Some American School Systems Prepare to Cut Middle Schools


This is Shep O'Neal with the VOA Special English Education Report.

Millions of American children between the ages of ten and fifteen attend middle schools. Middle school is the level between elementary and high school. Different middle schools have different numbers of grade levels. The first middle school opened in nineteen sixty.

The National Middle School Association is a group that advises and represents schools. One issues that concerns the group today is public school systems that are preparing to stop educating students in middle schools. Recent reports put the number at about twelve.

New York City is to close up to seventy-five percent of its middle schools. It plans to place those middle school students in either elementary schools or high schools.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has already started to reduce its number of middle schools. Officials say the number will go from forty-six to eight by two thousand eight. They say students will learn more in their new schools than in the middle schools.

They say studies show that sixth graders in an elementary school perform better on tests than do sixth graders in a middle school. They also note research showing that by the sixth grade, students show signs that they will or will not finish high school. These signs are low attendance, bad behavior, failing in mathematics and failing in English.

The officials say that placing sixth grade students in a middle school is not good for their learning or their future development.

Other education experts do not agree. They say a middle school can help students get used to the many changes between elementary school and high school. They also say middle schools can offer more classes and greater teacher attention than can larger schools with more students.

National Middle School Association official Sue Swaim says successful education is a result of what is done in a classroom, not what kind of building it is in. She says research has shown what is needed to effectively teach young people. This includes active learning, interesting subjects, teacher planning time, professional development and strong links with families.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. Our reports can be found on the Web at WWW.51VOA.COM. I'm Shep O'Neal.