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Older Students in Middle School Concern School Leaders

Posted February 26, 2008

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— Tougher state testing standards are a reason more students are being retained in middle school, Johnston County Schools' superintendent says.

In part, that has resulted in about 50 students who are 16 years old or older in the county's 10 middle schools.

And it's a concern for both parents and school leaders who say more needs to be done to help these students be promoted to high school.

Right now, there's no state age limit for grades, and school officials say they struggle with how to respond.

"What we've got to do is provide additional resources, if you will, and additional strategies to address the needs of the students," Superintendent Dr. Anthony Parker said.

Pushing failing students forward or holding them back can increase their chances of dropping out, education advocates say.

"We want to be proactive in our efforts to make sure that parents do (get involved) and the school system, as well, provide the resources so that children are not retained," said education advocate Calla Wright. "Because it does, indeed, have a negative impact."

Parker agrees. He says keeping students up to date with schoolwork is a big part of the solution.

"The key for us is looking at how we add time to the school year and how we add time to the school day to help these students," he said.

Johnston County is adding evening and summer programs for struggling students and might add more resources this spring.

Other school systems are facing the same challenge.

For example, Wake County Public Schools, which has 56 students who are 16 or older, is in its second year of a pilot program to address the issue.

The program, called Boosters, helps older eighth-graders get caught up so that when they get into ninth grade, they are at the same level academically.

At the school level, principals have flexibility in how they offer assistance to students.

Parents are also concerned about how older students might influence other students. A Duke University study shows there are more behavior problems among average-aged students when they're in class with the older ones.

"Why are they not being educated in a high-school setting?" one parent asked. ""Our concern is what type of influence will the older children have on the age-appropriate middle schoolers?"

She did not want to be identified for fear her child could suffer backlash at a middle school where older students attend.

"The school system is doing a disservice to the kids who are being held back, as well as the age appropriate kids," she said.

52 Comments

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  • Jackieann Feb 28, 2008

    Some of these children have been left behind by the schools. An EC teacher said that my county does not test children for Dyslexia because they will be taught with the same methods as the other children in the EC class. Is this research-based? I doubt it.

    "15-20% of the population has reading disability. Of those, 85% has dyslexia." (International dyslexia Association)

    Only children whose parents obtain private diagnoses, know how to advocate, and persistently advocate for their child, receive the services they really need for an appropriate education. Who is helping parents who don't know what to do, who just think the schools are providing an appropriate education for their child?

    NCLB was designed to grade a schools service to groups of children, not to grade individual children. NCLB does not require that they pass the EOG to pass their grade- NC Department of Public Instruction does. Children keep repeating grades and receiving the same ineffective instruction.

  • thepeopleschamp Feb 27, 2008

    My child was in 4th grade public school last year with a violent, out of control 13 year old that the school was stuck with. I hope whoever's children are in his class this year are not injured because of him. My solution was I enrolled my child in private school.

    And now NC wants to raise the drop out age from 16 to 18. That only forces 16 & 17 year olds to stay where they do not want to be.

  • wjcspanteach Feb 27, 2008

    dukebbfan: NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND is federally mandated standards.

  • haida Feb 27, 2008

    These kids that are that are being held back over and over again are being raised by parents that think the public school system is nothing but a DAYCARE SERVICE. Thanks to THE US GOV. kids that really are interested in their education have to deal with TOTAL disruption in their classrooms. I have witnessed this with both of my kids and I do not know how they and the teachers get anything done! It is so unfair for all involved.

    I have looked on line to see how the presidental canidates stand on NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND and most agree with it or think it needs a little tweaking. I say it needs to be done away with!!!!!
    STOP DRAGGING THE GOOD ONES DOWN WITH THE ONES THAT COULD CARE LESS ABOUT AN EDUCATION OR ANYTHING ELSE FOR THAT MATTER!!!!

  • wjcspanteach Feb 27, 2008

    Harrison Bergeron: I have to tell you that this conundrum is not our own making. Most educational policy is not made by educators but people who are so far removed from the system that they don't really know what's going on in the "trenches." A lot of the people making public policy for public schools have never set foot in a public school. (IE, NCLB -- created by congressmen and the president -- now you know that neither Edward Kennedy nor GWB ever went to public school -- but they feel competent -- that word alone is a laugh when discussin the aforementioned politicians -- enough to make laws that directly affect public schools)

  • G-Dawg Feb 27, 2008

    I didn't have this when I was in school, and i'm only mid 30's. What has this country come too? I know that answer, it's to not let some small groups feel left out and behind.

  • LuvMyLife Feb 27, 2008

    Have a daughter that teaches 4th grade in Harnett county. She has several unruly students that have already failed. My youngest is in 8th grade (13 years old) but there are several 15 and 16 year olds in there with her

  • PikeMom4real Feb 27, 2008

    Do any of you know who the "no child left behind" is really for? If not, wake up!

    I DO.

  • G-Dawg Feb 27, 2008

    Martha: Bless you, I couldn't have done that. Thug huh? Not even going to comment on that one.

  • Martha Lynch Feb 27, 2008

    I taught sixth grade and at my school there were two girls in eigth grade that were pregnant (15 and 16 years old). My classroom age range was 11-14. The 16 year old pregnant girl had a 15 year old brother in her same grade, I taught her 13 year old sister and their younger brother was in a grade that he was taking a "victory lap" in. It was extrememly difficult to teach such a wide range of students. The younger boys and girls were very uncomfortable seeing the pregnant girls flaunt their condition... and I do mean FLAUNT... in front of them. I remember hearing things like, "My baby's daddy is meeting me at the game today" and "I'm having a boy... I can't wait to dress him up like a little thug." It was disturbing to me, too. Home school sounds like a wonderful thing for my daughter, but I think we will be sending her to a Christian school when it is time for her to start pre-school. For the record, I am no longer a teacher. I am in education... but I deal with adults now!

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