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School days school days dear old rotten rule days.

 
 
Reply Tue 18 Oct, 2005 02:03 pm
I read an article the other day that discussed abolishing middle schools and returning to junior high schools. (I hadn't been aware that there was even a difference.)

I started wondering what would be the optimum educational environment.

Uniforms or no uniforms?

Single sex classrooms or co-ed?

Public or private?

Year around school or summers off?

Middle school or junior high?

What would be optimal?

Any ideas?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 3,581 • Replies: 54
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Oct, 2005 02:24 pm
I'll drop back later, probably, but right off, I like the middle school concept. There really is a big difference between 8th and 9th grade students. They probably do belong with the high school group. Just speaking of averages, of course.
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Oct, 2005 02:38 pm
What I recall the difference between middle school and jr. high was that middle school is grades 6, 7, and 8 while jr. high is grades 7, 8 and 9.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Oct, 2005 02:41 pm
Such a tiny, little, finite question here, boomer... Shocked

I'm also just stopping by for a minute before coming back with something more substantial, but an initial thought is "optimum for whom?" That is, there are some things that would benefit an individual kid that would disadvantage the school system and other kids.
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Oct, 2005 02:49 pm
Now that's a good distinction, soz.

Maybe my question should be - how does one decide what would be optimal for their child?

Do certain "types" do better in certain environments?
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Noddy24
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Oct, 2005 03:23 pm
I'll be back, but one fact that educators agree on--and school boards frequently ignore--schools should not be large and impersonal.

Five hundred students is maximum--not 500 in a grade or 500 to a wing--500 students.

Otherwise kids get lost in the rush. Cliques develop. Teachers can't coordinate with other teachers. The kids feel like cogs in a machine.
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shewolfnm
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Oct, 2005 03:37 pm
I vote for the year round school .
My little tid bit in this large question. Laughing

I think that year round schools open the door to better education given that there is more TIME in the class room.
It becomes more of a personal setting and keeps the children in touch with their teacher, their peers, and out of the house.
not that a 3 month vacation is a horrid thing IMO, I just think that breaking that time frame down to 2 weeks here and there through out the year proves for a better educational setting then the 9 months- then drop em- like the summer vacation is now..
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Oct, 2005 05:29 pm
The long summer vacation is a holdover (as I'm sure everyone here knows) from when the US was more of an agricultural nation. Kids were needed for the planting.

I was not needed for planting, and I'm willing to bet that over 90% of the people on A2K - regardless of age, gender, religion, national origin, race, birth place, current location or whether they think small dogs are better than big dogs were not needed for the planting, either.

So why does this vestige of the 19th century still hang around?

Given that schools end up adding a day here, a week there, when classes are cancelled because of snow, etc., it makes sense to extend the year, certainly until the end of June, and maybe increase the Xmas vacation a bit. That way, the worst of the weather and the cold and flu season would be spent away from school. Yes, parents would have to make arrangements. But, really, these are kids. There should be at least some measure of understanding that continual work is not going to work for them, they need some leisure.

I am a big fan of summer camp, particularly for tweens and teens, and so I would not want to see that go away completely, as it would with a year-round school year, so I think some time should be taken off during the summer. That's also a cost-saving measure, if August or mid-July to mid-August were off, most schools could avoid most air conditioning time (it's understood, naturally, that California, Arizona, etc. are going to use air conditioning more than Massachusetts and Wisconsin).

Or, wacky concept alert: how about tailoring the school year based upon geography? Massachusetts goes to school from, say, Feb. 1 - July 1, then from Sept. 1 - Dec. 1. And Arizona goes from Jan 1 - May 1, then from Sept 1 through to Jan 1 (so Mass. gets a break in the middle for winter but Arizona does not, but Arizona gets a longer summer break).

I realize I am putting a lot on weather and geography, but sports and fitness kind of go hand in hand with this. Here in New England, yes, soccer is important for kids like it is everywhere else (as are baseball and football), but hockey is also played. I imagine in Arizona there is more swimming and maybe sailing. Why not encourage that, in the name of (a) community involvement and (b) physical fitness?
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Oct, 2005 05:44 pm
Mr. B keeps talking about moving and I keep pointing out that one of the best public elementary schools is three blocks from the house.

I don't know if it's 500 students small but it is small.

There is another elementary school about 6 blocks from us -- those parents wish they could send them to our neighborhood school.

On the other hand, the area high school is GIGANTIC and apparently not very good.

Avoiding that cog-liness is important.

I too think year-round school is a good idea. An expensive idea too - would people be willing suffer the tax consequences?

jespah! Those are really interesting ideas.

