Abolish middle school

Middle schools should be abolished, writes David Banks in The Daily Beast. These “educational wastelands” should be combined “with the guidance and nurturing that children find in elementary school, or with the focus on adult success that we expect from our high schools.”

A former high school principal, Banks heads the Eagle Academy Foundation for Young Men, which operates five all-male schools in New York and New Jersey. The district-run Eagle schools serve low-income, minority students in grades 6 to 12.

Reading and math achievement declines in middle school, Banks writes. Even good students have trouble with the transition.

Too often in middle school the teachers have never received real professional development training to help students succeed in high school.  And, more importantly, there is little to no time for teachers to focus on establishing strong relationships with their students, which has a tremendous impact on how students perform in the classroom, particularly for boys.  A teacher’s ability to relate to his or her students is not icing on the cake of serious academics—I believe it is the whole cake.

. . . communication from peers can drown out the wiser voices of parents, teachers and mentors, trapping our young people—and especially our boys—in an echo chamber of voices as inexperienced and impulsive as their own.  Students struggling academically may decide to give up, while the bright but under-unchallenged may conclude they don’t really need to learn how to study, because middle school seems to prove that they’re smart enough to wing it.

The neediest students will get the most benefit from either K-8 schools or middle/high schools, he argues.

Banks’ book, Soar, which will be published in September, focuses on “how boys learn, succeed and develop character.”

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  1. Funny how he doesn’t feel any responsibility to see that the underchallenged become challenged, when it is within a principal’s power to do so.

  2. Ruth Joy says:

    K to 8 schools are consistently the best model, especially when kids in the upper and lower grades have regular contact. The older kids learn leadership and the responsibility that comes with being role models for the younger ones.

    • Michael E. Lopez says:

      That’s only true if there’s some sort of school culture in place — whether because of an underlying community culture or something specific to the institution.

      Otherwise, it’s just giving the 8th graders smaller victims.

  3. Ted Craig says:

    I’ve found the best break up of schools would be:

    K-2, 3-6, 7-9, 10-12. But heaven forbid education should have anything to do with natural maturation.

  4. Crimson Wife says:

    The town where I grew up has a single elementary school and a single secondary school. When I first went through, the elementary school was K-4, and the secondary school was 5-12, with the 5-8th graders in their own wing. Then when I was in 6th grade, my town built a larger elementary school so they shifted 5th & 6th grade back to elementary. This was a mistake IMHO because it weakened the academic expectations.

    Honors coursework used to start in 5th grade but got pushed back to 7th grade when that was the first grade in the secondary school. The teachers at the secondary school were more academically oriented and less “touchy-feely” than the elementary school teachers were. Assignments were more rigorous with more essays and fewer arts & craft projects. For bright kids like me who could handle the harder work, it was torture to go back to the “babyish” elementary level work.

  5. Roger Sweeny says:

    For you, no doubt. For lots of other kids, it may have felt like a godsend 🙂

    Two ideas seem to be common to K-8 all across the country: grades should be based on age and (just about) everyone in the same grade should learn the same things. Because people are different, this means it is inevitable that some kids will have it tough.

  6. The offering of appropriate academics has nothing to do with the school, configuration. The staff makes that choice.

    I went to 1 to 8 for 7 and 8…less than 10 students per grade level. We were all placed according to instructional need in math and english and foreign language.