Sunday, January 28, 2007

Coffee Talk

Middle school can be a difficult time for many kids personally, socially, and academically. It is during this time that children become young adults, and it is truly life's first transitional period. Kids can be emotional, cruel, and extremely difficult to handle. School officials across the country have been working on various solutions to the issues facing our nations middle schools, and there are mixed opinions as to the potential results of these options.

The first option is extending elementary school to 8th grade, and allowing the students to stay in a more nurturing environment. A K-8 school would avoid the additional change in surrounding while maintaining the advancing curriculum of a middle school. An article this week in the New York Times tells the story of a frustrated sixth grader visiting his third grade teacher for encouragement during a lunch period. That same article uses the terms nurturing cocoon, and traumatic transitions. However, would this approach make the transition to high more "traumatic"? Would this affect the student's social skills, specifically their ability to communicate with teachers and students on a higher level? This type of format has been adapted in New York, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and Kansas City. A recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins University shows that this doesn't help the students academically, but I'm not sure if that is the ultimate goal.

The second option is extending high school to include 6th through 12th grades. This approach claims that the students will be more mentally and socially prepared for college, and this will allow them to focus on their life goals earlier then in a typical high school format. The administrators claim that students will thrive among the older role models. Unfortunately, this format has not been widely implemented, and thusly there is not a great deal of statistical data to evaluate. There has been 38 6-12 schools opened in New York City since 2002. Should 6th graders walk the same halls as 12th graders? How will this effect extracurricular activities, will all students have the same opportunities to participate?

Questions:
Does a change need to be made to the middle school format?
Which option seems most beneficial to the students and the teachers involved, and why?
Talk amongst yourselves...