Retired teacher concerned middle schools won’t improve academics
School board argues change is the right move for students
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.
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.