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White Plains Considers Creating 6th Grade Academy

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - When Cherise Burney, 45, heard the White Plains Middle School Redesign Steering Committee was considering creating a program to isolate sixth graders she wondered why.

“The way they have it set up now with sixth, seventh, and eighth graders together works well. The sixth graders aren’t in class with the older students, but for them to be in an atmosphere and school with older kids helps them transition. I think to take them out and isolate them would cause more problems, and they’re already nervous” said Burney, whose son Samuel will be an eighth grader at Eastview middle school and son Stephen will be a fourth grader at Post Road Elementary School this fall. “I hope they don’t do it.”

Beginning this fall Burney and other White Plains will be invited to review, comment, and make suggestions to the steering committee at public forums. White Plains created the Middle School Redesign Steering Committee this May to assess its middle school structure and suggest ways to help more students meet the more rigorous state standards unveiled two years ago. After studying school reform texts, education studies, and successful sixth grade academies across the country, the steering committee will make a recommendation to the district by January. White Plains aims to debut any changes at the beginning of the 2012 to 2013 school year.

Superintendent Christopher Clouet said the sixth grade academy is a strategy that other districts have found successful in easing kids into middle school.

“If we go in that direction the idea would be to use our resources more efficiently to help the kids make the transition from elementary into middle school,” said Clouet. “Too many kids get to middle school and just aren’t able to adapt to changing classes, having multiple teachers, having multiple disciplines with different expectations in each discipline. And all of that happens while your 12 or 13-year-old body is growing and changing.”

The district plans to visit sixth grade academies in the area, read up on several middle school configurations, and listen to what parents have to say before making any decisions.

What are your thoughts on a sixth grade academy? Did your students struggle in sixth grade? Would an isolated program for sixth graders have helped? Are there other middle school configurations you think would be more successful? Email thoughts to strangle@thedailywhiteplains.com and we'll include your responses in future coverage.

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