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Patch Poll: Which Middle School Option Do You Favor?

Separate sixth grade academy, two separate middle schools both draw support

Buckhead now seems divided about the future of APS middle schools.

APS Superintendent Erroll B. Davis Jr.'s preliminary recommendations call for a separate sixth grade academy at the present Sutton Middle School site, and a seventh and eighth-grade school at the present North Atlanta site.

APS demographers in their proposals called for separate middle schools, one at Sutton and the other at North Atlanta. Davis at a recent community meeting said he doesn't really oppose that solution, but that he gives the edge to the sixth grade academy plan because of his concerns about bullying.

Both options have received support at recent community meetings. One of the largest groups at Davis' March 13 meeting at North Atlanta supported the two middle schools, while those who spoke in favor of the sixth grade academy drew strong applause.

Those in favor of two middle schools ask in an online petition that the school board to put off a decision for several years and conduct more research. Davis himself at the community meeting said the board could delay making an answer; the Sutton site beginning in the fall of 2013 is slated for E. Rivers students, while the North Atlanta site would be a school for all of the cluster's sixth, seventh, and eighth graders.

Here is a Buckhead Patch poll on the issue. Please let us know in Comments your feelings about Buckhead's middle schools.

Lisa Beckham March 25, 2012 at 08:37 PM
The emphasis placed on school size is misleading. Small size does not guarantee a good school. There is no such thing as a "model" good school. Educators have evaluated the impact of school size but no real concurrence exists on optimal school size. Both small and large schools can be equally successful for different reasons. The detriment of focusing on the size debate is that we overlook other important factors that boost student achievement: •Creating intimate and personalized learning environments •Improving quality of class instruction •Providing a variety of curriculum and programs: gifted education, AP, IB and extracurricular activities •Cohesive vision among teachers •Sharing a sense of unity by parents and educators •Preparing for a more global marketplace through ease of multiethnic and interracial dialog •Balancing the needs of the immediate community with the community at-large I believe the majority would agree that Sutton has achieved a good level of success in the aforementioned areas. Splitting our middle school into two schools would do more harm than good for the cluster as a whole. A 6th Grade Academy mitigates the risk of inadvertently creating an educational experience that is below par of the current middle school. The real opportunity is for our community to work together to put value and emphasis on the way schools are organized rather than relying on school size as a silver bullet for success.
LR March 26, 2012 at 12:17 AM
While I agree that there are many factors that contribute to making a school a 'good' one, how can we ignore size? Sutton is already 51% larger than the next largest middle school in APS. Given the growth rate we are experiencing, we will be 71% larger within a decade. Growth must be acknowledged, and it can be acknowledged through a 2nd middle school. Our middle school is essentially as large as our high school. Middle school is supposed to be a transition between elementary and high school, but that is not the case from a size perspective. A 6th grade academy would mean 600-700 students in the 6th grade alone! I support 2 equally strong and diverse middle schools for our district. I recommend that the middle schools be fed by those closest in proximity to each of the 2 schools, creating 'neighborhood schools'. I do not want to see any of the elementary/feeder schools divided between middle schools. I'd like to see all children at a single elementary school stay together as they transition to the middle school closest in proximity to them. I look forward to ultimately seeing all of the children in our district together once they get to North Atlanta High School.
R.S. March 26, 2012 at 12:41 AM
I looked at the top 50 public middle schools in the state of Georgia based on testing (website www.schooldigger.com), there are 479 middle schools in the state, Sutton's rank is 138. 44 of the 50 schools had less than 1300 student(size of current Sutton). There were no schools in the top 50 which more than 1800 students(size at which APS would consider division). Lisa is correct that a small size(less than 1300) does not guarantee a good school but a large school(more than 1800) does guarantee an underperforming school.
Atlanta Parent March 26, 2012 at 05:18 AM
