ED-WATCH: MIDDLE SCHOOLS IN, MIDDLE SCHOOLS OUT

(01/29/2007)

By Dianne Weaver

While Americans care about the quality of public education, the system often reacts with "brilliant faddishness" - wild policy swings that drag multi-billions of dollars in brick-and-mortar.

A current example, the middle school concept.

Elissa Gootman of the New York Times reported, middle schools were the rage of the 1960s, "after educators determined that seventh-through-ninth-grade junior high schools were excessively rigid and un-attuned to adolescents' personal development."

In West Virginia, fashions take some time to arrive, so the state was late to jump on the middle school bandwagon.

It arrived here just in time for experts to declare that middle schools are as impossible as adolescents.

Certainly, the state got on the consolidation bandwagon several years ago and has failed to get off, when most of America is moving in the other direction.

Between 1999 and 2004, elementary school students made solid gains in reading and math.

Middle-school students made smaller gains in math and leveled in reading.

New York State found that reading scores drop between the fifth and sixth grade, and keep right on dropping.

In addition, 94 percent of middle schools report more behavioral problems and violence.

Teachers across the country seem to be at their wit's end trying to find solutions.

The middle school concept is now being placed on the back burner after being widely promoted.


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