Anybody out there want to rethink middle schools?

grabarart0920Regular Get Schooled readers know that I have doubts about the efficacy of the middle school model.

Despite decades of experimentation and refinement, middle school still doesn’t work in most places, leading me to conclude that the problem is not with the execution of the concept but with the concept itself.

In 2011, a Harvard study found that students moving from fifth grade to a middle school setting suffer a sharp drop in academic performance in reading and math, compared to peers who attend k-8 schools. The findings of the Harvard study confirmed an earlier Columbia University study.

Writing in Education Next, Harvard researchers Martin West and Guido Schwerdt explained:

Our results cast serious doubt on the wisdom of the middle-school experiment that has become such a prominent feature of American education. We find that moving to a middle school causes a substantial drop in student test scores (relative to that of students who remain in K–8 schools) the first year in which the transition takes place, not just in New York City but also in the big cities, suburbs, and small-town and rural areas of Florida.

Further, we find that the relative achievement of middle-school students continues to decline in the subsequent years they spend in such schools. Nor do we find any sign that the middle-school students catch up with those who remained in the K–8 environment once all of them have entered high school. On the contrary, students entering a middle school in grade 6 are more likely not to be enrolled in any Florida public school as 10th graders (despite having been enrolled in grade 9), a strong indication that they have dropped out of school by that time.

A local middle school teacher came to a similar conclusion about sending kids off to middle school after fifth grade. The teacher sent me this note asking how to start a discussion in the community about changing the grades configuration.

Here is her note. Let’s start that discussion:

<blockquote>I have been a middle school teacher for nearly 20 years and have gradually come to the conclusion that the middle school model does not work.

I’ve worked in DeKalb, Fulton and APS, and none of my schools used the true “teams” model with interdisciplinary themed units that we planned for in college.

I grew up in DeKalb in the 70s and have wonderful memories of my elementary school years and of staying there through the seventh grade. It is so sad now to see little sixth grade children in our building alongside, sometimes, 15-year-olds. They do not belong together.

I’ve looked at some of the research, and the majority seems to suggest that sixth grade students should be kept in elementary schools. Most of the studies cite discipline issues, but I feel that there is more to it: socially, it’s such an important age, as well as academically.

I wonder if there is a way to get people to start seriously rethinking the whole middle school concept, or at least the age groups within middle schools.</blockquote>

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

141 comments Add your comment

Private Citizen

March 12th, 2013
12:37 am

From a worker perspective, there is a great difference in “middle school” and high school. In one, they treat the worker like in adult, in the other they treat the workers like middle school kids, maximum control and.. what can only be called poor boundaries, where the admin don’t seen to know where they stop and you (the teacher) begin. Middle schools are really charge up environments, in this compacted grades 6-8, it is just a very charged up time, as if the kids have no student role models to look up to like on a high school campus. It’s way too many hormones in way too small of a box and some students both m/f go “full derp” with power tripping in middle school. Less campus transitions sounds like a good idea, but somewhere along the way a very substantial investment has been made with the three-school idea, 1-5, 6-8, and 9-12. It also seems inefficient as far as the amount of records that must be transferred and also there is much to-do about “graduating from middle school” which maybe for those who never finish high school is a “big thing.” sounds crazy. Ask any Georgia rural kid. “Graduating from middle school” is a big event, walking across the stage, the whole bit. now that you mention it, the whole thing seems absurd and lends to this fetish-importance thing going on with many kids, where regular rites of passage are a BIG DEAL. Why hassle with high school when you have been through “middle school graduation?” More mayhem and pomp from the administrative caste, always needing to invent some extra attention-seeking activity.

Another comment

March 12th, 2013
12:39 am

My now 18 year old by the Grace of God was lucky enough to be able to go to Catholic School from 3rd to 8th grade. These schools are K-8 . With only 2-3 classes full of students per grade.

My youngest daughter is unfortunately at what is suppose to be a better Fulton County public Middle School.

