In an effort to give students more personal attention and implement new strategies to improve schooling for young adolescents, New York City education officials plan to eliminate as many as two-thirds of the city’s 218 middle schools and replace them with K-8 grammar schools or new high schools covering sixth through twelfth grade.
As reported by the New York Times, Michele Cahill, senior counselor for educational policy to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, said the school reconfigurations were only one aspect of a wider effort that would include changes to curriculum, the organization of the school day, and student support services. Although as many as three dozen of the new schools will be in place at the beginning of the next school year, others will wait for new construction. “We are developing a multiyear comprehensive plan,” Cahill said. “We are looking . . . to have more configurations that we think will improve continuity and improve student-teacher connectedness.”
In Queens, regional superintendent Kathleen Cashin has already won approval for a plan that would reconfigure five elementary schools and two middle schools into grammar schools for pre-K-8 classes next fall. The plan also calls for a middle school that will house gifted students in grades six through eight.
“It’s an elementary-like nurturing environment,” she told the New York Times. “Because children are older doesn’t mean they don’t need that nurturing care of a loving, caring adult. I have found attendance is better, almost always. The violence is less, the younger kids defuse the older and the academics are at least as good if not better.”
According to the Times article, the city “faces several difficulties in trying to reconfigure schools, including the physical limitations of existing buildings.” The Education Department has proposed spending $13 billion over the next five years to build up to fifty-four new K-8 schools and up to twenty-three 6-12 schools. Other difficulties could come from critics who say that eleven-year-old students should not be in the same building as eighteen-year-old high school students. Proponents, meanwhile, argue that the 6-12 model offers a clearer path to college.
Read the complete article at http://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/03/education/03SCHO.html.