School daze

August 25, 2008

Not sure what I think about this:

SAN ANTONIO – Ninth grade, often the first year of high school, is a critical time when many students sink or swim while coping with new academic responsibilities and learning the oh-so-important social hierarchy.

Some educators are turning to ninth-grade-only schools to separate 14- and 15-year-olds from older kids and make the transition easier.

“People just really value having our ninth-graders have a chance to develop intellectually, emotionally and socially outside of the context of a large comprehensive high school setting,” said Kenneth Graham, superintendent of Rush-Henrietta Central School District near Rochester, N.Y. “They don’t have upperclassmen in the halls picking on them and teasing them.”

There were 127 ninth-grade-only public schools in the 1999-2000 school year. By the 2005-06 school year, that number had jumped to 185, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

In San Antonio, the Southside Independent School District is opening a ninth-grade school this month. Another district plans to open one next year.

When I went to high school, it was a four-year experience. By the time my brother was ready a few  years later, they were experimenting with a three-year middle school and a three-year high school. Now, I think most school systems are back to 6-2-4. Arguments can be made for either one, but they have in common giving students three chances to experience one of life’s enduring patterns: First you’re the youngest, then the oldest.

The “ninth grade academy” is one of the latest education fads, and the arguments advanced for its adoption make some sense. The ninth grade is where problems first appear, and students who have 9th-grade difficulties are most likely to drop out. But I wonder about the effects of isolating students for that one year, giving them nobody to emulate and nobody to mentor (or torment, as the case may be). Don’t know, just wonder.

Educators are quick to embrace new methods before the evidence is quite in, then very slow to abandon them despite the evidence. Everybody is still pushing for all-day kindergarten, though it’s become clear that its effectiveness is debatable. Now the savior of our children’s future is said to be universal pre-K. But, hey, slow down a little:

While the Lexington Institute report cited studies that find low-income and at-risk children can benefit from quality pre-school programs, it also found evidence that the benefits for other children are limited and that pre-school can even create behavioral problems in some children.

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One Response to “School daze”

  1. Bob G,. Says:

    I dunno either, Leo…
    When it comes to education, the BASIC approach seemed to work the best, and by that I mean ROTE (and lots of it).
    We’ve “PCed” the heck out of the system and with dubious results. And it doesn’t matter if it’s all-day kindergarten or high school…the results are similar (and not in a good way).

    For me, it all began the year AFTER I graduated, which was ’71.
    With the relaxing of dress codes, new “middle schools”, and the whole “feel good” rhetoric spouting about, it was small wonder that we’ve come to where we are today with the educational system the way it has “progressed” lo, these 30+ years.
    We had a 5 year “hitch” (8th-12th grades) for high schools in Philly, and it didn’t seem to hurt us one bit.
    But we DID have something SO many kids lack today…a VIABLE family structure (two parents that gave a damn).
    That alone says much.

    B.G.


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