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posted: 10/19/2012 5:00 AM

6th graders may lose under new structure

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District 220's recent curricula changes caused concern among some parents. District 220 began the school year with a new team structure in middle school.

Traditionally, the student body divided into six teams, allowing administration to assess students and assign individuals to groups based on academic need. Additionally, this format provided a nurturing environment for students transitioning to a new environment.

Sixth graders, fresh from elementary school's comfortable bubble, were assigned to a tandem of teachers who jointly planned thematic units and worked together to support individual students. Sixth graders migrated between two classrooms, giving them a first taste of the chaotic high school class changes to come. Easing the children into their future was the middle school concept and the philosophy adopted by the district when 6th grade moved from the elementary schools into the middle schools.

The new format, however, reduces the team number to two, groups the students arbitrarily and forces all students to change classrooms and teachers for each subject. I am concerned the new format sacrifices the support system needed by our transitioning sixth graders and quenches individual excellence in favor of mass mediocrity.

The new policy institutionalizes mediocrity. Overchallenged students will be left to fend for themselves within these undifferentiated macro groups. They will be forced to "catch" their peers on their own. Likewise, high ability students will languish in the boredom that attacks a brilliant mind going unchallenged. We squander one of our most precious resources when we allow the fertile minds of our most talented to lie fallow in their formative years.

District 220 should heed their own Strategic Plan, return to the previous team structure and maximize students' "individual potential and strengths to become successful learners."

Daniel McHugh

Deer Park

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