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Report finds good, bad in K-8, middle schools

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SANTA FE – Academically, it doesn’t seem to make much difference whether students attend a middle school or spend their 6-8 grade years in a school that includes kindergarten through eighth grade.

Yet when it comes to incidents of disruption and need for discipline, the K-8 schools appear to be much calmer, according to a report presented this month to the Santa Fe Public Schools board.

“K-8 schools had far fewer instances of reported incidents,” said Associate Superintendent Sue Lujan, adding that local data echoed national studies.

She was summarizing information from the Middle Schools Task Force report, which compared middle schools and K-8 schools in the Santa Fe district.

“K-8 schools have far fewer incidents of classroom disruptions, insubordination, horseplay, intimidation and fighting than middle schools,” Lujan said. However, she noted, Ortiz Middle School reported fewer such incidents than any of the other middle or K-8 schools.

Lujan added that the report looked at actual numbers of incidents, and not per capita occurrences. Because the K-8 schools have fewer students in those junior high years than middle schools, they would be expected to show fewer incidents. Academic performance didn’t seem to respond to how a school is structured, at least according to results of student achievement scores on reading and math standardized tests.

The task force recommended the board keep both K-8 and middle schools, noting each model has its pluses and minuses – such as more curriculum choices in larger middle schools and a longer-term familiarity with students in K-8 schools – and parents and students should be able to choose which is more appropriate for them.

But it also recommended increasing funding to help middle schools return to their true model, with time set aside for “team planning,” with teachers collaborating and additional time for contact with parents and students outside the classroom.

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