Having attended the board of education meeting on Aug. 15 and received a handout on "long term plan options," I am in a state of confusion. Under "disadvantages to the plan" to re-establish a 7-8 middle school, there are several somewhat editorial claims. As a parent (and past PTA president of Weber) and a professional educator, I feel the need to question these claims.
1. I could find no mention in all my teaching materials of anything that says a 7-8 school is "out of alignment with state assessments and standards." Is this meant merely to terrify the gullible and close off this option?
2. "The trend ... is toward 6-8 schools and/or 5-8 schools." Yes, and according to administrators this is a result of space issues. The "educational research" came after, to try to reassure concerned parents. The idea had to be sold to the public, and as educational research is not - and has never been, as the administration well knows - an exact science (which explains the hours of faculty development mandated for each new trend such as the now disrespected "whole language" programs). This objection applies equally to disadvantages numbers one - "...latest research...development." Oh, really? - and number two - the old "We've had it for only four years and we worked on it first" justification.
3. And as for the claim that a 7-8 middle school "limits course and enrichment opportunities for sixth graders," these are only limited by a lack of imagination and/or educational leadership on the part of the administration. These are challenges not obstacles.
My three children were fortunate enough to spend sixth grade in a nurturing and intellectually stimulating environment at Guggenheim School. Weber as a 7-8 school was also a place I was happy to send them, with its excellent team teaching. They were "in-between" but in a good way and still had that year to be kids. As to educational and cognitive development, these are a matter of curriculum and good teaching, not of the location of the program. There are quite a few parents in town whose children have experienced the 7-8 and the 6-8 (their younger siblings). Speak to them. One of the "trends" now is to educate the whole child. These parents will have volumes to say.
Sheila M. Squillace