Chariho School Parents’ Forum

November 25, 2007

“Middle schoolers do better in K-8 setting”

Filed under: 5th & 6th grade,grade spans — Editor @ 1:03 pm

Just another report supporting the shift away from the Middle School model.

The only disappointing item is that it appears some people still don’t understand that a large part of the success of K-8 is the environment and not the behavior of the staff.

“The report tells us that outcomes are better for kids in K-8s, but it doesn’t tell us why,” Lindsey said. “It doesn’t tell us that the reason kids do better is because they are in a K-8, and we need to look at the practices in K-8s and middle schools to see what we can learn.”

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

Bottom line is it works.  Let’s do it.

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16 Comments »

  1. “Suspensions are down. Test scores and attendance are up. And many people are happier.”

    It should be noted, that the school system studied is in Milwaukee. If I’m not mistaken, Milwaukee has a strong voucher program. Another city cited is Cleveland, again a city with a voucher system where parents get to choose schools.

    The article specifically notes that the K-8 configuration is being driven by “parent demand”. Once again proving that individually parents know best…not school administrators and educators. Notice how voucher resulted in public schools figuring out a way to make parents happy.

    Predictably, many educators resist letting parents decide. Educators want what is they feel is best for them. Plus, they like to be empowered to take over parental responsibilities as highlighted in quotes from the article:

    “I just believe we need a balance, and should not eliminate the middle school education experience in what I call a trend,” said Tyrone Dumas”

    “I like that feeling of someplace bigger as you get them ready for high school,” she said. “In my mind it is like a rite of passage . . . learning how to be independent, make some choices and find their interests.”

    All well and good for teachers to like a bigger place, but as a parent, I’ll decide how my children learn independence and find their interests. Schools need to get out of the business of trying to raise our children and begin focusing on educating our children.

    Not suprisingly, the article provides further evidence what Chariho parents and voters have been saying for almost 10 years. Our 5th and 6th graders belong in Elementary Schools. I’m starting to agree with Mr. Felkner that 7th and 8th graders might be better served in Elementary School too.

    Hopkinton should be proud that we defeated a bond that would have likely removed any chance of achieving grade reconfiguration. Maybe we should turn the Chariho Middle School into one big Elementary School where the children all stay in one class with one teacher. Will Chariho do it on its own? I won’t hold my breath.

    Comment by Curious Resident — November 25, 2007 @ 3:03 pm | Reply

  2. Education Week is a respectable education news magazine (which I’m sure Chariho subsribes)that ran a story 10 YEARS AGO RE: the failures of the MIDDLE SCHOOL MODEL. Yes folks, the alarm bells were sounded loudly. This is just yet another warning bell that was sent many years ago but the school committee, building committee(s) and most notoriously school administrators continued with a failed model and a belief that they knew best!! Folks, the Middle School is only a part (yet a huge one) of the Chariho problem.
    Article is ‘MUDDLE IN THE MIDDLE’
    http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/1998/04/15/31middle.h17.html

    Comment by chariho hipocrisy — November 25, 2007 @ 4:16 pm | Reply

  3. In case you cannot access the link, Here is the full article. Hope this works…

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    Photos in the News Published: April 15, 1998

    Muddle in the Middle
    By Ann Bradley

    The middle school model has come under attack for supplanting academic rigor with a focus on students’ social, emotional, and physical needs.
    Ellicott City, Md.

    Wander down the inviting hallways of Patuxent Valley Middle School on a typical Monday morning and pop into any classroom. Students are reading aloud the fraction-laden short stories they’ve written for math class. Giggling as they prepare to present colorful handmade posters describing African nations. Moving from station to station in an English class, preparing presentations on the book The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Taking notes from a televised computer program to try to detect the location of a “mystery probe” lost in the solar system.

    Sylvester Burke, the principal of this Howard County, Md., school, exudes quiet pride at the busy, engaged students and academic focus of the classes. They are the result of a new schedule and lots of hard work. But he also knows that his school–like the 14 other middle schools in the 40,000-student county district–has a long way to go to polish its image in the larger community.

    Middle schools are under the gun even in Howard County–a pioneer in the 30-year-old middle school movement and arguably the best public school system in Maryland. Like Patuxent Valley, many Howard County middle schools are now in the midst of making changes to address a harsh 1996 evaluation, in which a citizens’ review committee firmly rejected many of the core tenets of the contemporary middle school.

    “Overemphasis on the social, emotional, and physical needs of the middle school student has led to neglect of academic competencies,” the report charged. “The result is a school system with vague academic expectations and complacency in the middle school years.”

