Back to K-8

New York City plans to close most middle schools — once considered an educational innovation. The district hopes to create K-8 schools and some new high schools for grades 6-12.

A preview of the city’s initiative was offered Monday night on the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, where the regional superintendent, Kathleen Cashin, won approval for a a plan to reconfigure five elementary schools and two middle schools, all but one of which would become grammar schools for pre-kindergarten to eighth grade classes next fall.

The remaining school, Middle School 180, will house a gifted program for grades six to eight. Dr. Cashin said that the K-8 model was in high demand among parents and that it offered numerous benefits, not necessarily tied to test scores.

“It’s an elementary-like nurturing environment,” she said. “Because children are older doesn’t mean they don’t need that nurturing care of a loving, caring adult. I have found the attendance is better, almost always. The violence is less, the younger kids defuse the older and the academics are at least as good if not better.”

Many of the city’s middle schools are designated as “needing improvement.”

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  1. D Anghelone says:

    I recall Junior High Schools as being a practical response to the overcrowding of the Baby Boom with the notion of Middle Schools coming later.

  2. Yep, middle schools were going to solve all the problems of education. Like almost everything else taken up by the Education Establishment it was an idea without rigor — that is not to say there is not research in education, but that what the Establishment takes up is based on other criteria.

  3. I suppose this probably won’t hurt much, although I do have serious doubts about the extent to which a gangbanging 15-year old 8th grader would benefit from a “the nuturing care of a loving, caring adult”, rather than discipline and structure.

    Still, I also doubt this will do much good, in terms of what schools are actually supposed to do, which is teaching. Anything rather than examining the modern curriculum, I suppose. Bleh.

  4. My son spent kindergarten and 1st grade in a primary school – K – 3. That’s what the area public school offered at the time.

    At first I was a bit bewildered by this arrangement.

    In the end I was relieved that he was not exposed to some of the rougher older kids…on the playground, on the bus, in the cafeteria. So much so, that I could easily be persuaded that separating the very young from teens and pre-teens is the most reasonable course, particularly given the lack of discipline one finds in public schools.


  5. Wacky Hermit says:

    I teach at a K-7 charter school, and it is great. However, if the kids there weren’t so well-mannered, it would be a disaster out on the playground. The older kids all treat the younger kids kindly, and everyone gets along. Part of that is the way they are raised, and part is the fact that our principal won’t stand for any kind of bullying whatsoever.

    But I can see how K-8 schools would be horrible if they had wild kids and/or a principal like the one at our local elementary school, who told a girl who was being tied to posts with jump-ropes on the playground that as soon as she was tied up by the bullies again she should come and tell an adult (as if she could move while tied to a post!) because without an adult witnessing her being tied up, she wouldn’t be believed. Or one like the principal at my brother’s middle school, who let my brother be brutally and continually beaten for a year, until one day the boy who beat him had the stupidity to do it on the public bus in front of a video camera. (My parents were able to file criminal charges; then and only then did the principal believe that my brother was being beaten by this boy.)

  6. Our town did something similar, because of the rampant problems with bullying and such: elementary is now K-4, there is a city-wide (small town, 35,000 total pop.) ‘middle school’ for 5th & 6th, then a ‘junior high’ for 7-8 (we had blatant problems with 8th graders beating up the much-smaller 6th graders). The big problem is that the high school is still 9-12. There are actually 2 high schools, and there is a lot of support for separating 9 & 10 at one school and 11 & 12 at the other — but not enough support to overcome all the football rivalry traditions that would end.

    At the elementary & middle school level it seems to work, as far as keeping the older kids away from the little ones. But the 5-6 school has become a cesspool: they recently broke up a sex ring, where the kids were keeping score on how many times they ‘did’ it, and they’re still fighting an ongoing but hushed-up battle with hispanic girl gangs beating up white girls in the bathrooms (not PC to even acknowledge it). Plus 2 6th graders dropped out last fall because they were pregnant. But the school district has done a bang-up job of burying it’s collective head in the sand – it doesn’t fit the city’s carefully-cultivated ‘image’ as an upscale, Ozzie-n-Harriet-type enclave, so just keep pretending it doesn’t exist in hopes it will go away.