Last night on the way to my younger daughter’s 13th birthday celebration dinner. My 18 year old tried to tell her to enjoy these years in school. My 13 year old, said, B, you don’t know how lucky you were that you went to K-8 and never had to go to Middle school. She said that Middle School sucks to her big sister. I said, B, you know all your little sister has been is bullied. It has not been that warm intimate elementary style feeling you had. There are no true friends, no group sleep overs, it is impersonal. She said I am so sorry H. I forgot, I was so lucky, you are right, I never realy went to middle school. Then my 18 year old said what I meant was just don’t grow up to fast.

My Obama Scholar in 5th grade, grades have been all over the place. The difference in the quality of education she is getting is night and day from my older daughter. I feel so sad every day that I don’t have the $8,000 plus to put her in Catholic School. Now her grades have been trashed by the public middle schoool. I am frustrated beyond belief.

We should have K-8. Especially when we have such lack of discipline in the schools. We need to keep the schools local. It need to be our neighborhood schools. We don’t need to accept transfers from across the county at the middle school level. Buy a house in the zoned area of the school you want to live in.


March 12th, 2013
12:39 am

I teach at a high school and anything that would have students come to me more prepared than they are will be a good thing.

Maureen – you worry about 11-year-olds being with 15-year-olds, but you advocate having 4-year-olds and 15-year-olds in the same building. How do you deal with that problem?

Private Citizen

March 12th, 2013
12:42 am

If there was grades 1-8 and 9-12, or 1-7 and 8-12, that would mean less principals! When I attended middle school it was on the same campus as the high school and middle school students were not squat and none of them had a head trip about anything, as we were the little potatoes on the campus.

Private Citizen

March 12th, 2013
12:47 am

And there was one principal for grades 6-12 and no assistant principals, they did not exist on campus and an administrator never ever went into a classroom. Ever. This was in NORCROSS, GA. And there was no values brainwashing of any kind. We sat in the classroom and did our work. If a student acted out on campus, they weren’t there for very long. -Don’t seem to recall any students acting out on campus… not if they wanted to go to school there. Not the best school academically, but one thing they had was order.

A reader

March 12th, 2013
12:53 am

So this the middle school, the transition that causes test scores to drop occurs in in 6th grade. The article does not specifically which test scores, but let us assume it is something similar to crct.

Who cares? The “transition” has to occur at some point. And it is based upon a test score written for crct? Or some other equivalent but equally crappy test?

Would it be better to throw 3rd graders in with 7th graders? Or should be throw 6th graders in with HS seniors? Where is the data to support something like that? I doubt it has even been studied.

Private Citizen

March 12th, 2013
12:55 am

We should have K-8

Good idea. Today, mixing up middle with HS means social intermixing / dating. Yar, so someone snap their fingers and switch over the Georgia system to K-8 and 9-12.

Btw, I know a young adult male (now probably 20) who did not finish high school, but developmentally for him, middle school was like the high school experience for others. He had to go the extra work to “graduate from middle school” (emphasis) and before long he was done with the whole thing. Point is, the middle school graduation is sort of an accelerated imitation high-school graduation. Who knows who thought up that bright idea.

Private Citizen

March 12th, 2013
12:59 am

little sixth grade children in our building alongside, sometimes, 15-year-olds

True, that. More like 15 and 3/4 year olds. I practically got put into boiling water for finally asking, “Hey, what is the deal with so many out of age kids in the classroom?” Does not go together, dewey eyed little kids with wolves who look like they should have a driver’s license and full time job.

Private Citizen

March 12th, 2013
1:05 am

Want to get the head district administration really uncomfortable? Ask them about mixing it up with the out of age students in the general ed classroom. They do not have an answer and they do not have the resources to do otherwise. Does anyone know the legal cut-off? It is three years out of age level? What is the maximum age a kid can be in grades 6, 7, or 8? Because I guarantee there are schools that are pushing the limit on this and have no plan on how to deal with it. It makes for a messed up situation for some little kid who is where he is supposed to be to have some high school age in the classroom messing over the class functioning, throwing little objects at other students, taunting and messing with the teacher, refusing to do any school work and basically acting like they are really upset and really displaced until the clock runs out and they do not have to go to the school building (sixteenth birthday).

home-tutoring parent

March 12th, 2013
1:07 am

You’re just discovering this?

