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General questions re: Middle School (from mom of a 5th grader)


sjst1000 September 22, 2008

Hi everyone!

I'm new to this group. With a son who is in 5th grade, I've started researching middle school programs in my area.

As I do this, I realize what a different world middle school is from elementary, and it leaves me with a ton of questions. I know that I'll get my best informations not from the schools themselves, but from other moms. So I'm wondering, if you all wouldn't mind answering stuff like:

- what do you think is important in a middle school? I realize programs differ, so I'm wondering, what do you like about yours?

- what do you dislike in your program?

- what questions did you ask when choosing the school where your child now attends?

Because we have open enrollment, if there's room in a specific program, my son can attend. So it gives you lots of choice, but that choice is almost too overwhelming; you don't want to make the wrong decision for your child :c)

Thanks so much!


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TeacherParent December 15, 2008

I'm a long-time middle school teacher and can answer your good question from that perspective as well as having been a parent of middle schoolers. I'd say - class size and school size are Very Important factors when choosing a school. Small class sizes stress teachers less, allow for greater communication between teachers and students and help to create a sense of shared community in the classroom. School size is also important - the same holds true for smaller schools - a greater sense of community can be present, a stronger relationship between teachers and students and generally a much better environment. If I had a choice between a large school and a small school, I'd choose the smaller one every time.
As to programs - I like variety and programs that offers choices. Middle schoolers are growing every day in their sense of individuality - schools shouldn't fight against that but work to foster it. Allowing students to make choices within the curriculum recognizes and reinforces their individuality -it allows them to explore what might be their interests.
But saying that, I'd also say this - not every parent wants their child to have choices and in the better world, every family would be able to find the ideal school for their child - that school the philosophy of which is a close match with your family.
What do you like? Do you want a school that honors the arts as well as academic subjects? Would your children benefit from a school that allows all students a place on athletic teams regardless of their athletic ability? Do you want a school with rigid policies or one that wants to work with the students as individuals?

Go and visit is my best advice. You have that right. Ask to sit in a classroom or two and observe. See what's happening around you. Is it chaos and tension? Are teachers and students smiling or stressed? See if the school has the appearance of what you want for your children. Do any of the schools have an articulated philosophy? A mission statement of any kind? Those can gives clues as to what the school thinks it wants to be.
Your are Very Fortunate to live in an area that allows you to choose between schools.
Good luck.


Robin_217 December 18, 2008

My daughter goes to a magnet school Boston. We like it because it provides a good college-prep education (and goes through High School). Also, being urban and free,I like that she is in a diverse environment than she would be at a private school. That being said, if she did not get into the school, we probably would have sent her to private school since the local district is not very good.

I think class size makes a big difference, and also parent involvement. Are there lots of ways for you to be involved in the school? I think strong extracurricular programs are important--this is the age when kids start to develop their talents and their social groups.

One thing that I wish I knew more about before I sent my daughter to school was how the school fosters acceptance and social community. Middle school can be sooo tough for kids--my daughter's had some real problems with cattyness. You want teachers and administration that don't turn a blind eye, and that have a lot of opportunities for different students to express themselves somehow. Her saving grace was a great music program--through that she made friends and found her "group."

Hope that helps.


TeacherParent December 30, 2008

I was a mom as well as a teacher so I'd answer from both perspectives - I like smaller schools rather than bigger schools - for the most part. I'd like any school to have a sense of community and shared purpose. I'd like the faculty to be available to students and overall friendly. I'd like a school to be able to be trusting of students. I was looking for flexibility rather than rigid rules. I wanted a curriculum that didn't emphasize textbooks or memorization - I wanted wider readings and critical thought. I liked that this middle school had 'advisors' - every student had a faculty advisor with whom they built a good relationship and who acted as the student's advocate in the school. I liked that athletic teams made room for everybody - there was a B team as well as an A team and if you couldn't make the A team, you were guaranteed play time on the B team. Everybody was given a part in the play - there were tryouts but all were promised some part. All those things contributed to a sense of community between students rather than a sense of competition.