    All-in-all, though, the separatation has done a lot of good to protect the youngest and most vulnerable kids. My daughter still had to deal with a bullying problem last year, and then the stupid PE teacher had the gall to call her a liar when she reported it – twice! I’m about to pull out the big guns on this idiot teacher – she just recently made a classmate of my daughter run laps on the school ‘track’ because she didn’t wear tennis shoes, even after her mother sent a note saying she’d been ill and wasn’t supposed to do PE that day. Apart from making an ill child run laps (the teacher got the mother’s note, but chose to override it in the hearing of the other children, my daughter included), the teacher then went inside to chat with her buddies and left this 8-year-old to run laps alone, in a neighborhood where the local paper the week before had identified that a registered child molester was illegally living with his mother – one block from the school!

    What are teachers these days using for brains, anyway? Do they take them out and play with them, because they’re obviously not using them for their intended purposes.

    Needless to say, the parents are organizing and are about to bring the big guns to bear on this idiot teacher AND her even bigger idiot of a principle (who just got caught having an affair with the husband of the PTO president). Talk about your Peyton Place….

  7. Hunter McDaniel says:

    Our local school board rammed middle schools down our throat a dozen years (despite a petition with more signatures than the number of votes they had received) and then proceeded to dumb-down the curriculum in the newly configured middle schools. The result was a major backlash, including two charter schools which I helped found.

    I don’t know all the details of the NCLB act, but I sure hope this isn’t a ruse to clear the record for these institutions and thereby postpone the consequences for being a failing school.

  8. Bill Leonard says:

    I question whether junior high schools were a response to the presumed overcrowding of the baby boom. I started to junior high school (in those years, 7th, 8th and 9th grades) in the Des Moines school system in 1955. My parents both had attended junior high schools, too — my dad in the late 20s, my mom in the mid-30s.

    Regardless, middle schools are a wretched idea. In our area of California, they’ve evolved as schools for grades 6-7-8, and in far too many cases, they’re simply cesspools. Both our sons fared well enough, but they were both large, husky boys. They weren’t bullied, but they were big enough not to be bullied, either.

    As to the teachers and administrators who behave in the ways posted on this thread, it’simple: those people need to lose their jobs. No reprimands, no second chances. Put a kid in danger through your own stupidity, and you’re gone.

  9. Walter Wallis says:

    If you can not maintain order, you can not teach.

  10. I meant to post this here.

    I’ve long believed that the biggest mistake we make when kids go off to middle school and high school is funneling them into even larger schools. If a middle school consisted of at most ten teachers and maybe 100 kids I think the discipline problems and bullying would not be as much of a problem.

  11. not a parent yet says:

    Middle schools are a terrible idea. You take 2,000 kids who are the absolute hardest age to control and put them together, and it’s “Lord of the Flies,” but with sex. If I had a daughter, I’d put her in private school for those 3 years.

    I wouldn’t be quite as worried about high school. Sure, all the temptations and everything are there, but I would trust my 17-year-old a lot more than I’d trust my 13-year-old when it comes to making those decisions. I know this might change when I’m a parent, but I’m not a “zero-tolerance” guy when it comes to older teens. Sex and drugs are normal things to experiment with when you’re 16, 17, 18 (at least, they were for me and my friends when we were in high school, and we turned out OK).

    With a K-8, at least there are only a couple hundred of the 6-8 graders, and the teachers aren’t as outnumbered by the little hellions.

  12. PJ/Maryland says:

    Several people here have mentioned school size. I agree that smaller schools are better, but the current system is stacked against small schools. Not only do smaller schools have a higher (per pupil) admin overhead, but there’s also capital costs concerns. The reason we tend to have very large high schools, for example, is because each high school needs expensive chem and bio labs, and PE and athletic equipment; a larger school makes more efficient use of their lab space.

    Another factor, especially in elementary and middle school, is the districting problem. If a school system has lots of 100-pupil schools, there are going to be many arguments about which school each incoming student should go to. Eg, if a district has twenty 100-pupil elementary schools, there will be way more arguments than if it has four 500-pupil schools.

    Most of this problem comes from the idea that kids should go to a specific neighborhood school. If the system were designed to give parents choices, many difficulties would disappear, although others would probably take their place (transportation would cost more, for example).

  13. John from OK says:

    All these K-8/9-12 vs. K-6/7-8/9-12 ideas remind me of the various attempts the Soviets used to try to increase industrial and agricultural production. Restructure this department; break up that department; merge these departments. Nothing worked until they threw out the whole system.

