I finally managed to go to visit our local middle school this morning (after several abortive attempts, me cancelling one apointment and the counselor losing my phone number).
Overall it was very nice. It just opened last fall, so the building is nice and new. I was impressed by how generally quiet it was. Granted it wasn't lunch time - and most of the time there weren't students in the halls, but even when there were students in the halls it was decent.
Some of the things seem a bit odd, like offering French as a 9 week elective to the 6th and 7th graders, but not as a class for 8th grade. No, Spanish is offered as a full year class for 8th grade, but not French. Huh? Makes no sense to me. The counselor said that may change - perhaps they will get another teacher next year.
They also have a drama room and an after school drama club, but no drama class. Again, they are hoping to get a teacher at some point.
I'm more than a little upset about what I heard about math classes, though. It seems that they have changed how math will be taught (I knew that mostly) - they are changing from discrete Algebra and Geometry classes to teaching some of each, in each class. Seems odd to me, but supposedly other states are already doing this and liking it, so OK. But then someone (the state? the school board in our county? I'm not sure which) has decided that everyone will take the same math each year. Meaning, no chance to get ahead a year in math. Grrrrr. Up until this point kids could take Algebra I in 7th, 8th or 9th grade, depending upon scores, grades, teacher recommendations, parents, etc. Now it seems that no one will take the equivalent of Algebra I until 9th grade. What a waste of time! There just isn't that much math between 5th grade and Algebra to learn - at least not for the bright kids. If some of them are currently learning it in 1 year, why should it take everyone 3 years now???
D says that he has heard that it is a state mandate. He says that his school (Magnet school for Science and Technology) is still trying to figure out how to deal with this. Currently all their students must have passed Algebra I in the 8th grade with at least a B. In a few years, that won't be possible, it seems.
I feel like I twiddled my thumbs through much of 6th and 7th grade math and I hated it. Until we got to pre-algebra, which I enjoyed - yes, I'm odd that way. I liked most math - all the way up to (but not including) Vector Calculus.