Revisit the ruminations of “experts” who came up with chronological-age-based classes and schools.

The truth is, smart, hard-working kids warrant accelerated studies. Who decided that algebra was suitable only for 13-14 year olds? My home-schooled kids started elementary algebra at 10-11. When their same-age cohorts were starting it, my kids were graphing quadratic functions, pencil and paper, solving them using completing the squares and the quadratic formula. At age 13, they derived the Law of Cosines, and learned WHY cosine(A+B) = cosAcosB + sinAsinB.

Not that their pre-pull-out-to-homeschool teachers advised us, “Your boys are really good in math.” They didn’t recognize our kids’ talent. They were math dummies. The people who set up the school system were math dummies.

If your 14 year old can’t prove sin2A = 2sinAcosA, you have to figure out whether your child is a math dummy or if he/she is attending a school run by math dummies. For our kids, we determined it was the latter, and our kids, as math-doers, were being abused, mentally.

Private Citizen

March 12th, 2013
1:09 am

You’d think if a superintendent is being paid more than $200k per year that they might have a plan about putting 15 year olds in the same classroom with 12 year olds. Well, they don’t.

Private Citizen

March 12th, 2013
1:15 am

The way they run schools, K-8 would be more like K- age 15. One thing about an out of age kid, a 15 year old in middle school. They’re very uncomfortable and know for a fact that there is no chance of them graduating high school with their age-appropriate peer group.

home-tutoring parent

March 12th, 2013
1:43 am

We live in a good time for home-schooling. A treasure-trove of knowledge online, not-too-expensive private schools allowing home-school kids to take foreign language and lab-science classes (it would be nice if the pubs would, since we are paying for them, but they are run by f/u’s), lots of parents sharing their subject expertise.

What did we have to do? Sell a 4k sq ft home and rent a 1.7k home, sell our Porsche and Benz, and drive Toyotas.

The trade-off was worthwhile. Waay worthwhile.

We did organic gardening. We went on lots of bike rides, skiing, backpacking and tiny-boat (Sunfish) sailing.

I taught my boys how to cook “my way”, in the manner of continuously experimenting. They met great girls, with whom they’ve shared cooking knowledge, and they continuously expand their capabilities.

home-tutoring parent

March 12th, 2013
1:56 am

Our kids had contemporary-age friends. But they really enjoyed conversing with 40-50-60-70-year olds. That was one of the best unintended consequences of home education. Who came up with the lunatic notion of age-segregating children? “You’re 9 years old. You need to be enclosed with other 9 year olds for 6 hours/day.”

Most of you are brainwashed, and you don’t even realize it, trying to “work with a system to improve it,” not understanding that the “system” is fundamentally designed to impair children.

home-tutoring parent

March 12th, 2013
2:00 am

Some of you blame parents. Okay. Where did these awful parents go to school? Ah, public school.

Ed Connell

March 12th, 2013
5:49 am

I think K-8 would be wonderful. I believe that smaller, community schools would be a step in the right direction- BUT, we have spent decades building these very large expensive middle schools built in towns. We are stuck with these buildings for the next 20, 30, or more years. The reason we were able to go to Middle Schools so easily was because we got rid of the Junior High Schools. It wasn’t a building cost change. How can we afford- in these economic times, to expand the elementary schools and what do we do with the large Middle Schools we have now? It is a nice discussion, but it is impractical to even bring up the subject.

Middle school teacher

March 12th, 2013
6:03 am

I recently visited a K-8 private school where every 8th grader is assigned a kindergartner “buddy” to watch out for at school assemblies and to read a certain number of books to once a week. I loved it. The students took it seriously; after all, an 8th grader is nearly a decade older than a kindergartener! It was great to see 8th graders put in a position of being responsible senior members of a community. It made me wish for the K-8 model, too.

