Sixth Grade at Walden

November 22, 2010

Last week, Upper Group teachers, Jo and Jon hosted a meeting for first- and second-year Upper Group parents to talk about sixth grade at Walden. During the meeting, they shared the school’s philosophy about sixth grade and details about the sixth-grade program. They invited parents of Walden alumni to talk about their children’s experiences after Walden, fielded questions, and opened the meeting to an engaging discussion of how to make this decision.

Walden teachers feel strongly that sixth grade belongs in elementary school. Sixth grade is a time of transition and growth, which means that, developmentally, most sixth graders are better off in the stable, familiar environment of elementary school. Middle schools acknowledge the fact that sixth graders have different needs from older students by keeping them isolated from seventh and eighth graders. At Walden, sixth graders grow in confidence as they get to be the big kids on campus. They take on leadership roles. They work on special community service projects. They have the chance to get the largest acting, singing, and dancing roles in the Upper Group play. Meanwhile, they prepare to transition to new schools as they engage with a challenging, exciting curriculum taught by teachers who know the students well.

Many parents went through school when sixth grade was grouped at the elementary level and wonder why the arrangement has changed. It turns out that the move came in response to demographic issues, not the developmental or educational needs of children. School districts needed to move grades around so that existing school buildings could accommodate the number of students per grade. Walden has maintained its sixth grade program for philosophical reasons and because teachers have seen their sixth grade students experience success year after year.

Christa Rybczynski (Reyna ’05, Kelsey ’08, and Eliza ’15) and Eli Newman (Alix ’06 and Cody ’10) talked about how their children fared after Walden—which was superbly—in both Berkeley public and independent school settings. The point was brought up that though parents listen to their children’s feelings about middle school, it is ultimately the parents’ decision to make.

Thanks go to all the participants who made this meeting possible.

If you are interested in further reading, here are three articles on the subject of sixth grade in elementary compared to middle school.

PDFSixth Grade Articles

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