Chariho School Parents’ Forum

September 20, 2007

The problems with Middle Schools

Filed under: 5th & 6th grade,grade spans — Editor @ 8:09 am

David Mittell pens a good article about the boondoggle called Middle School and why we should return to the K-8 model.



  1. As a parent of a student in the Chariho system, I have participated in discussions with many people (other Chariho parents, friends with children in other districts, teachers and administrators) about the pros and cons of certain grade configurations. One thing that is certain is that the School Committee – not the Town Councils – have the final say in grade configuration.

    However, with that said I have read several articles and studies in an attempt to better educate myself on the topic. In an effort to present a wider view of the different options I am including a link (that will need to be cut and pasted into your browser, as I am not as technologically savvy as some) conducted by the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory entitled “Grade Configuration: Who Goes Where?”.

    This study outlines both the positive and negative outcomes of the folloiwng grade configurations: K-8, K-10, 5-8 (Chariho’s model, K-2, 9th only, 6-8 and 7-8.

    In fact, the introduction states that “This variety reflects the fact that each community considers different factors when making grade span decisions and that no one grade configuration is right for all” and “At some schools grade span comes about by choice, at others as a result of practical and administrative considerations such as building costs, enrollment trends, or distance from other schools”.

    Finally, “Very little research attempts the more difficult task of determining if a cause-and-effect relationship exists between grade configuration and academic acheivement, while controlling for other factors such as school size, student socioeconomic status, teacher experience, and so on.”

    Read, ask questions, educate yourself.

    Economics is a HUGE factor in Chariho and particularly in Hopkinton. Even IF there was empirical research that favored returning to a K-5 or K-6 model, where are we going to put these children? Why hasn’t the so-called “Education Options Committee” reported back to the Town Council that if we truly wish to have our 5th and 6th graders back in town then we need to commission a comprehensive study? I am amazed that they have not done this! Parents, we need to be more involved than we have been on this upcoming building vote. Don’t let “what if’s” or “maybe’s” influence your vote. Educate yourself. Attend a Building Committee meeting or contact one of their members and ask your questions.

    Comment by charihoian — September 20, 2007 @ 12:31 pm | Reply

  2. Thank you for contributing. The report you link is from 1997. The research presented by Dr. Thornton to the school board was from 1999. It, as all research, continued to hold onto disclaimers of “inconclusivity” but even then, the research was leaning and was highlighted at the time –

    Recent data, as recent as Jan 2007 (see Duke study linked here – ) is more conclusive. Furthermore, 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.”

    I have previously listed several studies on individual metrics (academic performance, resulting career earnings, teacher satisfaction, student satisfaction, parent satisfaction, etc…) here –

    Putting all that aside, I think Chariho has made, and continues to make a critical error. They have known since 1999 that the majority of parents want the kids back at the town level – but in all those years, the only option we have had was $99M, which 1) included razing the 1904 in Hopkinton, and 2) new buildings in each town. Both of which the people explicitly requested not be done.

    I am not involved with the Hopkinton Ad Hoc Committee investigating new grade configuration options, so I can’t speak to where they are in the process. And you are correct that it is the SC that makes those decisions. How will they respond is the question.

    Comment by Bill Felkner — September 20, 2007 @ 1:40 pm | Reply

  3. I was alarmed by what was said on this website about Mrs. Dolan. Students at Chariho High School are told every morning to treat one another with “dignity and respect.” You, as a school committee member, should set the standard.

    Comment by Chariho Resident — September 20, 2007 @ 2:56 pm | Reply

  4. As a parent, as a former teen, and as a former pre-teen, I do not need to see research to prove to me what I inherently and logically recognize. It simply is not healthy, socially or educationally, for pre-teen 5th and 6th graders to be in forced into the same environment as teenagers.

    Mr. Mittell’s article hits the nail on the head, and although the Duke study provides the icing on the cake, any parent who pays attention to their kids does not need Duke University to tell them the obvious.

    Fortunately, the majority of parents in Hopkinton are aware of the dangers of mixing their prepubscent children into the teenage environment. The results of this parental awareness can be seen in the survey and the subsequent vote we’ve had on this issue.