Portland used to have what was called Outdoor School but due to budget cuts the school was gutted. Private donations have been keeping a marginal facsimilie alive. I looked up a little info about it....

Quote:
History of Outdoor School


The idea for Outdoor School began in 1963 when science educators, governmental resource agencies and industry representatives from the Portland area designed a weeklong residential science education program for sixth grade students.

A federal grant from the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act funded the initial program.

Since 1966 over 250,000 sixth grade students have participated in Outdoor School and 47,000 high school students have been student leaders.

The program annually serves 7,000 sixth-grade students and 1,600 high school student leaders.

Outdoor School:

• Provides the opportunity for students to connect with their teachers in a way that is impossible in the classroom.

• Provides curriculum designed to meet Oregon content standards and benchmarks.

• Provides high school students the chance to learn skills in instruction, leadership and public speaking. It also helps students meet some of Oregon's educational requirements.



Outdoor school was like summer camp with science. Every kid I know who did outdoor school loved it.

I'm not sure if arranging three months off at various intervals would be any harder on parents than arranging three months off in a chunk.

Very interesting ideas!
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Oct, 2005 05:58 pm
sozobe wrote:
...but an initial thought is "optimum for whom?" That is, there are some things that would benefit an individual kid that would disadvantage the school system and other kids.



lol My 1st thought was "for what?" The same basic question I think though.

If it's strictly to produce the most literate, well read and knowedgable graduates I'd say uniforms, single sex, year yound private schools would do the trick. IMO, you'd end up with an awful lot of socially dysfunctional adults in the long run though.

Summer vactions are mostly a holdout by the teachers's unions today. There isn't much justification for them otherwise IMO.
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Oct, 2005 06:10 pm
I'm not talking about the educational environment to produce... say.... Bobby Fischer, fishin'!

I curious as to whether any of these things make a real difference -- or is it simply the student who makes the difference?

I went to a mediocre elementary school, a crappyass jr. high (after I graduated, they turned it into a prison pre-release center without having to modify the building and then they tore the god-forsaken place down) and an excellent high school.

According to my dad I turned out okay. According to my mom I turned out "just wait until your father gets home".

I am just clueless as to what is good and what is bad and how do you chose if you have a choice.
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Letty
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Oct, 2005 06:17 pm
textbook marking, boomer.
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Oct, 2005 06:26 pm
boomerang wrote:
I'm not talking about the educational environment to produce... say.... Bobby Fischer, fishin'!

I curious as to whether any of these things make a real difference -- or is it simply the student who makes the difference?


Yeah, I understood that. I don't think you can tell if a school is good or not on a case by case basis. Picking schools is really a total crapshoot. Sad

Quote:

According to my dad I turned out okay. According to my mom I turned out "just wait until your father gets home".


Moms are like that! Very Happy
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Oct, 2005 06:47 pm
Boomer, I think there are some kids who will succeed no matter what, and some kids who won't, pretty much no matter what.

And, as you know, I think parents are huge in this whole thing -- a child who goes to a lousy school but who has creative, curious, informative parents who are very involved in his/ her education will do much better than another student going to the same school with uninvolved parents.

But after you remove all of these variables, there are still trends, still aspects that are more or less likely to produce a "successful" graduate. (Gotta use quotes even there, though -- as fishin' indicates, how do you define "successful"? I'll go with what you say and operate from what kind of education I'd want sozlet to get.)

I am a great believer in public schools, as a concept. I chose where we moved in large part because it had a strong school district. I like a lot of things about good public schools, including the opportunity for all to get a good, free education and the greater diversity compared to most private schools (I don't just mean racial diversity but income, disability, etc.).

If I was faced with the choice of sending sozlet to sub-par public school or a very good private school, not sure what I'd do. Went to some lengths to avoid having to make that choice. (Knock on wood, we could still have to move for some reason, or the school system here could take a nosedive before she reaches the end of [currently excellent] high school...)

I'll try to take it piece by piece and then can expand upon it as necessary.

Uniforms or no uniforms?

No. I think self-expression is a big part of being a kid. I was very active in this when I was a kid, my school was thinking of having a uniform policy, we did all kinds of surveys and research and stuff, I wish I could remember more of what we discovered. But I remember our conclusion -- No. I could revisit that I guess (heh) but my instinctive reaction is still no.

I think there are larger issues that can be addressed by the school without resorting to uniforms. For example, in the culture of the schools I attended, creativity trumped brand names. Rich kids didn't necessarily have the edge -- those of us who frequented thrift shops and put things together in interesting ways were as likely to make the "best dressed" list.

No hats were allowed because of gangs. There were some other basic requirements. That seemed sufficient.

Single sex classrooms or co-ed?

