Guest editorial: School realignment plan is flawed
October 13, 2015
Many issues relating to the proposed school bond and grade realignment have been raised, particularly around the very large investment in sports facilities. However, bottom line, the overall program has been justified as being good academically for children.
I take serious issue with that position. The proposal will do serious emotional damage to many young children and will be academically devastating for older ones. This conclusion was reached after reviewing well over 70 relevant, academic journal articles and consulting with a professor at Harvard University affiliated with the Center on the Developing Child. Space limitations allow for only a discussion of the proposed middle school campus. For a complete discussion of what is being done right and why Full Day Kindergarten (FDK) is a terrible program please see the full paper that I have posted on the Facebook page of "Citizens for a Better Education."
FDK is a driver for moving the 5th grade to a large middle school campus. It is stated that this change would lead to better academic outcomes because students would not be changing schools as often from the current 6/7 grades to the 8/9 grades. PC Schools has posted a link on their website to a paper which purportedly supports this theory of eliminating a school change within middle school as being the driver for better academic outcomes (Stuck in the Middle: Impacts of Grade Configuration in Public Schools, Rockoff and Lockwood). The paper does not say this. It says, "Alternatively, it may be that any move to a new school has long lasting negative impacts on student achievement. Given the limitations of our data and the types of structures currently used in New York City, we cannot estimate the impacts of switching schools at other grade levels." The entire thrust of the article is that middle school in itself creates terrible academic outcomes. "Moving students from elementary to middle school in 6th or 7th grade causes significant drops in academic achievement." "The effects are large and they persist." We also know from other research that these effects persist into high school. The author recommends elimination of middle school entirely with a K-8 lower school and a 9-12 upper school, which has shown to produce much better academic outcomes.
It gets worse. "Students who entered middle school in grade 6 underperform students relative to students who entered middle school in grade 7." "The immediate effect of transition in grade 5 for students who attended a K-4 school is larger than for students who move to middle schools in grade 6 or 7, and the cumulative effect of middle school attendance on achievement through grade 8 is as large or larger. This lends further support to the idea that middle school attendance may be worse for students who enter at younger ages." We are doing the exact opposite of what is recommended by the best academic studies! We are creating a huge middle school campus and moving students at a younger age. We are setting ourselves up for a potential academic disaster. The only good thing about this realignment is moving 9th grade into the high school. The causes of the middle school drop off are still not well understood. However one good statistical result sited in the paper indicates that cohort sizes (the size of any one class) "are a small but significant part of the decreases in achievement we document."
The paper goes on to say, "adolescent children exhibit increased negativity, low self-esteem, poor ability to judge risks and consequences of their actions, and other traits that may make them difficult to educate when they are together in large groups." Does not a single, huge middle school campus do exactly the opposite of this by creating the largest concentration of vulnerable adolescents possible?
Why approve a realignment that hurts our children academically? Slow down and reconsider.
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