    Keeping 5th and 6th graders at the Chariho campus is about the adults and not the kids. The administration and school employees like the environment created when as many children as possible are housed at one location.

    Sadly, adult desires have ruled the day at Chariho, and despite the fact that parents and voters overwhelmingly favor keeping pre-teens separate from teenagers, Chariho’s administration refuses to comply.

    Yes, it is up to the Chariho School Committee to represent parents and voters despite resistance from Chariho’s administration. We’ll see if they have the integrity and character to do what is right?

    Comment by Curious Resident — September 20, 2007 @ 3:30 pm | Reply

  5. A quick comment (can I do it?) about Chariho students being told every day to treat each other with dignity and respect.

    I personally teach my children that “dignity and respect” are rewards they earn through their behaviors, actions and attitudes. I do not want my children treated with dignity and respect simply because it is the rule.

    When dignity and respect are granted as a right, rather than a reward, children will become self-centered and not understand that their behaviors, actions and attitudes have consequences, good or bad. I teach my children to treat others civilly, but dignity and respect are reserved for those that deserve it.

    Thanks for sharing this terrible lesson being taught at Chariho. One more thing on my list of silliness I’ll need to correct with my children.

    Comment by Curious Resident — September 20, 2007 @ 4:03 pm | Reply

  6. The link included in the first comment is for a group called Northwest Regional Educational Laboratories (NREL). The cited information is from 1997. Interestingly, the poster decided to use 1997 info from NREL instead of information issued by NREL in the spring of 2006.

    I wonder why this new poster would not provide us with the most recent summary?

    In 2006 NREL still remains noncommital, but says the research is now “suggestive” although “not conclusive”. Here are some quotes from the research they cite:

    “The results of several studies indicated that middle level grades 6, 7, and 8 obtained higher achievement in K–8 schools than in schools with middle school configurations.”

    ” Offenberg (2001) determined that eighth-graders showed higher achievement in K–8 schools than in middle schools.”

    “His research suggests that when “K–8 “elemiddle” schools are found to be outperforming 5–8 and 6–8 schools…”

    Comment by Curious Resident — September 20, 2007 @ 4:29 pm | Reply

  7. I found the following of note since the studies were conducted in New England:

    “Much of the public debate about grade-span configuration has focused on the middle level and which grade configuration best meets the developmental needs of young adolescents. Where should the 6″‘ and grades reside? Two studies–one in Connecticut and one in Maine– addressed the issue of whether these grades are best included with the elementary grades or with the secondary grades.

    Their conclusion was that student achievement was higher when the 6th and 7th grades were included in the elementary school.

    In Connecticut, 6th-grade student achievement was higher in schools that configured grade 6 with lower grade levels (K-6, K-8, etc.) versus those that placed grade 6 with the secondary school levels. Similarly, in the Maine study, the researchers concluded that 8th-grade students’ achievement was higher when the 8″‘ grade was included with elementary grades (K-8, 3-8, K-9, etc.) rather than as part of junior and senior high schools or within the various middle-grades configurations.

    The findings that students in grades 6 and 8 achieve at higher levels when grouped with the lower grades are strongly suggestive but nor conclusive. The samples were from two states in the New England region, and situations in different states and regions vary. Such studies need to be replicated in other states before we can draw durable conclusions.”

    Comment by Curious Resident — September 20, 2007 @ 4:40 pm | Reply

  8. Here’s the latest on plans for getting Hopkinton 5th and 6th graders back to the smaller schools. Barbara Capalbo and I will be visiting the 1904 building on 10/3. The town manager and a Hopkinton maintenance person routinely walk through the building so we’ll go with them to look things over. Barbara also wants to get an opinion from an expert on moving the 1904 building. Not sure if this person will be with us, but maybe.

    I heard from Barbara it was decided the ad hoc group need to be appointed. I will be filling out an application for the group.

    I asked Barbara about getting official inspections done at the 1904 building so we can know exactly what is mandated in order to open the building to students. I consider the mandatory building issues to be the bare bones that are needed to open the building to 5th and 6th graders, and who knows maybe even 7th graders. Without having the inspections, we can’t know the expenses of moving the grades back to Hopkinton.

    Barbara said that the ad hoc group can ask the Town Council for these inspections once we are officially approved. The approval for the ad hoc group should be at the next Town Council meeting.

