In the ensuing decade and a half, the National Middle School Association (NMSA) and its acolytes, flying the banner of "Turning Points" and arguing that the middle grades are no time for academic learning, argued with great success that these schools should be devoted to social adjustment, coping with hormonal throbs, and looking out for the needs of the "whole child."Having taught middle school for 12 years, I can report that there is a lot of thought and emphasis in faculty meetings and teacher training on the "whole child." However, I would dispute that there is a commensurate decrease in focus on what the children are actually being taught. To tell the truth, I think most teachers listen to all these teacher training sessions and then proceed to teach exactly what they were planning to teach anyways. I do endorse raising the standards of what schools plan to achieve with students. I, personally, really enjoyed teaching children at that age. I found them eager and enthusiastic about learning. Sure, they were immature and could develop amazing conflicts with other kids over the silliest "he said, she said" misunderstandings. But I found that classes could continue even with heated antipathies simmering beneath the surface without my having to stop and talk about their social lives. Most times, I could pull kids aside and get them to see that they needed to leave it out of the classroom. Perhaps there are schools out there where social development is shoving true education aside, but it surely doesn't have to be that way.
That is the essence of middle schoolism as set forth in a stunning new Fordham report by Cheri Pierson Yecke. "Mayhem in the Middle," as it's called, is a thoughtful examination drawing on gobs of evidence that shows the middle grades are where U.S. student achievement begins its fateful plunge, and where a growing number of other nations begin to outpace us.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Chester Finn comments today on the increasing focus that middle schools have on helping kids in their social development and downplaying their education.
Posted by Betsy Newmark at 6:33 AM