Letters to the Editor

If K-8 works, expand the concept; if it doesn't, drop it

I was an emergency substitute teacher in the Federal Way school district for four years until 2005. I found middle schools nearly impossible to teach and refrained from teaching kids at that level. The idea of putting all the pubic kids together in one place seems to be a bad idea on its face (April 29 news article, “Over protests, K-8 school plan takes a step forward”).

The K-8 proposal seems worth a try –– that is, set up a couple as an experiment. With each grade now taking the WASL, we will know in a few years if it is better as various studies seem to indicate.

I, myself, went to a K-7 school in the 1950s. I went to the ninth and 10th grades where boys and girls were in separate classes. This gender separation is done in many countries around the world –– countries whose math performance is far better than ours. Most kids around the world wear uniforms to school.

The bigger question is: At what grade level should the kids begin changing classes hourly? The advantages for different teachers are:

• That the child gets exposure to different teachers during the day.

• That the, say, math teacher is not just an elementary school teacher, but a teacher who specializes in math.

So should this happen in the fifth grade, sixth grade, seventh grade or eighth grade?

Children today mature at a faster rate than in my time, owing to television, computer games, movies, etc. Bureaucarcies are always slow to catch up. A K-8 system would be an oppurtunity to test this. For example, do sixth-graders do better on the WASL changing classes or having the same teacher all day?

Many kids report being bored with school. Perhaps different teachers would help relieve the bordom. As a teacher, I always taught at least one level above where they were. They were never bored with me. Many, many kids asked me if I used to teach college. I took that as a compliment. That means that they recognized the challenging nature of my presentations. Where their regular teacher might ask them to divide 94 into 15,349, I would ask them to divide 85,969, into 588,573,462. Today’s kids are very bright. But we have to push them.

One thing is for sure: We have to try something different, given the results we are now getting.

But we aren’t in the business of setting up experiments; we are in the business of educating children. So if this works, we should spread it; if not, we should drop it. I say this beause apparently the Public Academy is very successful, yet there is only one such school. If it is working, why aren’t there more public academies?

I recall this: A giraffe is a horse put together by a bureaucracy.

K-8 is a recomendation of the School Board –– elected officials, not the district administration bureaucrats.

Bill Pirkle

Federal Way

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