Is “Mayhem” Misleading?

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In his Summer EL article “Misleading in the Middle: A Rebuttal to Cheri Pierson Yecke,” Rick Wormeli calls on his credibility (as long-time teacher and teacher trainer) to back up his assertion that Yecke’s April EL article, “Mayhem in the Middle: Why We Should Shift to K–8,” is out-of-touch.

Yecke’s got it wrong, Wormeli contends. Middle schools aren’t the gooey caramel filler between the substantial rigor and accountability of the elementary and high school grades. On the contrary, the middle school concept that drives middle school education

… advocates teaching a rich core of knowledge in multiple disciplines, as well as the habits of mind that enable students to make connections among these disciplines and to apply what they learn deftly to life beyond school.

Yecke, on the other hand, believes the middle school concept is the very culprit undermining an academic focus in the middle grades.

… the middle school concept—the notion that middle schools should be havens of socialization and not academies of knowledge—has wrought havoc on the intellectual development of many middle school students.

She backs her beliefs with corroborating research, and the implied intentions of several school districts abandoning stand-alone middle schools for the K–8 configuration.

Wormeli counters that the research cited is misinterpreted and the K–8 transition strategies Yecke sets forth are unrealistic. He accuses Yecke of confusing concepts with configurations, noting that a properly implemented middle school concept can thrive in K–8, or more traditional sequences.

The gloves are offwhose side are you on? Do middle schools need to be saved from the middle school concept? Or are middle school concept-driven venues fulfilling the mission to create intelligent, compassionate, and contributing citizens? Take sides here.