Contributed by Nena Martinez, Director of Admissions
As the Admissions Director at HCES, people often ask, “Why a PK – 8th grade school when there are so many other options out there?” As a parent of adult children, a teacher and an administrator, I know it’s the strongest possible model for all students, especially the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. It’s the key to our graduates’ success, and now more and more research and growing anecdotal evidence proves this to be true.
“In North Carolina, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools transitioned eight elementary schools to K-8 schools, with an analysis showing positive academic and behavioral results.
One teacher noted: “Having the students collaborate across the grade levels really helps the younger students understand the concepts and it’s very rewarding for the older students.” – See more at: http://www.excelined.org/2016/06/16/goodbye-middle-school-arbor-ridges-k-8-model-works-wonders/#sthash.in3iAyp8.dpuf“
Students in the higher grades “may benefit from being among the oldest students in a school setting that includes very young students, perhaps because they have greater opportunity to take on leadership roles,” the researchers wrote. – See more at:http://www.excelined.org/2016/06/16/goodbye-middle-school-arbor-ridges-k-8-model-works-wonders/#sthash.in3iAyp8.dpuf
At Holy Comforter, not only are all students known by name, but families call HCES home for preschool through middle school. Preschool and elementary students see their big brothers and sisters honored at Pep Rallies and Honor Chapels. Middle school student leaders model kindness and empathy with the younger children, as they remember the older students who were once kind to them. The K-8 environment creates a unique model that promotes not only character development across all grade levels, but instills confidence and leadership roles in our oldest students.
A story from NPR in September of 2016 : Sixth Grade Is Tough; It Helps To Be ‘Top Dog’ discussed why it is better for 6th graders to have opportunities for leadership instead of being “bottom of the rung” in status. In the PK – 8 model at HCES, middle school students are the varsity players, the cheerleaders, the theater stars, the Honor Society members and Student Government officers. Essentially, they are the campus leaders in every sense of the word.
“The researchers found that when students were not the ‘bottom dogs,’ they reported feeling safer, less bullying, less fighting and a greater sense of belonging.” NPR ED:A Silent Epidemic: The Mental Health Crisis In Our Schools
For example, one-third of sixth-graders in 6-12 schools reported that students threatened or bullied other students “most or all of the time.” Only one in four students at K-8 schools said the same thing. And their grades and test scores were better, too.”
As adolescents go through the many physiological and intellectual changes on the road to adulthood, they can feel more comfortable and “at home” in nurturing surroundings with no high school drama in sight. The focus can stay on challenging academics, learning how to tackle complicated tasks, allowing time for personal discovery and growth, not to mention honing those leadership skills through the varied organizations and opportunities to lead the school. There is also a strong focus on the character and social development seen with Middle Schoolers without the influence of high school students. We get to be the “experts” on Middle School development and work with them to ensure they are prepared, confident and productive students as they enter 9th grade, setting them on a track to succeed.
Finally, the PK-8 model allows our students the opportunity to experience a large transition in their academic and social career (to high school), before heading to college. Students leave the school they have known since they were preschoolers, yet they work through this transition while they have the support of their family at home. In fact, we find our 8th graders are ready to leave HCES and spread their wings; and that is a good thing. And the research supports this analysis suggesting the most appropriate time for this transition is after eighth grade (RAND Corporation, Focus on the Wonder Years: Challenges Facing the American Middle School).
If you aren’t sure – come and see for yourself. Visit our classrooms, meet our students, and discover the difference of a Holy Comforter School experience.
A look into a Day in the Life of HCES Middle School.