As a former MS educator in Gwinett, I am well aware of the pros/cons of larger vs. smaller schools. I understand that change is often unwelcomed. Redistricting happens beyond just Atlanta. But in my experience (10 years), smaller school size equated to better achievement by my students, more involved families, and better satisfaction with our teachers and staff. Nationally, the education trend for middle schools and high schools is a smaller school population with less transition. After Columbine (1999), education thought leaders recognized the importance of moving away from 'large, impersonal schools' where students were 'herded into crowded facilities'. The Education Secretary recommended smaller schools as the 'antidote to the sense of alienation that can lead to violence'. In smaller schools, evidence shows, truancy drops and graduation increases. I was transferred in a redistricting situation. While I wasn't pleased at first, I saw great benefits in how I could connect with the entire student body, not just my 7th graders. These ages are crucial and there are so many distractions from learning. If you are interested, research the middle school literature-there's a lot! You'll find tons of evidence on the success of smaller schools(not just class size), but very little on 6th grade only models.
Andrew Howe March 27, 2012 at 02:28 AM
I am in favor of the 6th grade Academy. E Rivers parent of 3
AHW March 27, 2012 at 12:15 PM
There's no reason to divide the community. Things were just fine 4 months ago. People wanting their own middle school are being opportunistic and selfish. I hope we can all just get along again!
BRP March 27, 2012 at 06:39 PM
If it is opportunistic and selfish to want what's best for our children's education, then you can call me that all you want.
Concerned Buckhead Parent March 28, 2012 at 02:06 AM
I'm not sure who is dividing the community? I think there is confusion...nobody 'wants their own middle school'. One group is simply asking that either the decision regarding our middle school option be possibly delayed until nearer to implementation time...we are currently about 3 years out from that. A lot can change in 3 years as we've seen with our national economy and other factors. Or, if not wait, then select the option of two equally diverse middle schools that could serve the cluster. Afterall, we don't have a single giant elementary school, there are 6 schools that lift one another up to make in healthy competition to make them great. A 6th grade academy with 600-700 6th graders and a 7/8th grade with 1800 students with two transitions for our kids during their critical adolescent years doesn't sound like the best option for ALL of our kids. Additionally, professional demographers that were hired to figure this out recommended 2 middle schools for our cluster. I don't believe the did this blindly.
AHW March 28, 2012 at 12:16 PM
I agree that a lot could change, but if we have to debate this for three more years, I can bet we'll have even more people shying away from the public school route and we won't end up with an overcapacity problem anyway.
Lynn B. Friedman March 28, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Dear Neighbors, I am a parent of both Sutton graduate and of two North Atlanta graduates. I strongly recommend both a decision now and the option for a Sixth Grade Academy at Sutton with 7th/8th at the former NAHS. What creates a wonderful place to live in our neighborhoods is Community. What creates a high achieving student body and a safe school environment is Community. In a Community, we build relationships and encourage friendship and share respect. When joined together from different Elementary Schools, the students at the Sixth Grade Academy will form their "new" Community. When they move on to the 7th/8th grades, the positive Community values of relationships, friendships and respect will follow them. All of our children will study and will share activities together as they progress towards high school. Let's avoid any division of the sense of Community our children deserve. In the 7th/8th grades, their Community will continue to mature and prosper. All the wonderful reasons for neighborhood schools are based on Community. We have a Golden Opportunity for Buckhead to give the best to all our children by supporting the Sixth Grade Academy. Let's settle the question now! We gain nothing by postponing the decision. We decide and then everyone will move on with the planning. Our children will benefit! That's our goal - isn't it - the best for our children? Have a happy day - Lynn B. Friedman
6th Grade is Great March 30, 2012 at 02:22 AM
By having one middle school with a 6th grade academy there isn't a risk of harming or putting anyone at a disadvantage.
Liliana Hojas March 31, 2012 at 04:23 PM
There are problems with a large-sized single grade (>600). For people that aren't as well off, our kids fall thru and aren't able to do as well. My daughter's elem. has lots of wealthy families that are against two schools because they think we are going to be put with Bolton. I've heard them talk about how different "those kids" are. I wonder what they say about me & my girls when we aren't around.

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