    I’m still shooting for having information to the public before the bond vote. Don’t know if it is possible, but I agree with those that say that a yes on the bond is a no on moving 5th and 6th graders back. As a parent, I hate to think of all the young children being put with the teenagers. If the ad hoc group is unable to give out any cost information I still hope the bond is voted down. That’s my two cents for what it is worth.

    Comment by Jim LaBrosse — September 21, 2007 @ 12:07 pm | Reply

  9. If ALL that I have seen in the pictures is true, you will get an eyeful of the following:
    A school which continues to fall into disrepair
    A SHOCKING disregard for student safety, considering that the school building was left just two years ago…think of the MESS those students lived in during their last school year.
    An unsafe condition of the school building considering the past issues with gas leak, electrical shorts, mold, filth. All of that while the students were IN THE BUILDING (unless the faires came and did something)
    Look at the condition of that building due to neglect, remember that CHARIHO was allowed, without furthur repair to break the lease on this building. No security deposit, no nothing, just the usual from our town council and the dirty dozen (almost) school board

    Comment by Georgies Mom — September 21, 2007 @ 2:38 pm | Reply

  10. Off topic, but I read this on The Chariho Times’ website and figured Mr. Felkner might be too modest to post it. I do wonder which of Mr. Felkner’s positions The Chariho Times would possibly disagree with? Let me add my “thanks Bill”!

    “All the hoopla about school committee member Bill Felkner brings a smile to our faces. We love seeing someone buck the trends, speaking out for what they see as correct. All towns need someone like Bill Felkner. And newspapers need him too. If everyone agreed all the time and the votes were 5-0, what would be the fun in that? We are not saying we agree with all of Felkner’s positions, but we like the fact that he’s willing to speak out against the status quo. Thanks Bill.”

    Comment by Curious Resident — September 21, 2007 @ 3:36 pm | Reply

  11. Also from The Chariho Times opinion page:

    “We don’t have much to weigh in on yet regarding the new political action committee promoting the upcoming Chariho bond. Everybody has the right to their opinion. We will of course get more interesxted in this PAC if some conflict of interest develops.”

    Someone needs to tell The Chariho Times that the group promoting the Chariho bond is the taxpayer financed building committee. They issued the flyer urging voters to support the bond. The building committee may act like a PAC, but they are suppose to remain neutral and simply provide facts to the voters. They are not supposed to be using my tax money to solicit support for a bond which I vigorously oppose.

    If The Chariho Times does not want to investigate this issue, fine, they have their own agenda, but don’t pretend that you plan to do any kind of objective reporting when you ignore an illegal act which is right in front of your nose.

    If The Chariho Times wants to be a watchdog for the community, they could start by asking Town Councilor Buck if he meant his vote as an “endorsement” or if he simply voted for the bond to go to referendum so voters could decide? The answer is right here on this website if The Chariho Times is “interested”. Why would the Chariho building committee pay for a flyer which lies about endoresements? What else are the lying about? So many questions, so much secrecy.

    Comment by Curious Resident — September 21, 2007 @ 3:48 pm | Reply

  12. Hello All,

    The referendum question concerning the 5th and 6th grade students returning to the Hopkinton town schools was approved and is moving forward. There are four issues to be researched and reported to our citizens. They are as follows:
    1) the studies encouraging or discouraging the return of pre-teens to the elementary school system — why we would want to address this issue, pros and cons.
    2) the cost of this decision – there are 3 components – Hope Valley Elementary, Ashaway Elementary and the 1904 Building. Can we use the spaces available now, or with minor or major renovation, or with or without using (and renovating) the 1904 building. This is where the rubber meets the road. Many parents may want their children back in the town schools, but cost is often the deciding factor.
    3) the mandated special needs spatial arrangements – classrooms for teachers and specialists within both elementary schools – in or out of district placements? in or out of district classrooms?
    4) Which is better for Hopkinton – in or out of the Chariho School District – cost of administration, personnel, offices, maintenance if we did all of this ourselves or is it better to remain within the tri-town arrangement.

    Each area needs people to discuss, research, poll, write. Anyone who is interested in one or more of the sections should please apply with Lisa at the Town Hall. We want to appoint a number of citizens – who may have specific areas they wish to target. Everyone doesn’t have to do everything. And all are welcome – all points of view.

