

    • trumwill says:

      Word.

      (I actually have no idea what happened. This post did have a title, and was supposed to be scheduled to go up tomorrow. Instead it went up today, with no title.)

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