Why a Pre-K – 8th Grade School?

In a Pre-K– 8th grade school, middle grades students are senior members of the student body. They have many early leadership responsibilities, resulting in greater confidence and self-esteem, and a sense of belonging. At St. Benedict’s, students help publish the yearbook, serve on committees that give input on school matters, mentor and tutor younger students, captain athletic teams, lead school performances, represent St. Benedict’s in the community, and more.

A Pre-K– 8th grade community allows students to experience age appropriate activities and events, without being exposed to the very different social and academic pressures of typical middle school students. At St. B’s, our middle grades students take on the role of upperclassmen. They are the role models for the entire student body. At the same time, they can be themselves as they begin their transition from childhood to adulthood.

There is a vibrant sense of community in a Pre-K– 8th grade school where every child is known by every teacher, administrator and other students. This creates a nurturing environment where students are honored for who they are and safe to grow into the young adult they are meant to be. Parental involvement, which often drops off during middle school years, stays strong through graduation in a Pre-K– 8th grade school.

St. B’s students benefit greatly from the opportunity they and their parents have to choose the right high school at the right time. By eighth grade, your child’s academic strengths, interests, learning styles, and gifts are clearly understood, making it easier to determine the best “fit” for high school. At St. B’s, our graduates achieve high school of choice and are thriving academically and socially. They are campus leaders, scholars, athletes and artists.

See what NPR has to say.

Sixth Grade is Tough; It Helps to be 'Top Dawg.' (link)

Oh, middle school. The land of pantsing. Mean girls who won't let you sit with them in the cafeteria. And, these days, cryptic taunts posted on social media, where parents and teachers can't always see them.

Middle schoolers report higher rates of bullying and fights than students in any other grade span, and their academic performance also tends to dip. But things could be a little better — if we just got rid of middle schools, according to a big new study.

Sorry kids, I'm not talking about staying home for those prime puberty years. The study looked at the experiences of sixth- through eighth-graders in New York City at schools with different grade spans: K-8 vs. 6-8 and 6-12.

In the K-8 schools, those tweens and young teens were the "top dogs" — the oldest, the most comfortable and familiar with the school. But, in traditional middle schools and 6-12 schools, sixth-graders were the "bottom dogs."

The researchers drew from an unusually large group: 90,000 students in more than 500 schools. They studied them over a three-year period and had access to a whole lot of data about them. This included annual student surveys, of the kind becoming more common in districts nationwide.

The researchers found that when students were not the "bottom dogs," they reported feeling safer, less bullying, less fighting and a greater sense of belonging.

For example, one-third of sixth-graders in 6-12 schools reported that students threatened or bullied other students "most or all of the time." Only one in four students at K-8 schools said the same thing. And their grades and test scores were better, too.

There's been a lot of research already supporting what's called the "top dog/bottom dog" hypothesis. But, because of the size of this study, the authors were able to strengthen the evidence by ruling out other factors.

"We, in fact, are the first to find that your position in the school affects your experiences, as opposed to some other explanation," study author Michah W. Rothbart at Syracuse University told NPR Ed.

For example, the negative effects of being a bottom dog don't just come from being new to the school: The students who transferred into a K-8 school in sixth grade still had better experiences than students who started at a 6-8 school.

The researchers even had access to the students' height and weight, so they could show that being tall enough to blend in with the older kids didn't necessarily soften "bottom dog" status.

Today the prevailing practice nationwide is for middle schoolers to go to, well, middle schools. So, should this research motivate a wave of school reorganization?

On the one hand, as Rothbart points out, "Someone has to be the bottom at some point. That is the nature of the system." However, since middle schoolers generally have a harder time with school climate than high schoolers do, there's a case to be made for reserving "bottom dog" status for ninth-graders alone.

Ahh, freshman year.