In Florida, middle schools may be on their way out. They are increasingly being replaced by K-8 schools, “which offer a gentler pre-teen transition into the world of class changes, multiple teachers, electives and academic responsibility,” explains Lois Solomon of the Sun-Sentinel. “Palm Beach County schools plan to open at least three in the coming years. Broward has five; Miami-Dade is leading the pack with 47.”
Studies show that some of parents’ concerns about traditional middle schools are valid.
Martin West, a Harvard education professor, found math and reading scores for many Florida students in traditional middle schools dropped from fifth to sixth grade and continued to plummet as middle school proceeded. But students in K-8 schools were more successful academically, he said.
“I had been skeptical to what extent this would be an important variable,” he said. “K-8 schools do seem to have some real advantages. Standalone middle schools seem to be difficult to run well.”
The study of Florida students that examines what happens to student achievement when students start middle school is “The Middle School Plunge: Achievement tumbles when young students change schools,” by Guido Schwerdt and Martin West, which appears in the Spring 2012 issue of Education Next.
— Education Next