    In April the 1904 building is ours to do with as we see fit or appropriate. If the 99 million bond had passed we would also have had Hope Valley Elementary handed to us as well. All these buildings belong to the town and need to be functional and not eyesores, unmaintained. No matter what we need to come to some thoughts and suggestions about our own properties and what we may wish to do with them. They will become a tax drain and a hazard if they don’t have a useful life.

    Please assist – and thanks.

    Comment by BarbaraC — September 21, 2007 @ 5:05 pm | Reply

  13. This evening Mr. James LaBrosse, Mrs. Lois Buck, Mrs. Kathleen Felkner and Mrs. Elaine Morgan were appointed to the Ad-Hoc Referenda committee. I will poll these persons to see what evening is convenient for them and schedule our first meeting at the Crandall House. Times and dates will be posted at the town hall, police station and on line.

    Everyone is welcome, if only for one meeting, to express your points of view. We will begin with the studies, the cost and the special needs space issues. We have the floor plans of Ashaway and Hope Valley as well as the 1904 building. They will be on display at the meeting. Please encourage others to join the group — it is not a closed committee and more persons can be appointed.

    Thank you all for at least considering assistance. Bring coffee and your points of view.

    Comment by Barbara Capalbo — October 1, 2007 @ 9:20 pm | Reply

  14. Thank you Barbara for your support. I look forward to working with the group and the community on exploring options for bringing fifth and sixth graders back to elementary schools. I am a big fan of keeping the public informed and involved and besides the public meetings that will be held I will try my best to put information here and at the Hopkinton website. I don’t think I have written over there before so it depends if I can figure it out.

    Here is the latest update on the 1904 building. This morning Barbara and I toured the 1904 building with Hopkinton Building Official Brad (I didn’t get his last name) and Dan Cartier who runs the maintenance department for Chariho. Both gentlemen were helpful. They frequently commented on the expense and difficulties of getting the building up to the codes needed to function as a school.

    This was my first time in the school and I was very impressed with its size and its character. Classrooms were huge and well lit except for the bottom floor which were huge but not so well lit. Kind of reminded me of the conditions at Hope Valley School when I was in fifth and sixth grade in classrooms in the basement.

    There would definitely need to be renovations especially on the bottom floor to make it servicable. Dan Cartier told us that there had been mold and abestos issues and flooring and a stage was removed as part of resolving the problem. The upper floor classrooms seemed in good shape except for the carpeting. Renovations there should not be too bad. The boiler is only four years old.

    The biggest expense seems to be the safety and building code items. Brad will work with a state office to tell us what must be done to make the building suitable for children. Because of an obligation Brad has this process will take several weeks. Brad and Dan Cartier told us are the building will need an elevator. Fire escapes are on the building but we were told they are now unacceptable and we must have covered exits rather than open fire escapes.

    Brad thinks the building may have balloon construction – if I have the term right. This can be a fire hazards as fire can travel from bottom to top without any impediments in the walls. Both Brad and Dan Cartier were not happy with wood construction for a school.

    I am sure I am missing things but the bottom line is that Brad will put together a list of everything that must be done to comply with the law and then we will try and estimate pricing for getting the work done. Then once all that is done we should be able to put together several options for the Town Council to consider.

    Barbara is shooting for Thursday meetings which will be open to the public. My view is the more the merrier. The more ideas – the more expertise – the more chances we will come up with the best plan for the children and taxpayers. Anyone interested in this topic should feel free to contact me or any others in the group. If you would like to join the group this would be excellent! More to come as I know more.

    Comment by Jim LaBrosse — October 3, 2007 @ 9:39 pm | Reply

  15. The first meeting of the Ad-Hoc School Referenda committee will be this Thursday, October 11th at 7:00PM at the Crandall House in Ashaway. All four members of the Chariho School Board from Hopkinton will have a standing invitation to all meetings (they do not create a quorum even if all four attend at the same time).

    The agenda will be posted at the Town Hall, the Police Station and hopefully on this website and on the Hopkinton blog.

    Comment by BarbaraC — October 8, 2007 @ 1:42 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: