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.”