To the Editor:
Why is it that discussions of the K-8 model for schooling usually focus on the impact it has on the oldest students—those who would otherwise attend middle schools—but tend to ignore its implications for the youngest children (“Evidence for Moving to K-8 Model Not Airtight,” Jan. 16, 2008)? Surely, there are issues to consider when youngsters ages 4 through 8 are grouped with students who are almost old enough to drive automobiles.
I’ve read articles in newspapers in Washington, Baltimore, Cleveland, New York City, Philadelphia, and, now, in Education Week that weigh the merits of the K-8 configuration without delving into whether such an arrangement best serves the youngest children.
After I made field trips to schools in a dozen states for my recent book, Building Blocks: Making Children Successful in the Early Years of School, I concluded that there is merit in assigning students from prekindergarten through 3rd grade to schools of their own, not to schools with students as old as age 13, 14, or even 15. One may predict that in K-8 schools the emphasis will be on No Child Left Behind law testing and preparing the oldest students for high school.
Young children deserve a setting in which they can build a foundation for success, a place where all of the teachers are primary-minded and the cognitive, social, and emotional development of young students drives every aspect of teaching and learning. A K-8 school is not apt to be such a place.
Gene I. Maeroff
Teachers College, Columbia University
New York, N.Y.
A version of this article appeared in the February 06, 2008 edition of Education Week as What About K-8 Model’s Effect on the Youngest?