Monday, July 10, 2006

Swimming up Stream

Ms. Cornelius over at A Shrewdness of Apes picked up on my previous post about high school transitions. She links to a wonderful article about how a school is trying to solve the difficult transition between middle school and high school. I had mentioned the idea of a week of "camp" to help students transition. A commentor on Ms. Cornelius's post related this to the week of orientation that many universities do and to the newer efforts to have students take classes during the summer.
First, though, we must admit that too many of our school districts do not do a very good job of streamlining the flow of students from one building to the next. For instance, a group of students may start out at Feel Good Elementary School. After spending K-5 together, they join Poverty Elementary School and Rich Side of Tracks Elementary School at We'll Pass You Middle School. Meanwhile, We Don't Care Elementary School and You're Not From Here Elementary School get together at We Don't Have the Renovation Money Middle School. Both middle schools move students along through the eight grade. Many of the students have been together since elementary school, but at the least, have been together for three years.

Then, when it is time to go to high school, districts take 3/4 of the We Don't Have the Renovation Money Middle School students and send them to Way Downtown High School. 1/4 then go to Every Room with a View High School to join the full population of We'll Pass You Middle School.

Confusing? Yes. The middle schools and the high schools don't communicate. Some students benefit from district lines, while others are shipped off to join students they've never attended school with.

I really do like the idea, especially after writing this confusing and muddled post, of having all ninth graders attend a week long orientation. It is unfortunate that it would get in the way of the parents' lives. Seriously.


At 5:40 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

After having taught in both middle and high schools, I have found it valuable to work on curriculum alignment with my peers. As a high school teacher, I led the curriculum alignment committee at the high school. The middle school teachers were eager and really wanted to know our expectations to inform their instruction. Likewise, as a middle school teacher, I felt the high school teachers geniunely respected us as teachers. Perhaps something like a committee comprised of middle and high school teachers from your feeder schools and high school could work together on a plan for transition?

My school is a private school, but our kids have mostly gone to school together forever. My colleague joked that they've known each other since prenatal care. Actually, that's probably not a joke. But we have a one & a half week study skills course for all of our ninth graders. That is another thing -- I suppose similar to an orientation -- that you might try.

At 11:50 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny, I went to Pollution from Saw Mills Makes Students and Staff Sick Junior High. Then I went to We Won't Fix it Up Until it Burns Down High.

I still think your idea is excellent, but it's sadly true that most parents wouldn't support the idea or take the time out, especially if a day were required of them for parental orientation like another poster over at Ms.C's blog suggested.

At 11:57 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny, I went to Pollution from the Mill Makes Students and Staff Sick Junior High. Then I was sent to Won't Update Until it Burns Down High.

I student taught under the English department head at one middle school (Some Really Good Teachers Battling Administrative and Discipline Problems Middle School). She had a meeting with the staff from the high school our students would be sent to. She came back FURIOUS that they would blame all of the problems with student achievement in 9th and 10th grades on the middle school teachers. She then went on about how it was really the fault of those elementary school teachers. I wish I could have used her in my 8th grade class as an example of irony.

It really is a shame, though, that an orientation week would not work because of lack of parental support or involvement or because teachers and administrators would not be able to see eye-to-eye about how it would be implemented.

At 11:59 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so sorry for posting twice. My computer made it seem like the first one didn't go through. *kicks computer tower*

At 5:10 PM , Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Excellent post!

I keep trying to get some communication going between the middle schools and the high school, without it being a lecture-fest from on high telling the middle school teachers everything they are doing wrong-- you know what I mean.

Why si this so difficult? Why the resistance?

At 8:40 PM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

For the same reason that local community colleges don't interact with the high schools enough--they'are above the high school (smarter), the high schools are above the middle schools (again, smarter), and the middle schools are above the elementary schools (again, smarter--but not by much)!!!! It is the education food chain.

At 7:45 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think part of the problem is that middle schools are seen as the least important aspect of schooling by many districts. In their eyes, the entire purpose of a middle school is to begin by reviewing what kids learned in elementary school and end with introducing the kids to what they'll learn in high school. As a further mark of their lack of respect, middle schools are often at the end of the list for new textbooks, computers, etc. It's ridiculous. So it's no wonder kids making the transition from middle school to high school (when some districts believe that the education begins again) are overlooked.


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