Thursday, May 27, 2010

Good-bye Middle School, Hello Junior High?

The school is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize. ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

Last week, our school board voted to pink-slip 14 teachers. Talk of severely cutting specials (PE, art, computers, music) would create a ripple effect, especially in the middle school. Aside from the fact that these programs are the ones students love the most and that are an important part of creating well-rounded, imaginative, and civilized people, cutting specials will also affect the general education programming.

The middle school in which I work is built around the middle school concept. A team of related arts teachers is crucial in ensuring that grade level teachers have common planning time. This common planning time is necessary for teams being able to flex their schedule, to plan interdisciplinary and integrated units, and to meet for looking at student work and monitoring student achievement. If this common planning time is lost, our students will be the ultimate losers. Our middle school will exist as a middle school in name only.

These budget cuts make it even more crucial for teachers at the middle level to be certified specifically to teach middle level, even though it is not required by the state. But, unfortunately, young teachers working toward a Masters degree are looking for programs that will forward their career. An administrative degree will qualify you for an administrative position. A degree in curriculum opens doors to becoming a curriculum director or specialist. A middle level degree can open those doors as well, but only if a district understands the power of having middle level specialists. For information on what exactly is gained through a Masters in Middle Level Education, you can read previous posts I've written here and here.

A middle school that loses the elements that make it a middle school becomes a junior high. Young adolescents are not little high-schoolers. It is so important, crucial, imperative that if our young adolescents are attending a school that has the structure of a junior high, they must have educators who understand what it means to BE and what it means to EDUCATE young adolescents.

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