Middle School Critique: A Distortion of Reality

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To the Editor:

Regarding Cheri Pierson Yecke’s Feb. 1, 2006, Commentary, "Mayhem in the Middle":

It is simply untrue that schools employing the middle school concept treat “nonacademic endeavors, such as identity development and social-skills training, as the priority.” Rather, schools built on the middle school concept recognize and understand what research shows: For this age group, academic achievement is strengthened when appropriate attention is paid not just to academic needs, but also to emotional and social as well as athletic and physical needs. Research also shows that the developmental needs of young adolescents are distinct from those of both elementary-age children and high school students.

Most responsible educators no doubt would agree that middle-grades education should not focus exclusively on personal adjustment, and would, along with Ms. Yecke, support “rigorous academic standards, a coherent curriculum, high expectations, effective instruction, strong leadership, results-based accountability, and sound discipline.” In fact, there is enormous overlap between her words and the middle school concept as described in the National Middle School Association’s position paper “This We Believe: Successful Schools for Young Adolescents.”

Ms. Yecke paints an inaccurate picture of the middle school concept, then uses it to set up an artificial opposition between her goals for students and the goals of those who adhere to the concept. Such distortion is unworthy of someone in so important an educational position, and I trust she will take steps to correct it.

Bill Ivey
Middle School Dean
Stoneleigh-Burnham School
Greenfield, Mass.

Vol. 25, Issue 26, Page 31

Published in Print: March 8, 2006, as Middle School Critique: A Distortion of Reality

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