Sept. 6, 2007 — -- The Kansas City, Mo., school superintendent believes he has found the wave of the future in education: Eliminate middle school and test scores will go up.
For 50 years, the model for American public schools has been elementary school, then middle school and then high school.
But Kansas City, Mo., is eliminating the middle schools in favor of a single "elemiddle" school that will go from kindergarten through eighth grade. There, students in all grades stick with one teacher for the most of the day, so older kids will not switch classrooms for every subject as is the practice in middle schools.
"You're in a nurturing environment," said Kansas City School Superintendent Anthony Amato. "You don't see as many teachers as you would in a large environment, [such] as a middle school of 1,000 students."
He said the kids will calm down when they can be role models for the younger students. And he believes reading and math scores will go up as expulsion rates and drop-out rates go down.
Charles Gibson talked to some sixth graders in Kansas City who had expected to be in a middle school this year but instead are in an elemiddle school with the younger students.
One said, "I think it's horrible! Because we have to stay with the little kids."
Another said he liked the change because "all of my friends are here."
"If you don't know people in your class, they might not want to help you with an answer or a problem. And if your friend is sitting next to you, they will help you," the student added.
Right across the river in Kansas City, Kan., officials are sticking with the middle schools.
"I don't think that structures are what make the biggest difference," said David Smith, the assistant to the superintendent of the Kansas City, Kan., schools. "It's what you do within that structure."
No one really disagrees. Good teachers will succeed anywhere and a nurturing environment is essential.
But Amato said their first K-8 schools are already showing results.
"Just by looking at our final scores that already exist on a K-8 level," he said, "they are far out-producing and far out-gunning … our middle schools right now."