Some Tulsa 6th graders are not making the move to middle school just yet

Friday, August 13th 2004, 12:02 pm
By: News On 6

Tulsa middle schools have the highest rate of suspensions and discipline problems in the district.

Middle school suspensions outnumber high school suspensions by almost 2,000. And one Tulsa school is trying to do something about it.

News on 6 reporter Ashli Sims says Tulsa Public Schools thinks the solution is elementary. Many sixth-graders will be walking into a whole new world this year, new building, new teachers, and new rules. But some sixth-graders are in familiar territory. They're spending a little more time in their elementary school. Principal at Kendall Whittier, Judy Feary: "we asked to become a school of choice for sixth grade and that wish was granted."

Feary says she wanted to keep her 6th-graders because of a disturbing trend she noticed. "Children left here who were doing well and went on to middle school and they were having a lot suspensions and dropping out, even in middle school." Middle school years are becoming the crucial time for educators, when they win or lose students. And educators say some sixth-graders just aren't ready for the peer pressure and added responsibility of middle school. "We wanted to keep our children here to give them that guidance and give them freedoms more gradually so they can be successful at handling those."

Even with third- and fourth-graders right around the corner, Kendall-Whittier is trying to give its new sixth graders some special privileges and more responsibility, so they're not missing out on middle school altogether.

6th grade teacher Brian Bradshaw: "the older kids get to be a leader a mentor and it really boosts their confidence." And the little ones really admire their big reading buddies. "And they become the hero of these young 4-year-olds and anytime they see them in the hallway they say hey buddy and it makes them feel good."

Good feelings, Kendall-Whittier teacher’s hope will keep these sixth-graders interested in school. Kendall-Whittier's principal says the research proves keeping sixth graders in elementary school works. Feary says they show fewer discipline problems and higher test scores than their peers in junior high.

If this year's program works, she hopes to keep her students through eighth grade.