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Nov 10, 2012

School Configurations

My school is a K-6 building that is now expanding to add 7th and 8th grade...so we are now a K (actually pre-K) to 8th grade building.  This presents many pluses and minuses.  It is a big contrast to the building where I came from, which was 9-12.  Many other high schools in our district are 7-12.

I would love to hear opinions from anyone else who teaches middle school, especially.  How is your school set up?  Here are some thoughts that I have about the K-8 configuration.

Advantages           

  • Smaller grouping of kids - we can keep better track of the kids, and they have more sense of connection
  • Many kids have gone there for many years.  They know each other, and they know many other teachers in the building.  They have connections to each other and to other teachers, and less transitions at such an otherwise tumultuous time in their life.
  • Kids can gradually transition to the changes of high school - they can switch classes but in a familiar location. 
  • Older kids can partner with younger kids and be role models. 
  • Attendance does seem better, so far without the influence of the older students, and with more smaller group accountability.

Disadvantages:

  • As kids are going through puberty, they have social issues, such as those in a small town by being in such a small group with kids they have known, and maybe have a history with in the past.  There is no 'new blood' mixing in, or place for them to go to separate.  
  • There are behavioral advantages to 7th graders being "low man" rather than "top dog."  
  • Is it safe to have 7th and 8th graders, and all the associated behaviors in a building, and sharing buses and hallways with 4 and 5 year olds? 
  • are the facilities up to speed - changing rooms, large enough classrooms, locker rooms, rest rooms, desks? 
  • Can the school provide clubs, intramurals, afterschool activities and the full range of courses that students can enjoy at a 7-12 building or a true middle school?
  • Is the school administration, scheduling, attendance, report cards, etc prepared for the differences of middle school? 
What do you think?  I have recently come to the conclusion that middle schoolers really deserve their own place, either 6-9, 6-8, 7-9, 7 and 8....but they have unique needs that are not met well in a high school setting or a k-8 setting.  

Maybe an ideal would be an elementary, or a couple of elementaries, that funnel into a specific middle school.  That middle school would really be equipped to run as a middle school and help kids transition to prepare for high school. 

Here is an article that shows really inconclusive research about the best setting for middle school students.   and here is another article in favor of K-8, and against traditional middle schools.  

Weigh in with your opinion.

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