Educator for Life

March 12th, 2013
6:10 am

I’ve been saying this for years. Yes, transitions have to occur, but there needs not be another one. One transition from elementary to high school is enough. The K-7 and 8-12 model I was a part of will also remove the extra “graduation ceremony”, which is ridiculous to have in the first place. We have, for too long, created a false sense of success for our kids by celebrating graduation from Pre-K, K, Elementary, Middle, and even High Schools. At 18, a student has accomplished much, so a huge celebration is unnecessary.


March 12th, 2013
6:14 am

I went to elementary k-6 and high 7-12 in NJ (Gateway Regional). No middle school, no junior high. It was fine. I don’t remember there being a lot of fights or other hassles.


March 12th, 2013
6:42 am

The problem is not middle school itself. The biggest issue in middle school is the number of students who are socially promoted in elementary school to “protect” them and many hit the academic wall in grades 6 and 7. Eliminating middle school campuses will not fix this academic deficit on keep it in-house for a few more years.


March 12th, 2013
6:43 am

-only- way too early


March 12th, 2013
6:56 am

I taught for years in a K-7 school and it was wonderful. The 6th and 7th graders were the leaders for the school. I have NEVER supported middle schools!

mountain man

March 12th, 2013
7:03 am

Why is it that they are always trying to change things based on some study that postulates a small improvement? Sounds like the “balanced calendar” fight all over again. Yes, let’s throw the 14-year olds (and hopefully 15 and 16 year old retained students ) into the same school with those 1st-graders. While we are at it, why don’t we just have single schools, with k-12 and NO “transition”. Then the HS gang members can recruit the new members early.

Old timer

March 12th, 2013
7:04 am

I taught in K-7 schools, 6-8, 9-12, k-8, and 8-12. I think K-8 and 9-12 worked the best. Middle schools do not work any better that junior high.

Old timer

March 12th, 2013
7:06 am

Cat lady, you are correct in the K-8 configuration the older kids assume responsibility. I never saw the raging hormone mess. It mostly shows its face in middle school.

mountain man

March 12th, 2013
7:07 am

“There are two kinds of fools one says “This is old and therefore good” and the other says “This is new and therefore better”. (I admit I am the first kind of fool – I am of the “if it aint’ broke, don’t fix it” school).

10:10 am

March 12th, 2013
7:38 am

Yet another question where parental input, in the form of free choice, might possibly lead to better overall results.

Suppose the parent(s) of a disruptive child had more options in deciding just which school among several is best geared to handle the child’s special needs? Including a KIPP school or one with a more vocational agenda? Or even a parochial school?


March 12th, 2013
7:47 am

How about a model of k-6, 7-8th, and 9-12 th. this is what we had when I grew up in South Ga. Adolescents need their own little space. Not quite teens but not kids either. I dread putting my soon to be 6 th graders with 8th graders. Big difference.

Holly Jones

March 12th, 2013
7:58 am

I went to a K-6 elementary school, then 7-8 jr. high before HS. The jr high experience was great for getting ready for HS. You figured out how to get to and from class and lockers in the allotted time, but in a smaller building. We also had a rotating schedule- 8 classes in a 7 period day so you missed one class a day and had to keep track of what class you were going to. We were given responsibility- something I don’t see in middle schools. No wonder they freak out as freshmen in HS where there are no single-file lines and no one is holding your hand (metaphorically). We didn’t have “teams” or “interdisciplinary lessons”- and I don’t see how those would have made a hill of beans difference.

My daughter is in a 5-6 intermediate school, which has been a good preparation for MS, but it’s in its last year. We’ll be back to the K-5, 6-8, 9-12 set up next year. And there’s a financial carrot on that stick- every year we haven’t had a “traditional middle school” (i.e. 6-8) we’ve lost state funds.

I taught one year in a MS and had to take “The Nature of the Middle School Learner” class. What a waste of my time. The sum total of information I got out of 6 weeks of class was: “They’re fragile.” “They’re dealing with too many hormones.” “They need nurturing.” These kids have no more hormones than I did, or any generation before. They are no more fragile than any other student. They need no more (or less) nurturing than any other student.


