National Journal is exploring the ‘forgotten middle’ grades this week. I’m not a fan of middle schools and find the growing urban trend toward K-8 or 6-12 configurations to be promising. K-12 charter networks like Aspire confirm this trend by creating paired elementary and secondary schools.
Giant urban middle schools are nearly as irretrievable as giant high schools–the shift to multiple teachers in an big anonymous environment is the beginning of the end for many students.
The ‘forgotten middle’ was in too many places the ‘forgotten academics.’ KIPP demonstrated that the middle grades can be academically challenging and supportive simultaneously. Successful middle grade programs appears to 1) be academically challenging, 2) be a connected part of a K-12 academic sequence, and 3) incorporate youth development principals. And, by the way, KIPP and Aspire and other good school developers stick to the 100-students-per-grade formula. Until we develop more sophisticated personalization strategies, size matters in the middle perhaps most of all.