Thursday, January 04, 2007

Death to Middle School

When we were in junior high school, my mom and her neighbor used to look at us and say, "They're at that %$@% age."

But what's changed? It's all over the papers--middle schools are a huge problem. Maybe a better way to get kids to learn algebra is to put on a cowboy hat and sing 'em a few tunes. Me, I hate cowboy hats. But middle school teachers who don't wear them are running away in droves.

Still, it seems no matter what you do, or where you do it, that's a problem age. Middle schools were the answer to junior high schools. How could you control those awful 7th, 8th, and 9th graders? It was thought the combination of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders would prove unbeatable. However, educrats now feel it may be beatable after all. They're trying new things:

At the Brooklyn Secondary School for Collaborative Studies, in Carroll Gardens, which includes grades 6 through 12, school does not start until 9 a.m., because the principal, Alyce Barr, believes adolescents are by nature not morning people.

I'm not a morning person either, but I have this job and all, so I force myself. I particularly dislike the 6-12 configuration, because I picture my little daughter (currently in fifth grade) wandering the same halls as that 21-year-old working on his fourth high-school credit. Also, my daughter's actually mastered the art of waking up in the morning, and she may need that talent in the future.

In New York City, about ten years ago they eliminated 9th grade altogether from the middle, junior high, or whatever they were calling those underutilized schools. They moved all the ninth graders to the overutilized high schools, and that's one of the reasons my building is now at 250% capacity (75% of NYC high schools are overcrowded).

Another thing they're working on is K-8 schools. Personally, I'd rather my child be around kids closer to her own age. Junior high kids, or middle school kids, or whatever you wish to call them are at a rough age, and even the very best districts have problems with them.

Moving them from school to school is not the solution. The solution is my standard prescription--good teachers, manageable class sizes, and decent facilities. There are no shortcuts.

Come to think of it, my mom and her neighbor said the same things about us when we were in elementary and high school (I'll bet they're saying the same thing now, as a matter of fact).
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