    Howard County educators, still licking their wounds over the report’s stern tone, have plenty of company. Middle schools these days seem to attract nothing but complaints. Headlines from newspapers across America trumpet poor test scores and discipline problems in middle schools. In New York City, the deputy chancellor for instruction, Judith Rizzo, recently dubbed them “funny little entities.”

    In their new book, Standards for our Schools: How to Set Them, Measure Them, and Reach Them, Marc S. Tucker and Judy B. Codding label middle schools “the wasteland of our primary and secondary landscape.” They call for creating small, neighborhood-based K-8 schools instead.

    The Southern Regional Education Board, in a report issued last month, concluded that middle schools are a “weak link” both nationally and in the 15 Southern states that are the focus of the board’s work.

    Reformers often cite the results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the Third International Mathematics and Science Study to back up their claims that middle schools don’t measure up. The SREB report notes that nationally, 39 percent of the 8th graders who took the 1996 NAEP math test scored below the “basic” level. The scores were even worse in the South: Nearly 50 percent of the students tested there fell below “basic.”

    On the international study, 13-year-olds perform less well as a group than 9-year-olds. U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley recently called the disappointing results, compared with 4th graders’ scores, the result of “drift in the middle years.” An alliance of leading education groups has made beefing up middle school mathematics to include introductory algebra and geometry a top priority, arguing that the middle school curriculum is unfocused.

    As states put in place more rigorous high school graduation requirements, middle schools face increasing pressure from above.
    As states put in place more-rigorous high school graduation requirements, middle schools face increasing pressure from above. State tests, like their national and international counterparts, often find lagging 8th grade performance. In Kentucky, with its high-stakes accountability system, a committee is now trying to determine why middle schoolers’ performance trails that of elementary and high school students. In Minnesota, officials have been disappointed by 8th graders’ scores on basic-skills tests as the state moves to new graduation requirements aimed at higher levels of knowledge and skill.

    Eighth grade, in fact, has become the most tested of all the grades, according to the National Middle School Association, based in Columbus, Ohio. Districts increasingly are raising the standards for promotion to high school, holding back 8th graders who earn poor grades or score low on standardized tests.

    A majority of middle-grades teachers, meanwhile, were prepared either to teach elementary or high school. Most were licensed to teach elementary school, leaving them unprepared to handle more-complex academic content. States, though, are creating middle school licenses.

    At least one district is throwing in the towel. The 48,000-student Cincinnati school system is phasing out middle schools entirely, in favor of K-8 schools. Poor student discipline, attendance, and achievement were overriding factors in the decision. Middle schools suspend students at the rate of 79.7 per 100 students, says Monica Solomon, the district’s spokeswoman. That figure for the 1996-97 school year–which includes multiple suspensions for some students–compared with 12.3 per 100 students in K-8 buildings.

    The southwestern Ohio district also faced a “large exodus” of students to private and parochial schools after 5th grade, she says, and is eager to create schools that can keep middle class families in public schools.

    While there is no single explanation for the disappointing performance of young adolescents, one thing is clear: The middle school movement is on the defensive. Its emphasis has been squarely on creating nurturing environments for 10- to 14-year-olds, who often floundered in junior versions of high schools. Middle schools, which typically serve students in grades 6-8, are strongly associated with child-oriented terms like “developmentally appropriate” and with structural reforms such as teaching teams, interdisciplinary instruction, and advisory periods.

    The movement is slowly coming to terms with the need to pay more attention to student achievement. The trick today is not simply to create middle schools, but to get results.

    Two prominent middle school researchers have argued that one problem is the movement’s “shroud of orthodoxy” and need to conform to “an established doctrine.”

    “Educators became obsessed with finding the right program, the one correct curriculum, the appropriate team arrangement, and the correct block schedule,” Ronald D. Williamson, an assistant professor of educational leadership at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and J. Howard Johnston, a professor of education at the University of South Florida in Tampa, wrote in a 1996 paper. That outlook, they argued, “distracted educators from focusing on the needs of students in their own school.”

    Some also fault middle schools’ emphasis on the developmental characteristics of young adolescents–their growth spurts, forgetfulness, disorganization, fear of failure, moodiness, and attachment to their peers–as providing an excuse not to teach them very much.

    Parents had complained about middle schools for at least a decade before the superintendent and school board launched the review.
    “Either the middle school movement overemphasized the affective and developmental, or their message was seriously misunderstood by practitioners in the field,” concludes M. Hayes Mizell, the director of the program for student achievement at the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation in New York City.