March 12th, 2013
8:09 am

Great points above. Having headed K-12 grade non-public schools for over thirty years, I agree whole-heartily with the sentiment of the comment of 2kidsinschool above, “I dread putting my soon to be 6th graders with 8th graders. Big difference.” From experience I can tell you – physically, socially, and especially emotionally, a greater than majority of kids suffer from being in a middle school environment. Incorporate all the positive aspects of the middle school philosophy – team teaching and the like into a K-8 grade physical set-up and use the older kids as role models for the younger. Even the most mature of 7th and 8th graders prosper in such a set-up. But more important, the greater majority who are less mature benefit even more.


March 12th, 2013
8:12 am

When I attended school in Denver, more years ago than I care to admit, we had Elementary (K-6), Junior High (7-9) and High. My performance actually went UP starting in 7th, especially math where I went from barely getting by to straight A’s through 12th!


March 12th, 2013
8:17 am

Old timer: For several years after opening a middle school they gave the opportunity for our 6-7 graders to go there, not required. It was new! Lots of things the smaller K-7 school did not have! Virtually NONE of the parents took that option. They wanted their kids in the smaller school where, at an important time, they were the leaders and not the babies. They finally closed the 6-7 at our school (it was undermining the “progress”) and it made everyone mad as pitch. And, of course, it was the wrong decision.

When I grew up it was 1-6 in elementary, 7-8 at junior high, and 9-12 at high school. It worked passably well.

NW GA Math/Science Teacher

March 12th, 2013
8:22 am

As a high school teacher, my first thoughts are definitely in line with eliminating the middle schools. What all is included with “the middle school experiment?” I tend to think of it as promotion without mastery and esteem outweighing academics, but I recognize that mine is likely a quite skewed perspective. I would note that I went to a K-7/8-12 (public) model. I think the greater difference in my situation, however, was that the schools were across the street from one another and part of a community. There seems to be an idea of passing the buck now – just move the problem kid on so that he’s someone else’s problem in some other building. I’m reading the Harvard study now, interested to see how my own view might evolve with it…

mother of 2

March 12th, 2013
8:29 am

I find it interesting that many private schools are either k-8 or k-12. The big difference is the small size of the school and the ability of hand picking the students in a private setting. We have huge schools in Fulton County; I don’t think that adding grades to any school will benefit the students.

Middle School parent

March 12th, 2013
8:29 am

@ Another comment…….You really know my story. I have an 8th grader and she feels the same way. She was an Obama scholar as well, and middle school ruined her. I’m just hoping and praying that HS will be better for her. And yes, we do live in DeKalb County. :(


March 12th, 2013
8:39 am

the middle school idea will go down as the second biggest failure in public education in georgia , right behind busing….. kindergarten and pre k should be left to the parents , the school system should not pay for K and pre k , AND go back to k-7 elementary schools and 8-12 high schools and everyone will be better off !!!

Progressive Humanist

March 12th, 2013
8:58 am

When I observe my student-teachers at the middle school I work with I am always shocked at the huge differences in the environment between those who teach in 6th grade classrooms and those in the 8th grade classrooms (I only taught high school myself). The 6th grade students are exactly like elementary students- eager to learn, full of positive motivation, curious, bubbly, cooperative towards the teacher, etc. The 8th grade students are just like high school kids- sarcastic, not particularly well motivated, more difficult to manage instructionally and behaviorally, lots of eye rolls, more interested in socializing than academics. I am continuously surprised at how much change happens during those three years when I go from observing a 6th grade classroom directly to observing an 8th grade classroom the next period. I agree that the middle school model may not be the best idea for kids developmentally.

old teach

March 12th, 2013
9:01 am

When I attended school, the 1-7, 8-9, and 10-12 model was used. We had to rotate classes in junior high, and I don’t recall having any trouble keeping up with what came first after weekends or holidays. It seemed to work fine, but I can also see the merits of a k-6, 7-8, and 9-12 model. Either of these models will probably be more useful in the remediation of those students who are falling behind. I suppose the junior high model assigns more student responsibility and more “mature expectations.”

Looking for the truth

March 12th, 2013
9:05 am

As a middle grades teacher, I can honestly say part of the problem is the lack of taking things serioiusly, both on the part of the kids, parents and,yes, some teachers. Middle school as devolved into a holding pattern for students in between elementary and high school. Inconsistent promotion criteria, the mixture of treating them like “little kids” for some offenses and “young adults” for others is even more confusing to them. Combine that with middle school is only three years long and you have a recipe for disaster.

Bring back k-7 and 8-12!! You’ll find everyone – teachers, parents and students – will be happier and more successful.

southern opinion

March 12th, 2013
9:07 am

I teach middle school and it is very similar to going to war every day. The bad kids reign with classroom disruptions and poor academic skills. Many kids see this as an exit in a few years, so why should they care! We had bells in middle school – no arguing with a bell. Now it is let me wander in when I get through socializing. We were competitive with grades back in the day, not so anymore especially in the urban schools. Students compete but for the most could care less attitude and academic achievements. I am about to retire after teaching 20+ years and school has really changed. Everybody better start learning to speak Chinese, Japanese, and Indian because we’ll be working for them soon.

Middle School Teacher

March 12th, 2013
9:16 am

I think the most pressing argument for keeping kids in a K-8 environment is the continuity. When kids come to middle school they are with a totally new group of educators at a time when they are trying on who they will be. Their elementary teachers are out of the picture and they aren’t looking (with more mature eyes) on the consequences of behaviors & study skills (or lack thereof) on the big picture like most kids do in high school. The opportunities for their elementary teachers to counsel them during this phase of their lives (IMHO) is very valuable in the emotional growth of those kids.

Mariah Stovall

March 12th, 2013
9:26 am

For a model that DOES work, please consider Mt. Laurel, a town in Southern New Jersey with several elementary schools that are K-4. Then they have Hartford, variously described as an “upper elementary” and “lower middle” school where all of the town’s students go for 5th and 6th grades only. After that, they go to Harrington Middle School, which is exclusively 7th and 8th grades. This system works because the 5th and 6th graders are beginning to get hormones and all that comes with that, so it’s not appropriate for them to be with the younger students, though clearly they aren’t ready to be in school with the 7th and 8th graders yet. Check it out–it worked for my family.

Old School

March 12th, 2013
9:36 am

Both of our girls attended a K-8 rural school here in Southwest Georgia and got excellent educations. It was small enough that every teacher knew every student (as did the principal). Both did very well in college and both have excellent careers that earn them more than my husband’s and my careers combined. (He taught 6th-8th grade Social Studies/Georgia History and I taught high school Industrial Arts and Engineering Drawing.)

I would have sent them to a private school before I would have let them attend our middle school.


March 12th, 2013
9:43 am

This makes me really glad we homeschool our kids.

Kids that age should be starting to learn how to behave like adults, but what do we do with them? We immerse them in an environment with hundreds of other clueless kids and just a handful of adults. Then, after school, they hang out with their same-age friends or go to activities with other kids their age. There is little opportunity for them to model their behavior after responsible, caring adults, so they become peer-dependent and make their choices based on the ‘wisdom’ they get from other middle school kids.


March 12th, 2013
9:44 am

The issues critical thinking. Take the Barnette sisters 1943 WestVirginia, forced a case to the Supreme Court. West Virginia vs. The Barnettes. The sisters believed as Jehovas Witnesses they should not salute the American Flag. Their religion specifically states that no graven images should be before Jehova. The Supreme Court decided in their favor March 11, 1943.
This is the kind of thinking children should be doing, learning to think for themselves rather than grousing about whether k-8 is better than middle school.

Dr. John Trotter

March 12th, 2013
9:46 am

Maureen: I know that some of your loyal readers are tiring of me saying, “I told you so” once again, but you may recall that I have occasionally harped (not a Big Harp) against the whole middle school concept. Oh, I remember so well when it came down the pike in the mid-1980s. Just another fad that sprang from the thoughts of a college of education professor bent on making tenure by publishing any strained notion that was deemed publishable.

I had taught and coached over 30 years ago at Jonesboro Jr. High School (Grades 7 through 9). Before this, I had taught and coached at Southwest DeKalb High School (Grades 8 through 12) and taught at Greene County High (Grades 9 through 12) and was assistant principal at Washington High School (Grades 10 through 12). After Jonesboro, I had been an administrator at a school that had officially switched to the hallowed “middle school concept” but was still called a “junior high.” I have experienced every conceivable organizational structure for schools. Oh, back to Jonesboro, the school became “Jonesboro Middle School” and even did away with the rough-sounding “Red Devil” mascot and embraced the “Golden Bear,” much to the chagrin of the students. But, “Golden Bears” was much more cuddly-sounding. Heck, I was so politically incorrect (can you believe this?) that I even had the students to begin calling ourselves “the Dirty Devils.” We indeed had the image of the Oakland Raiders. Ha! We would put the “Jone-buh” on you!

But, according to the Quality Basic Education Act (QBE) passed here in Georgia in 1985 (or was that 1986?), all school systems were given huge financial incentives if they adopted the middle school concept. This is the concept wherein the students at this tender, transitional age would be pampered, spoiled, and coddled…for fear that their precious self-esteem might be bruised if the teachers demanding too much of them. Hence, when they arrived at high school, they were irresponsible and no longer had mommie around to ask the teachers for forgive their kiddies for not bringing their books or pencil and paper to class. Yes, it was a sharp line of demarcation when these somewhat spoiled youngsters reach high school.

The middle school kiddies were not held accountable by the same standards that the junior high students were held. Heck, when I graded papers, I had the entire class sometimes gather around my desk to see what others made. We called the grades out loud for all to hear. The students loved it! If a governor or lieutenant or speaker of the house in one of my classes did not make the expected high mark on the test, then a recall petition might be started immediately. Oh, with the middle school concept, I am sure that I would have been fired immediately for “embarrassing” the soft egos at this tender age, but they would have fired me over the protests of students and parents because the students loved this!

Yes, I have said from the beginning that “the middle school concept” (as it was so reverently called) was a crock. A total crock. Just as the entire QBE program was a crock. A waste of millions and millions of tax dollars. I said from the beginning that “QBE” stood for “Quit Being an Educator.” This program too has been slowly dismantled. Darn it – it’s so tough being right on all of this stuff all of the time!

As I quickly Googled my name and “middle school,” I came across the following written nearly three years ago by some anonymous poster. I had never seen it, but this poster said that I should be “required reading.” Ha! I am beginning to feel like Ric Flair or at least Rowdy Roddy Piper! If I could ever get to the point of having the feel of Virgil Runnels who adopted the name Dusty Rhodes, the American Dream, then I will feel like I have arrived at some educational posting nirvana. In DustySpeak, we could hear the people say: “What did John Trotter say? It all come back to John Trotter. He be right all da time. It all come back to John Trotter.”

Here is the previous post on this blog of three years ago upon which I stumbled…

Real culture change needed but not likely
May 19th, 2010
12:10 am

For anybody really committed to real culture change in Georgia schools, the following by Dr John Trotter should be required reading. Until we are ready to look at the issues Dr. Trotter raises, we will continue to do a great disservice to Georgia students, and continue to be one of the laughingstocks of the nation.

Unfortunately Dr. Trotter is probably right in that real culture change will not happen, just like he was right in talking about cheating years before any other educational leader in Georgia, and just like he was right about the corruption in DeKalb County, again years before anyone was willing to talk about it.

What Will The New State Superintendent Do About The “War Zone Schools”?

