Middle School or Junior High School?

Where to put those pesky sixth graders?

According to a 2007 report, a team of researchers found

that sixth grade students attending middle schools are much more likely to be cited for discipline problems than those attending elementary school. That difference remains after adjusting for the socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of the students and their schools...A plausible explanation is that sixth graders are at an especially impressionable age; in middle school, the exposure to older peers and the relative freedom from supervision have deleterious consequences...Based on our results we suggest that there is a strong argument for separating sixth graders from older adolescents.

I’m guessing that many Lamorinda parents, as did I, attended a junior high school (7th - 9th grade); however, their children are most likely attending (or attended) a middle school (6th - 8th grade).

Parents - did you attend a junior high school or a middle school? Which grade alignment do you like better? Why? 

I own rental property in Auburn, Alabama. The Auburn City School District uses a grade alignment that I find particularly interesting. 

Kindergarten - The district’s kindergartners attend the same school. The school has 28 classrooms and is located on its own campus. By segregating kindergartners, the entire facility, from restrooms to playground equipment to curriculum, can be designed solely with this age group in mind. 

Elementary - Multiple campuses. 1st through 5th grade.

Middle school - One campus. 6th and 7th grade.

Junior High school - One campus. 8th and 9th grade.

High school - One campus. 10th through 12th grade.

The mental, physical, and emotional changes that kids experience during the 6th - 9th grade years are tremendous. Aligning these grades into smaller groupings allows the school to create a learning environment that’s more adaptable to the rapid changes these students are undergoing. 

This model is probably more costly to implement and maintain so it’s not feasible for many school districts. Thus, given our constraints, I’m interested in learning which set-up parents like better - the junior high school grade alignment (which usually treats students as mini-high-schoolers) or the middle school alignment (which is supposed to offer more attention to students than typically found in the junior high school model).

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Kathleen December 03, 2011 at 04:06 PM
As I remember it, Orinda switched 6th graders to the middle schools because of overcrowding at the elementary schools; I'm sure they justified it with some study or another, but many parents objected for the reasons you cite. Back in the dark ages, as a first-year Boomer in Virginia, I attended the elementary school through 7th grade and 8th grade was attached to the high school, somewhat separated as the 6th graders are here in middle school. Junior highs were just being introduced in that system with the class after mine.
Tom December 06, 2011 at 12:18 AM
Interesting...This is the first I've seen "junior high" and "middle school" described as two distinct things, rather than just reflective of changing naming conventions. I think for most Californians from early baby boom up to the mid- '80s or so, the standard structure was as Peter W describes (Elem: 1 - 6, Mid: 7 - 8, and High: 9 - 12). My impression was that the middle school grade realignments (to 6/7/8 or 7/8/9) were primarily to align resources in response to a fluctuating school-age population (though also perhaps "informed" by evolving theories on emotional/intellectual development).
Eileen December 06, 2011 at 02:20 AM
As an FYI, in the late 70's and early 80's in Moraga, the elementaries ended in fifth grade and JMIS was 6-8th grades. I'm not sure what's best, as that whole time from 6th grade up is challenging, as kids are developing physically, emotionally, etc at different times and speeds. Any research/data into how private K-8 or K-12 schools organize their students? They would seem to have greater freedom to optimize their organization of students on, presumably, one large campus that's broken into different age-specific areas. My alma mater, Head-Royce, puts the 6th grade in the "middle school" (6-8th), but I didn't attend until 9th grade, so no personanl insights there.
Chris F. December 06, 2011 at 06:00 PM
I had the privilege of going to two completely different school districts growing up, Orinda CA and Incline Village Nevada. We know that in Orinda has neither a Middle or Junior high, it is respectively called Intermediate 6, 7 and 8th grades. In Incline we had k-5 and 6-12, starting in 7th grade you were allowed to take one elective per semester towards your high school required/core classes which meant you could graduate in the middle of your senior year with only taking a few classes during the first semester and that equaled a fun filled ski season or early work at the resorts.. Problem was coming back to Orinda/California in HS they didn't like that I was a senior taking Chemistry but the fact that I didn't have Biology and other classes on my HS records and that meant they wanted me to retake the classes to graduate Luckily I had already passed the HS proficiency exam and off to DVC I went rather than a senior year with my friends


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