Mid­dle schools not the an­swer

Cape Breton Post - - EDITORIAL -

The great­est fail­ure of 20th cen­tury ed­u­ca­tion has been the ‘achieve­ment gap;’ cre­ated by pro­mot­ing stu­dents to grade lev­els be­yond their read­ing abil­ity.

I ap­plaud the school board for at­tempt­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent, es­pe­cially dur­ing such try­ing times. But, are mid­dle schools the an­swer? In a Post ar­ti­cle act­ing pro­gram di­rec­tor Cathy Viva seemed gen­uine but overly op­ti­mistic (Re­tired teacher con­cerned mid­dle schools won’t im­prove aca­demics, July 14). She men­tioned as­sur­ances such as track­ing be­ing in place to mon­i­tor mid­dle schools, but she didn’t re­spond when asked what were the ex­pected out­comes. Shouldn’t im­prov­ing that ‘achieve­ment gap’ be the pri­mary out­come of any model?

We’ve heard such as­sur­ances be­fore with whole lan­guage, semes­ter­ing, in­clu­sion and large schools. But the main out­comes de­liv­ered by those blun­ders were chaos and medi­ocrity. I would like to be­lieve that mid­dles schools would be the ge­n­e­sis mo­ment that ed­u­ca­tion so badly needs, but I can’t ig­nore the 50 plus years of fail­ure in the United States. Why are they con­tin­u­ally out­per­formed by highly com­part­men­tal­ized P-8 schools? Why are we again pil­fer­ing the ed­u­ca­tional trash bin of a coun­try whose ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem ranks be­tween 14th and 23rd place in the world?

The less com­part­men­tal­ized mid­dle school does of­fer valu­able op­tions, es­pe­cially in the area of re­la­tion­ship build­ing. But strug­gling stu­dents have fared more poorly than in P-8 schools, and mid­dle schools have per­pet­u­ated an even greater ‘achieve­ment gap’ than did ju­nior high schools. Ob­vi­ously, the re­la­tion­ship build­ing wasn’t fol­lowed by method­ol­ogy that was rel­e­vant or rig­or­ous enough to pro­duce the ex­pected aca­demic out­comes.

The crit­i­cism of mid­dle schools is they fo­cus more on group work and so­cial­iza­tion than on aca­demic achieve­ment. Is that what is needed in an area with di­min­ished par­ent­ing skills, se­ri­ously re­duced aca­demic ex­pec­ta­tions and peer group pro­mo­tions; where stu­dents can ig­nore as­sign­ment due dates for weeks and months, and miss 40-50 school days with­out reper­cus­sions?

Aren’t those the real is­sues in ed­u­ca­tion, re­gard­less of the model? Shouldn’t we re­place the rot­ten spokes be­fore we try to rein­vent the wheel? Al Moore Glace Bay

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