Tuesday, March 18

Middle School Muddle: An outsized outrage -- will middle schools become the land of the giants?

The city’s new social promotion policy scares me. I keep imagining corridors filled with giant sneakers and puny 6th graders bumping into their bearded, muscular classmates who are repeating 8th grade.

It brings me back to our first tour of a middle school two years ago, when my then 5th grader had a funny reaction to the size of kids lurking in hallways.

“Mom,’’ he whispered urgently. “I can’t possibly go to this school. These are Middle School Giants!’’

It happened that the 8th grade boys who spoke on that day’s tour were particularly huge. Their voices had lost the high-pitched, pre-adolescent cadence. It seemed pretty intimidating.

But just imagine what middle schools are soon going to look like by the time my 5th grader graduates and the new social promotion policy takes hold. (Assuming he never bombs a major class or standardized test and gets left back, that is.) I predict huge improvements in the basketball teams.

The policy approved 11-1 by Mayor Bloomberg’s rubber stamp education board ensures that untold numbers of 8th graders are going to repeat the grade. The panel’s 11-1 vote came on Monday night as angry parents and protesters shouted “Shame on You,’’ according to the New York Daily News.

In support of his new policy, Chancellor Joel Klein says it makes no sense to send students “wholly unprepared into a high school environment,’’ and he’s right.

But it also makes no sense to turn middle schools into the Land of the Giants.

What about focusing our energies on helping struggling kids long before they face a fourth middle school year?

Read all of Liz Willen's Middle School Muddle


Vincent O Moh said...

How about this - Do what is here: http://www.rjgeib.com/biography/inner-city-blues/high-school/high-school.html

" I am not suggesting that youngsters who cannot meet standards remain in middle school. If three years in an institution had little impact on their learning, a fourth is unlikely to either. Students who do not qualify for high school entrance should be offered two alternatives. The first would be the option to enroll in an accelerated program focusing on basic skills. Small, intensive classes would help students catch up, pass the entrance test and get on with their education.

The second option would be for students who have no interest, at least at the moment, in education. These 14-year-olds would be able to enroll in apprenticeship programs where they could learn job skills in a field of their choice. Attendance would be mandatory until they are 16, but once they demonstrate their worth to an employer, there would be no reason why they couldn't be paid as they learn. The option to go back for the accelerated program would always be open and from there the door to high school or community college."

- You could propose this to Bloomberg

Anonymous said...

A great idea. As a parent of both high school and entering middle school girls, and a high school teacher, I think overage middle school students need a much different education.

My high school gets mostly overage 9th graders who score 2 and 1 on both 8th grade tests. What chance do these kids really have in large classes in large high school in "smaller learning communities" which have few or no sports, music or theater after school opportunities.

Is this an attempt to ruin pubic education for all who are "left behind?"