Approximately 75 percent of sixth-grade students attend middle school nationwide, according to Jeffco Schools Superintendent Jason Glass. Starting this fall, most Jeffco middle school students will attend a 6-8 middle school here, as well.
Many of Jeffco’s neighboring school districts also use a 6-8 model, including Cherry Creek, Denver, Douglas County, and Boulder.
Jeffco’s Bell Middle School, in the Golden articulation area, began the transition to a 6-8 model a few years ago, admitting a small number of sixth grade students who then benefitted from three years of the school’s STEM program. Bell will accommodate all sixth grade students in the area beginning this fall. In addition, the Chatfield articulation area transitioned to a 6-8 model for its middle schools in Fall 2017.
“There is no national movement to move sixth grade students back to elementary school,” Glass said.
Middle school educational benefits
One reason for the shift has to do with some of the educational benefits associated with middle-school programming. Jeffco Schools staff outlined these benefits for the Jeffco School Board on May 4 and Oct. 19, 2017.
Educational benefits of the 6-8 model include:
- Three years instead of two for flexible course offerings and electives
- Teachers who are experts in their content area
- An additional year to prepare students and families for the transition to high school
- An additional year to create culture, increase family engagement, and build a strong school community in the middle school
- Additional time and resources for career exploration
- Expanded offerings of mathematics for students who are ready for accelerated math courses or who need more intervention
- Numerous electives, including, family and consumer science, tech ed, drama/theatre, band, orchestra, robotics, STEM programming, computer applications, world languages, photography and other fine arts
- Additional afterschool sports and club activities
- Access to additional academic intervention services
Jeffco Schools is not new to this model. The Evergreen and Conifer articulation areas adopted a 6-8 middle school configuration in the 1990s. The Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) English Language Arts and Math results for Evergreen Middle School exceeded expectations in 2015, 2016 and 2017, indicating that the 6-8 model can be extremely successful in Jeffco.
In addition, there are a number of social, mental and emotional benefits to the model for adolescents. These include access to social emotional learning specialists and full-time school counselors in every middle school.
Middle school facilities benefits
There are facilities-related benefits to the transition, as well.
In general, Jeffco middle schools are under capacity by 5,422 seats, while many elementary schools are over capacity.
This transition takes the pressure off overcrowded elementary schools. As a result, 147 temporary classrooms will be removed from elementary schools, saving $650,000 annually in ongoing maintenance and operational costs.
However, a handful of schools will require classroom additions to accommodate students. These include Creighton, Drake, Dunstan, Ken Caryl and Summit Ridge middle schools. Additions at Drake and Dunstan are currently underway, and additions at Creighton, Ken Caryl and Summit Ridge were approved by the Jeffco School Board on Jan. 11 and will be completed by Fall 2019.
Jeffco’s sixth grade teachers are also making a transition this year.
“All of our sixth grade teachers have a home as a result of transitioning sixth grade students to twelve middle schools during the course of this school year,” said Marcia Anker, the district’s sixth grade transition coordinator. “We’re taking care of our kids and we’re taking care of our teachers.”