    I was 11 years old for most of 7th grade. I did not enjoy junior high school (7-9) but I am glad I did not share the same school with 17 and 18 year old seniors, or 5 year old kindergarteners.

  14. Mike McKeown says:

    My observations of middle schools suggest they are failures BECAUSE of their supposed ‘kind and nurturing community.’ The programs based on the ‘middle school philosophy’ are so busy trying to nurture and teach the learning skills students need that they forget to teach the knowledge and skills (subject related) that students really do need to learn.

    Once the affect of learning and the ability to have the poster board done just like the directions and the rubric became more important than the knowledge, they schools were in trouble.

  15. Bob Diethrich says:

    My random thoughts on ages and grouping.

    I like junior high (my expereince) over middle schools for three reasons:

    1. Ninth graders are better at the top of the food chain than on the bottom. As mini-seniors they take some responsiblity (student gov. and that) and tend to avoid being the total spazes they are in high school.

    2. Seventh grade is a good start to the “high school schedule” for the younger kid.

    3. Six graders do much better at the top of elementary than as the babies in middle school.

    I did teach at a “sixth grade ONLY” middle school, and that was a nice concept. Get them out of elementary (Baby Land) and get them isolated and used to changing classes, bell periods and more responsiblity, without older kids beating them into lockers.

  16. JimInNoVA says:

    One school here does nineth grade only, for the same reason. They figure they’re too old to be with 6th graders in a middle school, but there was a crowding issue at the high school. Apparently it helps ease the transition quite a bit, because 9th grade is geared towards preparing for “real” high school classes.

  17. We have Jr. Highs but it’s 6th – 8th. We also have a Freshman High – 9th grade only.

    Last year they started grade 8 1/2. It’s for kids that are too old to be in Jr. High but not really academically ready for 9th grade.

    It seems to work well.

  18. D Anghelone says:

    I question whether junior high schools were a response to the presumed overcrowding of the baby boom.

    The overcrowding was real in NYC. I started school in 1950 and we went to split sessions within a few years. Building extra grammar and high schools was not to be so the JHSs became a practical solution in drawing students from both.

  19. “The reason we tend to have very large high schools, for example, is because each high school needs expensive chem and bio labs, and PE and athletic equipment; a larger school makes more efficient use of their lab space.”

    Then break up the school into several smaller schools and just have them share the facilities and teachers for certain subjects.

  20. Rita C. says:

    I think smaller schools would solve a lot of problems, but facilities are expensive. The “house” systems in many middle/jr. highs/high schools try to remedy the situation, but I think we just react biologically when we’re forced together — on top of each other in many classrooms — in such large numbers all day without any privacy.

  21. I’ve often wondered why the government couldn’t just buy houses in neighborhoods and have this house or that house be a middle school or elementary school. They would save tons on transportation costs because the kids would just walk down the street and they wouldn’t have to build huge child factories, which are what our current schools are.

  22. If, after a while, a neigborhood has fewer kids in it, they could just sell the house and buy another house somewhere else. I think they’d have to start making school districts smaller and more autonomous with superintendents in charge of a small group of contiguous districts.

  23. ” Restructure this department; break up that department; merge these departments.”

    John from OK has a point… If this were about businesses instead of schools, it would be a daily occurence in the paper, take up about two inches by six inches, and be titled Dilbert.

  24. John from OK says:

    Thanks, Zach. I was thinking about Khrushchev and his inept attempts at burying the West that ultimately got him fired, but Dilbert works, too.

  25. Anonymous says:

    I’ve often wondered why the government couldn’t just buy houses in neighborhoods and have this house or that house be a middle school or elementary school. They would save tons on transportation costs because the kids would just walk down the street and they wouldn’t have to build huge child factories, which are what our current schools are.

    It takes a factory – to meet the myriad regulations imposed on they who would congregate children. Try starting a day-care facility at home and be prepared to be buried in bureaucrats.

  26. Tis possible to trim regulations, no?

  27. D Anghelone says:

    My apologies for omitting my name above.

    Tis possible to trim regulations, no?

    At the expense of the children? 🙂

    If you know how to trim regulations then there is a billion dollar payday awaiting you as uber-consultant.

  28. JimInNoVA says:

    D Anghelone – I know HOW to trim regulations, but no one will let me. Maybe the chainsaw and hockey mask put them off…

  29. i just hate it when people pick on me i just feel like making them feel the way i do …

  30. it makes me feel like shit i just want to kick them in the butt


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