Definitely co-ed. No question. Again I would hope that there would be a larger, underlying culture that would undercut some of the typical advantages to single-sex classrooms. Sozlet's an only child (well, currently, will probably remain so), and school is going to be a whopping part of her social life. Don't want that to be girls-only. (I don't mean boyfriends, I mean friend-friends, throughout. My best friend in 2nd grade was a boy.)

Public or private?

Talked about that already.

Year around school or summers off?

Gotta go, will come back to the rest.
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Oct, 2005 06:24 am
It might be good to talk about who went to what type of school, where and when. That would color our perspectives, I suspect.

I attended public schools all of my life, except for nursery because there was no nursery program in 1965 in Edison, New Jersey, unless it was the JCC (Jewish Community Center). So I went there.

Then I attended public school in King of Prussia, PA (Caley Road School, it was brand-new when I started), then 6th grade at Washington Drive Elementary in Greenlawn, NY (very old building, it's now, I think, a brand-spankin' new K - 4 school, of course the building is gone, including my solar system mural, sniff). 6th grade is the first time I ever had a male teacher.

Junior High was at Oldfield JHS, which is currently Oldfield Middle School. Freudian slip, I almost wrote "Oldfiend".

High School was Harborfields in Greenlawn, NY. I graduated in 1979. It was a bunch of old buildings strung together, barely. But over 1/4 of our class was Honor Society, and over 3/4 of our class went to at least a community college after graduation.

I guess you could call me a success in that I went to Boston University and then to Widener Law School. However, I don't practice any more and am in IT. But I'm also a success in the sense that I'm a (I like to think) productive member of society. I own my own home, pay taxes, am saving for retirement and have never been in trouble with the law.

RP was a city kid. He grew up in the Upper West Side of Manhattan and went to a private school through 8th grade, then attended Stuyvesant (it's a magnet school, you need to pass an admittance exam to get in but it is a public high school). He's class of '83. He's also a productive member of society, works in engineering/IT. Does not use anything learned in college in his work. Is also financially and socially responsible, also has not been in trouble with the law.

Did I get a better education than him? Did he get a better one than me? I don't know. Neither of us wore uniforms. We were both in co-education throughout our school "careers". We both had summer vacations. I went to camp, he did not. We both knew how to read before we started first grade, taught mainly by our parents.

--- I think a big thing is parental involvement. Had a secretary when I was in insurance. And I recall asking her, when her older son was about to start school, "Oh, can J___ read?" and her response, I won't forget it, was, "Oh, no, I want the teacher to do that." Huh? So, at age 5 or 6 or whatever, poor little J___ was already behind.

Good teachers are key, or at least competent teachers. Bad teachers, unfortunately, can have a lot more impact than good teachers, I think. Why do so many people hate math? It can't just be the degree of difficulty. I suspect it's at least partly due to a lack of decent math teachers, then the teaching isn't good, then no one wants to grow up to be a math teacher, and then there are more bad math teachers and the cycle repeats itself for another generation. It may not be a matter of wondering why there are so many people who can't stand math as opposed to wondering how anyone actually enjoys it.

There's also community involvement. Does the community vote for or against the budget? When I was in high school, the budget was voted down for 2 out of 3 years. One year we didn't have buses. It was nuts, my brother and I walked almost 3 miles each way. Our father finally started driving us to school so that we wouldn't be late. And for what? So that people could save a few pennies on their taxes? These were not busy streets, but what if they had been? Shouldn't a child's life or ability to walk be more important than a modest tax savings?

And hand in hand with community is other action, such as, does the community care about what the kids get to eat for lunch? Do they care about whether there are field trips? Does anyone volunteer?

I have no children, but I still want my neighborhood to have good schools with healthy, happy, productive and learning children in them. Why? Because those kids, if neglected, could become criminals or welfare cases, or at least, as they say, "not live up to their potential". But if nurtured, they will pay taxes, own and fix up their homes, serve their country, entertain us, lead us and do everything that good neighbors and friends do. I want that in my community. I'm willing to open my wallet and pay the taxes that it takes to make sure that they get a fighting chance, so long as that money is spent wisely and well. And I suspect most people here are also willing, but how many others out there are there?
0 Replies
 
Linkat
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Oct, 2005 10:35 am
That's weird about middle school versus junior high. I also thought they were the same. Where I went to school they still call this junior high and it has 7th and 8th graders in the school. Other schools in my area usually have some combination of 7, 8 and 9 in junior high/middle school - I think I heard of one that has 6 graders also at this level. No where that I know of has 8th graders in high school.

