Although most school districts ascribe to the three-school traditional model—elementary school (k-5), middle school (6-8) and high school (9-12)—some schools are breaking the mold and serve a larger range of grades. In many cities, you will find schools serving grades k-8, k-12, and 6-12. Here are some benefits and disadvantages to these new schools.
An increasing number of K-8 schools have been created in major cities. Proponents report that the continuity allows children to adjust to early adolescence more easily. Moreover, middle school students are more likely to behave better when they serve as mentors to their elementary school peers. Unfortunately, many of these schools lack the facilities of larger middle schools, including well-equipped science labs and gyms. The middle school students also may not have access to advanced level math and science courses.
Middle school students who attend schools that also serve high school students enjoy continuity and may be assigned high school students as mentors. In addition, the facilities in 6-12 schools tend to be superior to those found in middle schools, and advanced 8th graders can take high school classes. The primary disadvantage to sending middle school students to 6-12 schools is that the teachers may not specialize in middle school education and might treat all of the students as though they are of high school age. The primary disadvantage of high school students attending school with middle school students is that they may become distracted in the presence of younger children, and their counselors may not have the time to focus on their needs (i.e., college counseling).
There are a few K-12 schools in which the children and parents enjoy amazing continuity. There are many advantages to these schools. Perhaps most importantly, parents will never have to undergo the admissions process again. Moreover, they can remain involved in the school’s parent-teacher organization for 12 years. While some students thrive in this environment, others find it stifling.
The advantage of the traditional model (k-5, 6-8 and 9-12) is that the teachers in those schools have been trained and typically enjoy teaching students of elementary, middle or high school ages. Students also will not be distracted by younger or older children. You will have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each type of school. One last advantage to schools with larger grade spans: you will be relieved of the duty of navigating the admissions process.