Kansas City, Missouri thinks K-8 “ele-middle schools” will provide a nurturing environment for students. Even in seventh and eighth grade, students will stay with the same teacher for all academic classes. I’d think math-science specialists and English-history specialists would make more sense.

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  1. Most small parochial schools already have K-8 schools, and even in those, they try to have math/sci vs. lib arts specialization. Often the 7th grade “homeroom” teacher will teach the math and sci to both 7th and 8th graders, while the 8th grade homeroom teacher will teach english, history, literature or vice versa. If anyone wanted, I’m sure they could study if such schools were in fact better by some criteria than other junior high schools.

    What’s the goal, here? Why do 12 yr olds need to be nurtured?

  2. The transition from one teacher in elementary school, to teacher for each subject in middle school is hard for some students to deal with. As mother of three 5th graders, (triplets) I can see my own children already stressed over going into Middle School next year. Many parents I talk to tell me their children struggled in 6th grade because the change in class structure. Having substituted in middle school myself, there is quite a lot of production and chaos as students come in, put books away, get their supplies and try to settle. That waste a lot of time before getting started. If students had the same teachers for 6th and 7th grade they would have more stability and less distraction during the day.

  3. timfromtexas says:

    Have the teachers travel from class to class,not the students. It really works at all levels.

  4. Walter E. Wallis says:

    How about even-odd schools? Surely Washington would kick in a few million to try it out and any proposal writer could come up with dozens of reasons to try it.

  5. It is foolhardy to believe that one teacher can be equally skilled in all areas of the 8th grade curriculum. Eighth grade ought to include algebra, a focused lab-based science curriculum, an intensive writing course as well as history and foreign language. How many teachers can manage that? I am all for keeping K-8 in the same school as this encourages family involvement and gives teachers and administrators a much greater opportunity to know their students, but by 4th grade teachers should begin specializing and students (or teachers) should begin changing classes.

  6. I’m surprised that kids find changing classes to be so stressful. When I went to school back in the 80s we changed for math in first grade, and in third we started changing for math and language arts (English/spelling/reading). In sixth we went to middle school and changed for all classes and had electives like band or chorus. I can understand that kids with no experience changing classes might find it stressful at first, but I would think that having some classes (like gym, and maybe some social studies) taught with homeroom should be sufficiently nurturing. It often seemed that the stress that some kids felt was due to adults constantly worrying about them being stressed!

    Another concern with having all-day classes with one teacher (besides the concerns about the teacher’s abilities in so many subjects) is that if the classes group by academic ability then you’ve effectively segregated an entire school, such that the smart kids never get to see that the kids in lower-level academic classes might be the best musician, artist, athlete, or foreign-language learner. If they don’t group by ability by 8th grade, I don’t see how the kids who will take business math vs calculus in high school will have both been properly taught in the same classroom.

  7. Nancy Flanagan says:

    Why do twelve year olds need to be nurtured? Because they’re twelve.

    As a long-time (30 years) middle school teacher, I find this trendy return to the K-8 school (think 1910) interesting, given the many long, convoluted discussions over decades, on “middle school” and the reasons for separating pre-adolescents from younger children.

    The idea of keeping 7th and 8th graders in single classrooms with only one or two teachers flies in the face of “highly qualified teacher” language in NCLB, which proscribes teachers with elementary/generalist certification from teaching in the middle grades, requiring a subject major or equivalent coursework. Even teachers with years of successful teaching experience in subject-specific classes at grades 6-8, but the “wrong” certification, are now being forced to return to pick up additional hours in disciplinary courses (even when their students are posting high achievement data). So–a plan to have two teachers, one Math-Science and another LA-History won’t fly unless the teachers in question have the equivalent of two majors, and have passed all state tests.

    And–why do people always combine Language Arts and Social Studies? What used to happen in middle schools was that the lowest teacher on the totem pole got stuck with the leftover, odd-lot classes. The original “middle school concept” was all about integrating curriculum, but we seem to be going back to our subject silos and automatically thinking that we need to separate the numbers from the letters.

    Most stresses for middle school students can be alleviated by excellent teaching and school leadership. I have been part of a grade 5-9 school, a 5-6, a 6-8 and a 7-8 and can tell you that how kids are grouped makes little difference. It’s all about meeting their academic needs first, and social-emotional needs next. Sometime, around the age of 12 (sooner for some, later for others), kids embark on the process of growing up. They need to be intellectually challenged and they need teachers who will patiently help them through the changes of dealing with multiple teachers, subjects and expectations. Keeping kids together K-8 will work only if the people running the program are capable and imaginative.

  8. The school system I went to was on a K-6, 7-9, 10-12 system. (Yes, that meant the Jr. High’s 9th grade record went on the High School transcript.) I didn’t find changing classrooms, etc., in 7th grade all that stressful. What was stressful was that my home room teacher, who was also the 7th grade Vice Principal, never learned to tell me from the retarded kid who was in the same home room. Somehow that home room wasn’t nurturing at all… The one thing that man did right was to leave most of his other duties to a highly competent secretary, who happened to be my best friend’s mother. (This was before feminism, when a woman’s best career choices were teacher, nurse, or secretary, so it wasn’t unusual to find a secretary with more ability than her boss.)

    But we already had some experience with different teachers and even with changing rooms. Grades 5 & 6 had a math and science expert teacher, who went from room to room. A few times a week, we also went from our classroom to the gym, music room, and art room, all with different teachers.