Should We Ease Kids Into Middle School?

Sixth grade academies are popping up to help students bridge the step up from primary school.

I'm back in my hometown of Atlanta for the week, so naturally I took a gander at the ever-shrinking Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In this past Sunday's issue was an interesting piece on a concept I wasn't aware of: so-called "sixth-grade academies" intended to help kids transition from elementary school to middle school.

Thus far, there are only three of them in the entire state of Georgia, but here's the rationale behind their existence:

[T]he academy is a selling point for parents who don’t like the idea of wide-eyed 11- and 12-year-olds running into mature eighth-graders who can range in age from 13 to 15. ...
A major focus at the school is helping students establish good study habits and organization skills to prepare for a larger course load. Students are taught how to arrange their backpack and they take surveys to help understand how they learn best, whether visually, audibly or through hands-on activities.
One of the three academies in Georgia instituted uniforms, as well as single-sex classes, which may be taking this concept too far.
The article even sparked some good-natured debate among the staff of the AJC. Senior Education Reporter Maureen Downey wrote on her Get Schooled blog that research actually supports lessening the number of transitions that kids need to cross throughout their schooling years. These sixth-grade academies, as well as others she's familiar with aimed at ninth-graders and fourth- and fifth-graders, just add another transition year to a student's path.
Research ... has shown that students suffer achievement loss during each transition year. Studies also show that students in k-8 schools outperform peers in middle and junior highs, and the fewer transitions are considered a key factor. Students in the k-8 and k-12 schools, a configuration that remains common among private schools, also experience less stressful adolescent years.
What do you think? Is mixing a child as young as 11 with one as old as 15 during the most awkward of the teenage years a situation worth avoiding?
Photo (cc) via Flickr user NancyCoop\n
Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less

The disappearance of 40-year-old mortgage broker William Earl Moldt remained a mystery for 22 years because the technology used to find him hadn't been developed yet.

Moldt was reported missing on November 8, 1997. He had left a nightclub around 11 p.m. where he had been drinking. He wasn't known as a heavy drinker and witnesses at the bar said he didn't seem intoxicated when he left.

Keep Reading Show less
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore

The common stereotypes about liberals and conservatives are that liberals are bleeding hearts and conservatives are cold-hearted.

It makes sense, conservatives want limited government and to cut social programs that help the more vulnerable members of society. Whereas liberals don't mind paying a few more dollars in taxes to help the unfortunate.

A recent study out of Belgium scientifically supports the notion that people who scored lower on emotional ability tests tend to have right-wing and racist views.

Keep Reading Show less