Middle Schools Are the Problem, Not Pre-K

Fewer Virginia middle schools met state benchmarks for full accreditation this year, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Standards of Learning test results released yesterday by the Virginia Department of Education showed that elementary schools and high schools are holding their own, but the percentage of middle schools meeting state benchmarks fell from 71 percent last year to 69 percent this year.

The lagging performance of Virginia middle-school students, especially in math and science, is reflected also in the National Assessment of Educational Progress numbers.

Why, then is Gov. Timothy M. Kaine so insistent upon expanding pre-K programs? Virginia’s problem isn’t at the pre-K level. Virginia pupils perform well when they go to elementary school. They start under-performing in middle-school. If the answer is pumping more money into an ossified public educational system — a premise that I dispute — then why don’t we at least apply funds and creative thinking to the part of the system that is most obviously broken?

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2 responses to “Middle Schools Are the Problem, Not Pre-K”

  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    You alluded to NAEP but did not really show.. the difference between SOL and NAEP tests – especially with regard to the NAEP standards for “proficient”.

    Only 30% of elementary kids in Va meet the “proficient” standard even though we beat our chests about our great SOL scores.

    When 2/3 of the elementary kids do not meet “proficiency” standards (which includes not only being able to read BUT _understand_ .. AND to the be able to formulate your own creative thoughts with words on paper….

    .. anyhow.. the 2/3 that get SOL Kudos in Elementary school but are not proficient …is a killer in Middle School.. where you must have your basics … to use in “real” learning.

    Middle school is where the kids who did not really learn in Elementary are .. finished off.

    We are in a state of denial.

    Many folks (parents and teachers) are opposed to the SOLs (much less NAEP) .. because it makes the kids and the schools “look bad” and then, of course, it also makes it harder for kids to get into “good” colleges… because of the “stigma” of not getting the desired GPA.

    Our schools… are not treated as the vital strategic necessity of a healthy world-competitive economy that they should be…

    …but rather as “perks” for parents kids. We want.. “clubs” and extra-curricula activities, AP, and other “perks” that become “bullets” on kids college entrance “resumes”

    .. but god-forbid.. that those test scores actually mean something…

    The NAEP results tell the story. The problem is most everyone refuses to listen.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    The answer to your basic question is that putting the money into pre-K allows for 1) hiring lots of new teachers, potentially union members and 2) building lots of building space, potential political boodle and 3) some potential real value in getting kids out of totally destructive environments, if only for part of the day. But that is….babysitting.

    The previous comment is right. Nobody wants to face up to the fact that despite the Lake Wobegon PR, all the kids are NOT above average and middle school is where the wheat and the chaff really start to separate. Puberty is a bitch, that’s part of it. Misbehavior moves from the annoying to the absolutely violent, as some of these kids in the fourth and fifth year of repeating grades are all but adult and an alarming number are armed. They see their future choices as bad-ass or fry cook or Marine (and let’s hope some continue to choose the final choice.)

    But the education establishment has been chewing its nails uselessly over middle school for decades, and this pre-K gimmick is the latest in a long chain of Bright New Ideas.

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