What I disliked was that the school doubled in size in the next three years and much of the above slowly eroded away.... and I Hated the amount of homework that was assigned and that teachers did not coordinate with each other in any way to plan nightly homework. I didn't like that several tests could be given on the same day because again teachers didn't plan together or that a big test could be given the day after the students required to attend an evening performance. I didn't like that there was no policy on homework but to do it and no policy as to how many tests a student could be given in any single day.

I didn't ask so many questions when I visited- did they 'track' math? Did they 'track' any other classes? Was foreign language required? But I visited the school, spent a day there, and liked how it felt. I had my son visit and spend a day there and liked how they welcomed him.

Good luck with your decision.


Johnston January 30, 2009 enrollment..I can't even imagine. My daughter, because she doesn't qualify for magnet school, the school she has to be bussed to is the worst one in the district. As for looking at programs and questions for the school...See is they have specific classes your son is interested in. When looking at the school itself, see what the teacher/student ratio is. If possible, find out the students' opinion of the teachers. See if there is any violence, and how much is tolerated. Find out what the grades are for the students there and make sure they have special needs classes. Even if your son doesn't need them. We always had them in the schools in Texas where I grew up, but there are none here, in any school. I don't believe a school is a good one if it can't meet the needs of all the students.


Abacaxi April 27, 2009

I am also totally lost and with lost of need of help. Mom of a 5th grader going to Middle School in August 09


JoeBruzzese June 9, 2009

Looks like this forum was abandoned. Considering the challenge that middle school presents for many kids and parents I was hoping to see more information. As an author (A Parents' Guide to the Middle School Years), former teacher and parent of two, the middle school niche is one that I actively follow.

Before launching into a full-fledged assault on preparing for the months ahead I would encourage you to celebrate your child's recent graduation from elementary school. In the 3-4 weeks prior to the start of school this August, begin to set your sights on gathering materials, getting organized and creating a vision for the coming year.

Yes the middle school years are truly unique and worthy of considerable time and effort; but equally amazing are the summer months that you both can share together. I look forward to talking with you here in the forum.

Joe Bruzzese


ad7706 August 20, 2009

- what do you think is important in a middle school? I realize programs differ, so I'm wondering, what do you like about yours?

Academics first. Great Schools gives you a partial glimpse of academics in the school. Generally speaking, the higher a school rating, the stronger the academic core curriculum program is. I also look for strong math and science programs, and co-curricular activities like Project Lead The Way [pre-engineering program] and Future Problem Solvers. My child's school has both.

I also look for a range of extra-curricular activities in which my child may otherwise not be able to participate, and those in which he already has experience. My child's school has fencing, equestrian activities, downhill skiing, rowing/crew and other activities in which I just don't have the time to personally involve him. Another important thing for me is diversity. There are very few homogenous societies left in the world, my child should not grow up in one.

- what do you dislike in your program?

There isn't much I don't like about his school. With so many school options out there, I mean there is no "perfect" school, but it's not difficult to find schools that meet the overwhelming majority of your child's needs.

- what questions did you ask when choosing the school where your child now attends?

Well, before even asking questions, I perused sites like greatschools, project lead the way, and the actual school website to get a feel of what the school offered. I asked questions regarding gifted programs, extra-curricular activities, and what lines of communication were available so that I could keep constant tabs on my child's progress [I don't believe in waiting until parent-teacher conferences].


wiegmans August 20, 2009

My son went into the middle school and found programs he was into. I live in an area that's a very small community so we have one middle school. I research the teachers and get my son into those classes that i feel would benefit him. I am always at the school talking with teachers and parents to find out what programs are being offered and have my son included in the discision of these programs. It's hard because information is not give freely but if you are the kind of parent who gets involved, your child will succeed and have fun. My son is going into 8th grade and I stay involved with teachers and parents while he does his own research about sports and other programs. Good luck, I hope this helps.

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