MIDDLE SCHOOL CONFIGURATION
© H. Jurgen Combs
MIDDLE SCHOOL ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE A SUMMARY OF THE RESEARCH
Reasons for change in configuration
A change in the recommended grade level combination began on a large scale in the early 1960s; this resulted in a shift from the 7-9 combination to a 6-8 or 5-8 configuration. This shift was based on:
Instruction vs. configuration
Most researchers agree that GENERALLY the QUALITY of the school and the instruction was more important than the grade configuration in viewing academic progress of students.
According to Thompson, the following played a greater role in determining academic success than did grade configuration:
However, the evidence strongly supports the social consequences of grade level configuration. For example:
The school should take note of the physical, emotional, and psychological changes these children undergo and new programs should be instituted to help these students deal with the problems and confusions they experience.... todays youths interact differently with society than its counterpart did in the 1900 as a result of this dramatic trend toward earlier physical maturation coupled with the marked cultural changes that have taken place over the past sixty year period. (The Middle School.)
The learning environment prevalent in the elementary and high school does not lend itself to the peculiar needs and interests of early adolescents. What is needed is a middle level program designed to provide specifically for the transcescent youngster and staffed with sensitive, especially prepared personnel. (Tegarden)
Early adolescents share several characteristics
The Organization of the Middle Grades (p. 23)
The time of puberty is a time of intense learning when students must deal with a new body, a new world, new responsibilities, and new intellectual pursuits. The problems of puberty are compounded by periods of brain growth and plateaus; this creates difficulties for the student as well as the teacher.
Myers research (1969) supports a 6-8 middle school because of the more gradual transition from self-contained classrooms to departmental organizations.
Hillyer (1972) reported that 5th, 6th and 7th grade students (as well as 8) should be included in a middle school and that middle schools met student needs better than the elementary model.
Garner found that the largest number of students adjustment problems occurred in a 7-8 school.
Gateman and Creek report that 6th grade was the most appropriate entry level for the middle school. Additionally, the research recommends that 5th grade teachers adopt promising middle school approaches. Gateman and Creek further report that 6th graders more closely resemble 7th graders than 5th graders in areas of personal adjustment and sense of personal freedom. Consequently, the 6th grade is the most appropriate entry level for the middle school.
The New York Middle Grade Task Force states developmentally, students in grades 6, 7, and 8 have more in common in terms of physical, social, psychological, and intellectual variables than do those in other age-grade combinations. A three year middle grade time frame allows the opportunity for strong, positive relationships to be be built among students, teachers, counselors and administrators; this bonding is critical to healthy intellectual and emotional development and sets the state for future academic success and personal/social development for young adolescents. The task force recommends the ELIMINATION of fiscal incentives to build 7-9 schools and ESTABLISH incentives to build 6-8 schools.
The Mineola Union Free School District reported 11 to 14 year olds share broadly defined qualities the middle school combines into one organization and facility a school program that bridges, yet differs from the childhood (K-5) and adolescent (9-12) programs; they reported that the three grade combination provides more stability to the overall program; more time exists for the development of programs, promote teacher/pupil relationships, and provide individualized instruction to meet the highly variable needs and ability levels of this age group; the availability of guidance services is highly important; the emphasis on active student participation in interest groups and low-keyed athletics and social activities is important. Further, the report stated that the middle school facilitates the introduction in grade 6 of some staff specialization and team teaching the middle school provides an opportunity for gradual change from the self-contained classroom to complete departmentalization.
Mineola reports the following drawbacks:
The Jamesville-Dewitt Central School District adopted the 6-8 model in 1980.
Trauschke (1970) reported that:
Cases research (1970) suggested that a 5th grader in a middle school configuration is offered certain advantages not present in the elementary school.
Several studies (Smith and Brantley) reported better reading, science and math scores in middle schools.
Mooney (1970) reported children in the middle school achieved as well or better on the variables tested and that attendance was significantly greater than in equated regular schools.
Moss (1971) research included grade 5 in his definition of a middle school.
Hillyers research (1972) indicated that 5th and 6th graders should be included in a middle school because the differences in the various maturity levels were greater between grades four and five than they were between either grades five and six o grades six and seven.
Schoo (1970) reported that students in a 5-8 middle school showed higher self concepts than students in other schools; concluded that 5-8 schools provide an easier transition for students from elementary schools.
The Herricks Union Free School District (1978) adopted 5-3-4 model and reported that
According to the Market Data Retrieval Information Service, their figures, based on March, 1995 indicate the following:
The Middle School is
A summary of the research
send questions or
comments to me.
last updated on 25 July 2008
© H. Jurgen Combs