    The foundation is a major force in middle-grades reform and is now working with middle schools in Corpus Christi, Texas; Long Beach, Calif.; Louisville, Ky.; and San Diego. All the projects are centered around clear achievement standards for students–which Mizell argues is the missing ingredient in far too many districts.

    “I just kept having experience after experience where middle school educators would talk about the uniqueness of the kids or their caring for the kids,” he says, “but where you got no impression as to where kids were supposed to come out, in terms of what they know and can do.”

    Here in Howard County, a mostly middle-class, suburban district midway between Washington and Baltimore, parents had complained about middle schools for at least a decade before the superintendent and school board launched the review. “I’ve been here 14 years,” says Superintendent Michael E. Hickey, “and off and on, the middle school kettle threatened to bubble over. There needed to be a real visceral, fundamental evaluation.”

    That is just what the district got.

    After 18 months of work–including a review of curriculum guidelines and achievement data, visits to every middle school, interviews with administrators, and surveys of parents, teachers, students, and administrators–the review committee called for a thorough overhaul of middle schools. Over that time, its membership dwindled from 41 people to just 16, as time constraints and tension among committee members took their toll. In a parallel process, meanwhile, two outside consultants looked at the same data and prepared their own report.

    The residents’ conclusions echo many of the complaints and concerns that are swirling around middle schools nationally. Parents condemned the emphasis on self-esteem woven throughout the county’s formal philosophy for educating 6th through 8th graders. (It has since been scrapped.) They called for the elimination of the “Exploratory” program, an ill-defined period in the school day used for advisories, tutorials, guidance, remediation, test preparation, and completion of the state’s service-learning graduation requirements.

    Instead, committee members recommended more time for core academic courses. They called for the district to establish “objective standards” to be used to judge whether students have mastered grade-level material, for students’ grades to reflect that information, for the reintroduction of previously discredited honor rolls, and for core academic classes to be organized according to students’ ability levels.

    The committee took a dim view of the county’s generally heterogeneous classes, arguing that both gifted students and those needing remediation were getting short shrift and that teachers had never been trained to group an academically mixed population for instruction. To address less-than-stellar reading scores on Maryland’s school performance assessments, the committee urged that all middle schoolers take a separate class in reading, in addition to their regular English classes.

    Members take pains to point out that the report was based not just on their views, but on those of 475 middle school teachers and 215 9th grade teachers. Repeatedly, middle school teachers complained that students thought school and grades didn’t matter.

    “Many believe it is a playtime and doesn’t count because so many extra activities hold no accountability for the students,” one teacher was quoted as saying.

    “Many students learn quickly that they do not have to do well academically in order to pass middle school,” said another.

    Committee members were troubled to learn that while just 13 middle schoolers were retained in their current grades during the 1994-95 school year, 191 students were held back after 9th grade that year. Nearly two-thirds of the 9th grade teachers surveyed said students weren’t prepared to do high school work.

    Web Only

    Comment by chariho hipocrisy — November 25, 2007 @ 4:28 pm | Reply

  4. This is a comprehensive, detailed and exhaustive report (81 pages) regarding the serious problems plaguing Middle Schools (published in 2005). Definately a must read, you may access the full report or at least the Executive summary by this link:
    http://www.edexcellence.net/institute/publication/publication.cfm?id=345

    Mayhem in the Middle
    How middle schools have failed
    America—and how to make them work
    By Cheri Pierson Yecke
    Foreword by Chester E. Finn, Jr.
    1627 K Street, N.W.
    Suite 600
    Washington, D.C. 20006
    (202) 223-5452
    (202) 223-9226 Fax
    http://www.edexcellence.net
    September 2005

    Comment by chariho hipocrisy — November 25, 2007 @ 5:07 pm | Reply

  5. The following is a study I recently found about the conversion process occurring with the Philadelphia schools. They have committed to converting over to the K-8 model, thus leaving behind the middle school model. What they have discovered is that yes, under perfect circumstances, the K-8 model is better. But in a big urban city school district, like many schools, things aren’t always perfect. They have committed to a conversion expecting that this would cure the districts woes. What they’ve discovered is that other outside factors are still interfering with the achievement gains that K-8 schools can attain. High poverty levels, problems with society outside of the schools, these things work against any gains they are trying to make. It is an interesting study, and I haven’t completely ingested all it has to say. I certainly look for other’s to analyze.

    http://www.csos.jhu.edu/new/Comparing%20Achievement.pdf

    This article summarizes the above study. You might want to read this as well. This is just 3 pages. The above is, I believe, over 50 and filled with statistical analyses. Have fun.

    http://www.dukegiftedletter.com/articles/vol8no1_rb.html

    At this time, I might agree that a K-8 model is a good choice. The ad hoc committee has defined parameters and that is regarding the 5th and 6th grades. I believe that this is a good first step. Any changes should consider the ability to further expand down the road to a K-8 if that is the way the town of Hopkinton should want to go. What is your opinion?

    Comment by Lois Buck — November 25, 2007 @ 6:27 pm | Reply

  6. Although I question the objectivity of researchers working for the Center for Social Organization of School, this is the most important part of the Philadelphia School District analysis:

    “We conclude that while K-8 schools do perform better in terms of student achievement, the advantage exists for several reasons and may not be easily replicated or represent a solution to the problem of low achieving schools and students in large urban public school districts that serve high minority and low-poverty student populations.”

    Even these researchers concede that K-8 schools “perform better”. The big concern is not having urban schools spend a lot of money converting Middle Schools to K-8 when the benefits may be small.

    I’m not a statistician, but on page 47 of the report, the raw data seem obvious in favor of K-8 even for Philadelphia. Look at the children’s test scores in 5th grade versus the improvement in 8th grade. The new K-8 schools show the most progress yet these are the schools the researchers think perform no better.

    Like we’ve seen here in our community, there are people committed to the status quo even when the status quo fails children.

    Comment by Curious Resident — November 25, 2007 @ 7:28 pm | Reply

  7. The word “urban” is the key. Chariho is not an urban school district, and we do not have the kinds of issues that come with an urban school district. We may have our pockets of poverty, which might be getting bigger if our taxes don’t come down soon, but they are not to the extreme a big city would have.

    Curious, thanks for your insight. I hope others will look at is as well.

    Just a side: I was checking out the newspaper JS Online, which Mr. Felkner highlights here. They have a link to the left of the home screen that says “education.” Click on it. They have a ton of articles. They even have the payroll for the Milwaukee school district. Yikes! I was just curious.

    Have a nice day!

    Comment by Lois Buck — November 25, 2007 @ 9:31 pm | Reply

  8. http://www.richmondri.com/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC=%7BB75844EF-5AE7-4AFB-94BA-F0211A711473%7D

    Interesting information…thanks to Mr. LaCroix for directing me there. The Richmond Education Advisory Committee final report to the Richmond Town Council advised, “A partial Pre-K through Grade 5 withdrawal is preferable as an initial phase”.

    Why would Mr. LaCroix now favor a bond that undermines the recommendation of the committee he chaired? With this new information (at least new to me), we now have Charlestown, Richmond, and maybe Hopkinton, committees all concluding we should be running our own Elementary Schools. Richmond leans toward K-5, but why not push them toward K-6?

    The final report does lend credence to the assumption that talk of throwing Hopkinton out of Chariho is nothing more than bluster. The report states, “Given the current financial situation within the town it would be too great of an financial undertaking for the town to fully withdraw from the regional school district in one phase.”

    Although he has gotten lost since, according to meeting minutes from February 13, 2006, not too long ago Mr. Oppenheimer agreed with those opposing the bond because of tax inequities. The minutes report this from Mr. Oppenheimer, “Fairness in several directions. Three identical raised ranches, 10th grader in Chariho, 3 disparate tax rates. Issue of fairness. Property tax is a regressive tax; it has nothing to do with income. I would argue we ought to be taxed equally. Charlestown benefits from being with Richmond and Hopkinton. They get more operating aid and more housing aid. Why should it not share that benefit?”

    From the March 20, 2006 minutes, former Richmond Town Councilor, Jennifer Anderson: “We need to create lower elementary campuses; maybe each of the towns could do that. It has to be baby steps. Withdrawing K-8 seems like it would be something achievable.”

    From the April 3, 2006 minutes, Mr. LaCroix paraphrasing Mr. Oppenheimer, “One of the things that’s really stumping Henry is that there have been relatively minor increases in the number of students, to have such an astronomical increase in operating costs. That’s really baffling Henry.”

    Mr. Felkner and others have commented on the budget increases with lessening enrollment too. I can’t help but think there is a connection between RYSE, a huge surege in identified Special Needs students, and spikes in operation costs. I suspect this is why we are unable to get detailed accounting of Special Needs/RYSE costs. I also think it played a role in the postponement of the Management Study. Chariho wants us to pass a bond securing RYSE before we find out how much RYSE has actually cost us.

    The April 3rd minutes are very revealing as the Richmond advisory group seems to be plotting how to present information to voters and what to provide and what not to provide. They discuss sharing negative scenarios if nothing is done, but not sharing information on the cost of doing something…pretty sneaky group. There is also mention of eliminating the town veto from the Chariho Act. Obviously this was being discussed prior to the November 2007 bond vote.

    Although agenda is given for meetings after April 3rd, these are the last meeting minutes I could find on Richmond’s website. Perhaps they figured out they were publically revealing too much and hid subsequent minutes?

    Comment by Curious Resident — November 26, 2007 @ 2:43 pm | Reply

  9. Wow! Great info!

    Comment by Lois Buck — November 26, 2007 @ 6:22 pm | Reply

  10. I found the blatant hypocrisy quite startling. From acknowledgement by Mr. Oppenheimer that tax equity is needed; to the desire to take control of their Elementary School; to the unexplained skyrocketing of the operational budget; some these people are now attacking Hopkinton for voting down the bond for the same exact reasons.

    Apparently these people are political manipulators. They choose what side they want to be on based on what they believe serves their interests best.

    Contrast Richmond’s Education Advisory Committee with Hopkinton’s Ad Hoc Committee. One plots to keep information from the public while the other begs the public to participate and give a hand in determining possibilities. I guess our snake oil superintendent is in good company.

    Comment by Curious Resident — November 26, 2007 @ 6:44 pm | Reply

  11. What amazes me, and maybe I shouldn’t be surprised is #2 of the Jan 30, 2006 minutes.

    “Discussion followed on talking with Debra Carney of the Charlestown Town Council, Michael Sullivan of the Richmond Town Council, members of the recent Chariho Building committee, tax equalization, possible pairing with Charlestown.” Richmond Education Advisory Committee

    That is a telling statement. First, they agree with us regarding tax equalization. Second, they have discussed the possible pairing with Charlestown almost 2 years ago.

    To me, they are using this bond vote to fuel their agenda. And they have the nerve to say we have an agenda. Take notice Hopkinton. Protect your interests.

    Comment by Lois Buck — November 26, 2007 @ 7:05 pm | Reply

  12. At least we know that Richmond and Charlestown have an interest in different grade configuration. It is too bad that Richmond lambastes Hopkinton when many of their leaders feel the same way as the voters in Hopkinton. This does appear to be a trick of sorts. Not sure why they wouldn’t just be honest with Hopkinton. Since we have many mutual problems maybe solutions would be easier if we all tried to come up with them together? Even if the solution is for each town to run their own elementary schools it would great if we could help each other out in getting this done. With this new information in the sunshine this could be the time to move in a positive direction for all of us? I see no reason to vote again on the same bond when all three towns seem more interested in changing paths.

    Comment by Jim LaBrosse — November 26, 2007 @ 8:41 pm | Reply

  13. I agree Jim and CR, although the information presented is from the prior council for Richmond. It is still impressive that we have some of the same considerations as to direction. Possibly de-regionalize the elementary schools, consider and actually work toward merging the tax bases for the operating and building portions of the district, and an understanding of our citizens school tax bill which directly influences our municipal issues.

    Sunshine may be the answer. Really working together may help isolate our issues and create solutions instead of following the Chariho line.

    Comment by Barbara Capalbo — November 26, 2007 @ 10:04 pm | Reply

  14. The council may be new, but Mr. Oppenheimer is still a councilor and is among Mr. Ricci’s “invited” so his past comments are valuable. Mr. LaCroix has been vocal, and he chaired the committee recommending that Richmond take control of the Elementary School. Mrs. Anderson sounds familiar? Is she part of the CURE group?

    In any case, we know that Richmond leaders were at one time very much in sync with the Hopkinton majority who rejected the bond. What’s happened since then is anyone’s guess, but as the minutes indicate, they are a sneaky group and try to control information to the public. Perhaps their latest outrage is just one more attempt to scam taxpayers?

    Comment by Curious Resident — November 26, 2007 @ 10:43 pm | Reply

  15. Good morning CR,

    My understanding is that Mr. Oppenheimer was not invited, Mr. Reddish asked to bring him. Once that was agreed, each Pres could bring another person. But only the 3 presidents of the councils were originally invited to a meeting with Mr. Ricci. And, yes, Mrs. Anderson is a member of CURE.

    We need to find common ground to begin to work together. Perhaps Mr. LaCroix has, thankfully, helped find this territory.

    Comment by Barbara Capalbo — November 27, 2007 @ 7:32 am | Reply

  16. I believe the Anderson from Richmond was a Jennifer Anderson whom was on the $99M building Committee.

    The other Anderson is a Chris from Hopkinton. She is on the latest Building Committee ($26M), and a member of CURE. She may have been apart of the $99M committee as well.

    Comment by chariho hipocrisy — November 27, 2007 @ 1:19 pm | Reply


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