Chariho School Parents’ Forum

January 4, 2007

The compelling case for a K-8 model

Filed under: National,Student Performance — Editor @ 7:14 am

“Why did this take the “experts” so long? Many parents can tell you: If an otherwise decent school district has a problem school, it’s going to be the junior high. And even high-functioning middle schools can be a problem for the students in them.”

Lately, a lot of discussion has been on the subject of the 5th and 6th graders going to school at the main campus.  As I live my life I continually discuss school issues with the people I meet.  In this informal poll, I have never met a parent who likes the idea of 10 and 11 year-olds on that campus.  I am sure there are some parents who do like it, but I have yet to meet one. Some of the complaints are:

  • Students are on the bus for upwards of an hour
  • 10 and 11 year-olds are on the bus with the older students (I have heard some real horror stories as to what they have seen, including sexually inappropriate behavior)
  • Due to the number of students at the main campus, the lunches start at 10:00
  • The school is too far away from the parents if something happens

Proponents of the middle school model say that the students are available to more resources and that they kids like it. 

An interesting post on Anchor Rising highlights a couple of articles that say many school districts are not only eliminating 5th and 6th graders from the larger schools, but eliminating the middle school model all together, going back to a K – 8 model. The main points I took out of the articles are:

  • Children going through puberty should not be subject to dramatic transitions
  • Students in the K-8 system have a sense of community
  • There are many benefits when students stay with the same class, principal, environment and teachers (listed below)
  • Students who stay in their grade school,  stay “younger, longer” (they do not have the tendency to try older kid things such as dating, smoking, etc…)

The post also links to an article in the ProJo where a student quote hits the nail on the head, “You’re always sad when you’re not around your friends.” 

And finally, the most obvious but apparently overlooked issues are that smaller schools are better for student performance, achievement, discipline, attendance and enrollment, graduation rates, career earnings, student participation, parent and student satisfactions, teacher satisfaction, parent involvement, increasing extracurricular activities and participation in advanced classes, cost savings, and a sense of ownership, community and belonging, as well as reducing the racial education gap and reducing the need for special needs programs, to name just a few.  See this list of other related reports.

But that is just what is good about small schools.  What is bad about large schools? 

“According to the Department of Education, schools of 1,000 or more students experience 825 percent more violent crime, 270 percent more vandalism and 1,000 percent more weapons incidents, compared to those with fewer than 300 students. “

Mary Anne Raywid, Hofstra University Professor Emerita and Past president of the Society of Professors of Education, whose name is used for an award that recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the study of education, has said-

“The value of small schools has been confirmed with clarity and a level of confidence rare in the annals of education research.” 



  1. Mr. Felkner I read some of the articles you link, and I wonder why Chariho is so determnined to plow forward without considering the benefits of keeping prepubescent students in a small school environment? Even Mr. Petit threw up his hands on the Hopkinton Speaks board and claimed that it is inevitable that elementary age children will remain in a high school environment.

    Besides the articles you cite, I have my own personal experiences which convince me that many children are harmed when they are prematurely forced into the intimidating environment of a large school. Am I just late in coming to the table? Has this issue been considered and dismissed, or is it simply because the commitment has been made to the status quo and nobody wants to step back and admit a mistake?

    Is there still a chance that this whole thing can be reassessed? Once $30,000,000, give or take, is designated for the Chariho complex, there is no turning back. As one of the articles noted, the decision to turn back the clock and reintroduce small schools to prepubescent children must be made before large sums of money are put back into the large school infrastructure. Give me some reason for optimism?!

    Comment by Curious Resident — January 7, 2007 @ 1:44 am | Reply

  2. I do not believe it has been evaluated. Perhaps discussed, but not evaluated. When I brought it up with an administrator and a board member, I was told that a couple of parents wanted their kids in the middle school because the felt their children were not given the same resources as the students already on that campus. But I have not heard of any research done on the subject.

    I will do some research today and see who has been looking at this here in RI. But your concerns over the bldg committee are valid. To quote a movie, “if you build it, they will come.” If we build facilities with the current grade structure in mind, pulling the students back to the elementary level will indeed become more difficult.

    Comment by cspf — January 7, 2007 @ 12:59 pm | Reply

  3. Well it is pretty clear from article you linked that younger children are better served in smaller schools. I can see where less resources might be available, but I’ve always considered the role of elementary school is to establish the educational foundation. Aside from becoming comfortable with computers, I’m not sure if elementary age students need a lot of resources other than good text books and paper and pencils?

    Perhaps we could establish a program located at the Chariho complex for accelerated learners, but for the average elementary school student, I think it they are well served at dedicated elementary schools. Perhaps you can survey your fellow committee members and see if there is any support there at all?

    Comment by Curious Resident — January 7, 2007 @ 6:56 pm | Reply

  4. […] put more emphasis on a “lack of research” but as I have posted before, there are literally hundreds of studies on the subject.   Below are the reports the administration presented and some key quotes.  Accountability […]

    Pingback by Chariho admin makes the case for K-6 - so why don’t we do it? « Chariho School Parents’ Forum — January 29, 2007 @ 8:01 pm | Reply

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  7. […] There are many many reasons why it works.  Continuity during puberty, continuity with support, connectedness with community, etc, etc…  […]

    Pingback by “Middle schoolers do better in K-8 setting” « Chariho School Parents’ Forum — November 25, 2007 @ 1:03 pm | Reply

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