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Six contrarian predictions for the 2010s

No one can predict the future, but cultural moods and global trends indicate that these six educational reforms could be headed to a classroom near you in the next decade. The only guarantee? That every one of them will be controversial and bitterly contested.

By Hank Pellissier

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K-8s replacing middle schools

The middle school concept — instituted only four decades ago and operating nowhere else in the world — has long been regarded as the "weakest link" in our educational system. Studies of distinct regions often indicate that middle schools have increased discipline problems and truancy, plus sagging test scores in reading, math, and science. Why? Critics suggest that wrenching fragile prepubescents from an established K-5 community of parents, faculty, and students and heaving them into huge classes of strangers impairs learning. Middle school proponents contend that multiple classes and a variety of teachers improve academic quality and prepare kids for the culture shock of high school.

Wherever you come down on the subject, it’s worth noting that middle schools — which replaced the equally loathed junior high schools — have been given an "F" in numerous cities. Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, San Antonio, and others are gradually replacing them by expanding elementary schools into K-8s. If these cities are a harbinger of what’s to come, middle schools will dwindle in the 2010s.

Hank Pellissier is a freelance writer whose fiction and essays have been been widely published and anthologized. A former columnist for Salon and SF Gate, he is a regular contributor to h+ Magazine.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

03/26/2012:
"When you're in not good state and have no cash to move out from that, you will have to receive the personal loans. Just because that will help you for sure. I get student loan every year and feel myself fine because of it. "
01/4/2010:
"In the US, I don't see robot teachers as an acceptable method of teaching. First, in transition, students would see it as a joke and not take learning seriously. Not to mention that children today would try to destroy it and cause all sorts of disruptive behavior in class. That's if they show up at all, believing there would be no disciplinary actions. Also, I believe there needs to be human interaction with students for there to be accelerated learning in the classroom. Students feed off of emotions to learn how to behave in life and in public around strangers and teachers. Robots would leave a void in this area and it could never be replaced."
01/4/2010:
"Where you say 'metric system creates a time suck,' you mean to say 'imperial system.' Otherwise, I totally agree. We should have bitten the bullet in the 1970's and converted back then. At some point we'll lose that privileged status of being the biggest economy in the world, and we won't be able to shun metric any more. "
12/29/2009:
"Dear Hank Pellissier, I like your article. You might like to have another think about the origins of the metric system as you appear to have left out the contributions of Bemjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. See http://www.metricationmatters.com/who-invented-the-metric-system.html and http://metricationmatters.com/docs/USAMetricSystemHistory.pdf Also let me put some numbers to your thoughts, see http://www.metricationmatters.com/docs/CostOfNonMetrication.pdf Cheers, Pat Naughtin Geelong, Australia"
12/22/2009:
"The US ranks 19th out of 24 (industrialized countries) in Education. It seems that the NCLB Act paid billions to corporations who developed the 'standardized tests'. Perhaps it would have been better to spend billions on schools, esp. the poorest of schools. Whatever fantastic thing is developed, it rarely reaches into the poorest schools in America."
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