Friday, March 13, 2009

Middle Schools & DCSS

Middle School is so, so important for a student's academic success in high school and college. It's the make or break time to reach a student. Also, discipline can be tough with this age group. Yet many DCSS Middle Schools are packed beyond capacity and filled with trailers (horrible learning environments). Sequoyah Middle is way overdue for a renovation or tear down. The school grounds and track at Shamrock are embarassing.

Hoping some DCSS administrators and principals will be attending these upcoming conferences:

A Symposium on Excellence in Middle Level Teacher Preparation
Excellent middle grades teacher preparation is critical to the success of education. Whether you are just starting a program for middle grades educators or are involved in an established program, this symposium will meet your needs.

Middle Level Essentials Conference and Ninth Grade Academy Conference
Participants will take part in an intensive two-day academy for high school educators who desire to help ninth grade students flourish in a unique and supportive environment. The Academy sessions will feature experts from across the country, ready to inspire and answer your questions.

We have some very good elementary schools and high schools in DeKalb, but are middle schools the weak link? Would like to hear from DCSW posters about their thoughts on DCSS middle school, academics, facilities, overcrowding, discipline, etc.


Lefty said...

There is more research that shows that middle school doesn't work that shows that it does. Look at a study by the Rand Corporation, Focus on the Wonder Years; Challenges Facing the American Middle School.

Research suggests that the onset of puberty is an especially poor reason for beginning a new phase of schooling, inasmuch multiple simultaneous changes (for example of puberty and school transfer)are stressful for adolescents and sometimes have negative long-lasting effects. Furthermore, the few studies that compared schools with different grade configurations suggest that young teens do better in K-8 schools than in schools in configurations that require a transition to an intermediary school.

DunwoodyTalk said...

Lefty, good find. This is one reason many in Dunwoody are/were opposed to a 4th-5th grade academy in our cluster. Kids in Dunwoody will go to a K-3 school, then a 4-5, then a 6-8, then a 9-12.

Anonymous said...

Lefty, I've read some of that research, and it's thought-provking. I attended a K-8th myself, and was all the better for it. Plus, it's a big advantage when parents have multiple children. So mch easier to have two, three or four in the same school.

I think DCSSS should have at least one K-8th. If they are going to try the K-3, 4-5, 6-8, 9-12, model, a K-8/9-12 is worth a try. However, there is also a ton of research about the benefits of isolating 9th graders from 10-11-12 with in a high school.

Cerebration said...

IMO - 6th and 9th grade is where the wheels come off in DCSS. Our district overall only has a 43.82% on track rate in 6th grade and 56.32% 9th Grade on-Track Rate - according to 2007-08 data on DCSS from the State. Look at how they start off at 72.5% successful in first grade and then fall the rest of the journey. Parents are sending prepared children into the system --- then something starts to unravel. And it's obviously not due to attendance.

In fact - we actually have fairly dismal numbers overall - beginning with the fact the the DCSS overall hasn't made AYP for four years.

1st Grade Achievement 72.52%

2nd Grade Achievement 69.81%

3rd Grade Achievement 51.95%

4th Grade Achievement 50.72%

5th Grade Achievement 55.48%

Attendance (Elementary) 96.35%

6th Grade Achievement 43.82%

7th Grade Achievement 54.81%

8th Grade Achievement 42.31%

8th Grade Writing Ach 70.33%

Attendance (Middle) 95.28%

9th Grade on-Track Rate 56.32%

Science Achievement 79.68%

HS Graduation Rate 75.3%

Average SAT
Composite Score 1338

Attendance (High) 93.12%

SYSTEM AYP Status Did Not Meet AYP

Data can be found at

Cerebration said...

We did see a little gain last year though --


9th Grade on-Track Rate NA

Science Achievement NA

High School Graduation Rate 72%

Average SAT Composite Score 1259

Cerebration said...

I really can't quite reconcile these numbers though. I just don't get how we have a 56.32% 9th grade success rate yet somehow, we come shining through in 4 years with a 75.3% graduation rate.

I REALLY would like to know how DCSS calculates the graduation rate. Once at Lakeside, I heard it was calculated by how many students began the year as seniors and how many of those seniors actually graduated. I am under the impression that it's not calculated across all 4 years.

It simply can't be at Lakeside - since I know they don't track the hundreds of students who leave after 9th, 10th or 11th grade. For example, the current class of juniors has 306 students, however I know for a fact that when this class began as freshmen, they had over 550. So far, this class has seen 244 students "drop out" or at least leave. That's a loss of 44% of the class so far!

Cerebration said...

Yep - that's how they do it. According to the STATE DOE report, Lakeside had a 84.7% graduation rate in the class of 2006. That was calculated by dividing the 287 who received regular diplomas by the total class size of 339. No mention of the 100 or so who left between freshman and senior year.

Ella Smith said...

The big problem is that in the first three years in high school it is fine for students to leave. This is what the graduation coach is suppose to be doing but I do not see the positive effect for the money spent on graduation coaches around the state.

I do feel it is important not to lower standards but there does need to be options for these students. I see the military academy as a good option.

Cerebration said...

Perhaps the Catholics know what they're doing. Their schools all go K-8 and then high school... I've never seen a Catholic "middle" school. I think in 7th & 8th grade, the kids mentor to the younger kids and learn compassion and responsibility. It's a good thing, IMO.

Anonymous said...

DCSS used to have the traditional K-7 for elementary school and 8-12 for high school. Then the education "experts" in this state decided there needed to be something "in the middle". At first DCSS went to the Junior High concept 7,8,9 and then changed to the Middle School of 6,7,8. It's my understanding, or I was told at the time, that school systems had to go this way or lose federal funding.