My high school had over 4,000 students (with 4 grades) in it, no where near Noddy's optimal number. There were certain advantages as you got a great variety of classes - something you would never get at a smaller school. I suppose it depends on the child. I was self-motivated - so I took advantages of certain classes that I would never had gotten the opportunity of in a small school.

I don't like year round, unless there are several weeks off in between. I think kids need some time off to be kids. To me, a week vacation here and there is not long enough. I think they need several weeks at a time to play, no homework, no stress of grades, etc. It would then be like work if you needed to go full year. I would go for a month around Christmas/New Years and a month in the summer and then at least a week or two in the Spring and summer.

Logically for financial reasons, jespah - having winter off makes sense, but what child wants to have winter off? And what parent wants to deal with the kids in the house most of the time because it is way too cold to be outside for long periods of time. I think summer is best, because it is conducive for the children.
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Oct, 2005 12:03 pm
I've been trying to track down the articles that inspired my quesion. One was "Boy Brains, Girl Brains" at http://msnbc.msn.com/id/9287947/site/newsweek/

It's about single sex classrooms in co-ed schools.

The other article is only available for a fee or to Time magazine subscribers. Its called "Is Middle School Bad For Kids?" and is subheaded Cities across the U.S. are switching to K-8 schools. Will the results be any better?

It can be found here: http://www.time.com/time/archive/preview/0,10987,1088694,00.html
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Oct, 2005 12:24 pm
My computer is being a bit balky today so I'm posting shortish replies. Bear with me!

Soz, I know what you're saying about uniforms but I'm really torn on this issue. I see a lot of positives in uniforms. For one thing it allows kids to get up and out of the house quicker. More importantly, I do think clothes are used as markers of social and economic status. Maybe this comes from my background of being poor and never having the "right" clothes. I'll have to think on that one a bit more.

I also see a lot of benefits to single gender classes -- for both genders. Again, I don't know -- and that's why I'm asking!

I believe in the idea of public school but if I can afford to send Mo to private school I would do it in a heartbeat. I have my eye on several private schools and I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Individual kids and their parents obviously make a huge difference in the outcome of either schooling. Even the slacker kids I knew who went to private school received a better education, I think, that the moderately motivated public school kids did.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Oct, 2005 12:28 pm
This is what I agree with in the boy brians/ girl brains article:

Quote:
To some experts, Gurian's approach is not only wrong but dangerous. Some say his curriculum is part of a long history of pseudoscience aimed at denying equal opportunities in education. For much of the 19th century, educators, backed by prominent scientists, cautioned that women were neurologically unable to withstand the rigors of higher education. Others say basing new teaching methods on raw brain research is misguided. While it's true that brain scans show differences between boys and girls, says David Sadker, education professor at American University, no one is exactly sure what those differences mean. Differences between boys and girls, says Sadker, are dwarfed by brain differences within each gender. "If you want to make schools a better place," says Sadker, "you have to strive to see kids as individuals."


I also agree with some of the measures they took, but it's not very scientific -- they need a control group that is co-ed that has no desks and the carpeted area.

That's what we had -- no desks, a carpeted area, and boys and girls learning together.

I guess that leads to Jes' suggestion:

I went to Open schools throughout. 1-6th grade I had two teachers, one for 1-3 and one for 4-6. Both classrooms were of the type I just described -- no desks, "circle" time, carpeted areas, pillows, lofts. Great school.

7-8 I went to an Open Jr. High. Also no desks, but lots of tables, less carpet/ pillows. Good school.

9-12 I went to the Open program within a large (several thousand students) high school that had several other programs within it. Some desks, not many. Lots of tables. Some carpets and chairs. Decent school.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Oct, 2005 12:38 pm
That's why I referred to the larger culture of the school and thrift stores in terms of social and economic markers. All through all of that, I was considered well-dressed by my peers, and I/ my family spent basically NO money on clothes. I did it with 50 cent purchases and imagination. I never ever had a name-brand pair of jeans (and this was in the 80's, when name-brands were Important).

I see how sozlet's doing something similar (I make a lot of her clothes, get a lot of them way cheap, the rest are hand-me-downs). She's known for her get-ups. Today -- a mock-layered t-shirt with a kitten holding a guitar and the legend "Rock it!", a dark pink "short sleeved" T over heather gray long sleeves (really all one piece, 99 cents at Old Navy), a dark pink corduroy short skirt ($5.99 at the Gap), pink socks (99 cents at Gymboree), and three-tone (pink, darker pink, darkest pink) high-top Chuck Taylors ($4.99 at Marshall's). Oh and a gray/silver beaded headband ($1.99 at the Gap).

She chose all of that herself btw.

The time thing in the morning really isn't an issue, if we're in any kind of a hurry she chooses the night before.
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