30 July 2011

7-12 Secondary schools instead of jr. highs

Jr. highs have proven to be the worst time of a student's public school experience. That's when kids are most likely to take a nose dive in either behavior or academics. Many people have just written it off to hormones! While that makes things harder, the configurations of middle schools and jr. highs play a big role too.

Elementary students typically have anywhere from 50-100 students per grade level, usually with one main teacher per class. They know their teacher and the other students well, usually of the whole grade. They can't hide in the mob. In a jr. high they typically have 200-300+ students per grade level. It takes those kind of numbers, when you only have 2-3 grades in a school, to be financially viable. In that setting students become part of the mob. Their behaviors deteriorate along with their grades.

Many districts are now experimenting with K-8 schools, which have shown much improvement. Still better, though not as prevalent, are 7-12 secondary schools. There are many advantages to this configuration, but few have really considered this option.

If you turn each jr. high and high school into a 7-12 school, they would house the same number of students, but would reduce the number of students per grade level.

By readjusting school boundaries, the schools would be closer to the homes of the students. This would lower the amount of traffic and travel times.

Students would be in the same school longer without having to transition to a new school, thus reducing the loss of learning and time of adjustment.

Students and teachers would get to know each other better. Parents would tend to be more connected with the school.

If the students had siblings near their age, they would be in the same school - family-friendly, one-stop schooling! They could look after each other better.

One study shows that students who attend 7-12 schools do better in college.

The more you look at 7-12 schools the better they look!

07 July 2011

Ropes and Rods

I've been considering how a rope compares to a rod. A rod is strong but not flexible at all. A rope is strong AND flexible, which makes it more versatile. A rope is made of many strands, each of which is made of many fibers. Together they provide strength along with a give and take that allows it to bend without breaking. If we could somehow melt all these fibers and strands into one rod, they would all be the same but without the ability to bend. There would be no flexibility, no give and take.

This is how I see the need to maintain the viability and strength of our different levels of governance, such as national, state, and local, rather than concentrating all the power to ever higher levels. Consolidating into ever bigger units undermines this flexibility. When a district grows too big, it operates more like a rod. The bureaucracy becomes inflexible. It cannot bend with needs of differing areas. Dividing into smaller, community-sized districts re-creates the right balance between teachers, schools, and districts (fibers, strands, rope).