That being said, a recent Education Week article summarized a Harvard study on the topic of the impact of Middle Schools on future achievement that found the transition from Elementary School to Middle School so impacting that it produced negative results in 10th grade achievement scores. Specifically, the study found that student who entered Middle School performed comparably to those who remained in K-8 Elementary Schools for a time, but after that time the scores dipped, leading the researchers to conclude that Middle School has a negative effect on learning.
Walking down those hallways reminded me of the good times I had in Middle School - the teachers, friends, parties, and dances. After reading this article, however, it made me think of the knowledge I had supposedly gained while there. To be honest, I cannot remember specifics aside from my Algebra class in 8th grade (insert current math teacher bias here) and a few major projects I completed for other classes. What I remember more often was feeling awkward and out of place, much like many of my peers (and perhaps the same in our parents' generation).
I spent a year volunteering twice a week at Lea Elementary School in West Philadelphia during my last full undergraduate year at Penn and can totally understand why it might be better for 6-8 grade students to stick our elementary school: if done right, K-8 schools can provide leadership opportunities and transitional learning to these kids while in a comfortable environment with familiar faces. I worked with the 7th and 8th grade students there and found them to be a little crazy at times but overall quite an amazing bunch of kids. I remember a conversation I had with a student-teacher there wherein I asked her why she wanted to work with such a strange age of student, where hormones and glands get in the way of learning. Her response was simple: she remembered herself in the same situation and wanted to make sure these kids felt better about it.
While I don't agree with a lot of the School District of Philadelphia policies, the Facilities Master Plan does discuss eliminating middle schools and reforming the grade levels in various schools, perhaps for the better. I cannot speak from specific experience with any of those schools, but if we take this study to heart then we should take a serious look at what our Middle School students are doing once they get to high school and ask, "do we want them doing something different?"