By Dr. John Trotter

I see that Kathy Cox has stepped down. She’s had enough. I am sure that Kathy is a nice person, but from the beginning she was in way over her head. She won simply because she had an “R” next to her name. The same for Linda Schrenko. Both are pleasant enough to be around but entirely clueless when it comes to improving education in Georgia, particularly in the urban areas like DeKalb, Gwinnett, Cobb, Atlanta, Clayton, Fulton, Muscogee, Richmond, Dougherty, Chatham, Bibb, et al. Some school systems in Georgia are doing just fine, despite the State cutting large sums of monies from the systems. But, where education is failing is largely in the urban school settings…where teaching there can be like teaching in a war zone.

In the “War Zone Schools” (perhaps I can coin this phrase like my “educrat” and “snoopervise” phrases, eh?), there are some salient features which plague them. At MACE, we have been talking about these “plagues” for years, but this is not popular to talk about and borders on being “politically incorrect,” which is something with which we don’t too much concern ourselves. Here are the “Four Horsemen of Failing Urban Schools” (ooh, I like this phrase also; I see that I easily impress myself — ha!): (1) Defiant & Disruptive Students (Thugs); (2) Irate & Irresponsible Parents; (3) Angry & Abusive Administrators; and (4) Systematic & Widespread Cheating. There you have it. These are the crucial issues, and each and every candidate for State Superintendent will blithely ignore all of them and proceed to offer up some pedagogical pabulum and platitudes which, first of all, will be theoretically and practically unsound, and second of all, will not make a scintilla of difference in these “War Zone Schools.”

Why does MACE thrive? Because we tell the truth about these “War Zone Schools,” and we do not candy-coat the problems. We address the problems head-on. This is what GAE and PAGE refuse to do — in fact, CANNOT do because they cater to the whims of administrators who are also their members. No matter who gets elected as State Superintendent of Georgia — John Barge, Roger Hines, Richard Woods, Beth Farokhi Sandra Cannon Scott, Brian Westlake, or Kira Willis — he or she will not do one thing to improve these “War Zone Schools.” Oh, Harris County will be O. K. Fannin County will be O. K. Bremen City will be O. K. But, what about Sylvan Middle School in Atlanta? What about Fain Elementary School in Atlanta? What about Indian Creek Elementary School in DeKalb? What about Tara Elementary School in Clayton? What about Lindley Middle School in Cobb? What about Shiloh Middle School in Gwinnett? What about Columbia Middle School in DeKalb? What about Mays High School (yes, the once storied Mays which is now floundering) in Atlanta? What about Clarkston High School in DeKalb? What about Randolph Elementary School in Fulton? What about these schools? What will the new superintendent do about these schools? Nothing. (c) MACE, April 18, 2010.


March 12th, 2013
9:49 am

My understanding is that middle schools replaced junior highs simply because the end of the baby boom meant there were empty seats in the high schools, so they moved the 9th graders there, 6th graders to middle school and closed a few elementaries.

There is a huge difference developmentally between 6th and 7th graders and between 7th and 8th graders. That hasn’t really been considered.


March 12th, 2013
9:56 am

I think there are a whole host of issues.
1) A lot of new, inexperienced teachers get put in middle schools.
2) 6th graders aren’t ready for the organizational challenges of moving to 6 or 7 classes and getting things out of their locker.
3) The teachers don’t know the students as well since they only see them 1 class a day and have 150 or 200 students.
4) You’ve got children (6th graders) with adolesecents (8th graders) and are trying to treat them the same.

When test scores decline as they do from 5th to 8th grade, you’ve got to figure something is going wrong. But there is very little discussion.


March 12th, 2013
9:57 am

I’m firmly in Generation X. My elementary school was K-6. Then our Jr. High school had one building just for 7th graders, and another building for Grades 8 and 9. There was some “cross pollination” in certain classes but for most of the day the 7th graders were not mixed with 8 and 9. High school was Grade 10-12. I feel like it worked well.

At that stage of development the difference between 6th and 8th grade is huge. It’s definitely a worry of mine as my kids get to that point in their lives.

AJC isn't me

March 12th, 2013
9:59 am

Maybe this is one of those decisions arguing in favor of more parental choice, so individual parents can decide what would be a better fit for their children.

Or maybe the status quo warriors will win the day and keep choices (and therefore innovation) at a minimum.