Re­tired teacher con­cerned mid­dle schools won’t im­prove aca­demics

School board ar­gues change is the right move for stu­dents

Cape Breton Post - - HOT ONLINE - BY LAURA JEAN GRANT lj­grant@cb­post.com

A re­tired teacher doesn’t be­lieve the Cape Bre­ton-Vic­to­ria Re­gional School Board’s move to the mid­dle school model will help fix what ails the sys­tem.

Though he re­tired in 2009 fol­low­ing a 35-year ca­reer in teach­ing, Al Moore said he re­mains very in­ter­ested in ed­u­ca­tion is­sues and has been trou­bled by re­search he’s done into the mid­dle school model since the board an­nounced it was mov­ing in that di­rec­tion.

“The mid­dle school in the United States has a history of very poor aca­demic per­for­mance. The strug­gling stu­dents en­ter­ing from Grade 5 do more poorly in mid­dle school than they did in ele­men­tary school, and in fact the scores aca­dem­i­cally com­ing out of mid­dle school are worse than go­ing in,” he said, point­ing to sev­eral stud­ies and re­ports out of the U.S.

A res­i­dent of Glace Bay and a mem­ber of John Bernard Croak V.C. Me­mo­rial School’s par­ent ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee, Moore said he un­der­stands that the school board must make tough de­ci­sions, but wor­ries the move to mid­dle schools was more about de­mo­graph­ics than aca­demics.

“I think mid­dle schools was a con­fig­u­ra­tion that bet­ter suits the clos­ing of ele­men­tary schools by mov­ing num­bers up­ward to high schools,” he said.

When the mid­dle school model is in­tro­duced in Septem­ber, stu­dents will be grouped in Pri­mary to Grade 5 ele­men­tary schools, Grade 6 to Grade 8 mid­dle schools, and Grade 9 to Grade 12 high schools.

Moore said he hopes of­fi­cials will care­fully mon­i­tor the mid­dle school model’s im­pact on the ac- ademic suc­cess of stu­dents.

“We’re sup­posed to be on an out­come-based sys­tem ... so tell us what the out­comes are and the time­lines. And will it be mea­sured sci­en­tif­i­cally?” he said. “If that model works we should see an im­prove­ment in aca­demics.”

Cathy Viva, act­ing di­rec­tor of pro­grams and stu­dents with the school board, said they do have plans in place to track and an­a­lyze all as­pects of the shift to mid­dle schools. It will in­clude com­pil­ing and com­par­ing data on stu­dent aca­demic assess­ments and grades, be­hav­iour in­ci­dents and at­ten­dance records.

Viva said of­fi­cials care­fully stud­ied and re­searched the mid­dle school con­cept be­fore adopt­ing it.

“And the other thing we did was look lo­cally. We didn’t just ac­cept na­tional and in­ter­na­tional re­search,” she said, not­ing they did ex­ten­sive con­sul­ta­tion and site vis­its with other boards in the province that have adopted the mid­dle school sys­tem.

Viva ar­gues that mid­dle schools put the best com­bi­na­tion of stu­dents to­gether, both in terms of their de­vel­op­ment and aca­demics.

“There’s three pil­lars of a suc­cess­ful ed­u­ca­tion and the strong­est one is build­ing re­la­tion­ships, and that’s what mid­dle school is go­ing to help with,” she said. “As kids feel com­fort­able (at school) their aca­demics will im­prove.”

And while the move to mid­dle schools may im­pact on fu­ture school clo­sures, Viva said that wasn’t the pur­pose of the change.

“Our pur­pose was to ad­dress a need within our sys­tem and that’s what we’re hop­ing we’re do­ing and that we feel strongly we are do­ing,” she said.

LAURA JEAN GRANT/CAPE BRE­TON POST

Re­tired Glace Bay teacher Al Moore, a mem­ber of John Bernard Croak Me­mo­rial School’s ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee, is con­cerned about the in­tro­duc­tion of the mid­dle school model in the Cape Bre­ton-Vic­to­ria Re­gional School Board.

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