How to define middle schools

Here’s something worth pondering: What grades should be included in middle schools?

This week, administrators have been touring Prince George’s County schools to discuss a number of issues, including whether to add sixth grade to some middle schools, making them 6-8 schools.

In many parts of the county, elementary school runs through grade 6 and middle school covers grades 7 and 8.

Officials say they are considering a shakeup of that formula because of elementary school crowding. I’m still checking out the data, but a cursory glance shows that eight of the 10 most crowded schools in Prince George’s are indeed elementary schools (excluding “early childhood centers”).

We’re looking into this issue and over the next few days, we’ll be seeking answers to some of the questions. Chief among them is how this will all relate to academic achievement. After all, middle school is often challenging. Middle schools, not just in Prince George’s but everywhere, struggle. Test scores are lower. Kids are meaner. Hormones rage. Will adding another grade help or hurt the problem?

 And how does class size affect test scores? When I asked Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. this question at the beginning of the school year, he told me that the most important thing was the quality of the teacher - not the class size.

I’m a native New Yorker and remember when they did a similar change in the early 90s. I was 6 when my big brother learned his would be the last class to go to sixth grade at our local elementary school. It didn’t seem to faze him. Didn’t faze me either. Then again, I was only 6.

How do you think changing the middle school grade configuration to 6-8 (and elementary schools to K-5) will affect the experience? We’d love to hear your opinion.

Robert Samuels is a national political reporter who focuses on the intersection of politics, policy and people. He previously covered social issues in the District of Columbia.
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