Sixth grade academies are supported by principals in Decatur, Alabama, as they believe that the significant changes after elementary school could be better experienced by giving students an extra year to adapt before joining the middle school student body.
“It’s a big jump between fifth and sixth grade, and some of the changes are extreme,” said Oak Park Middle Principal Rachel Poovey. “We need another year to help them adjust socially and academically.”
Superintendent Michael Douglas has proposed developing two sixth grade academies at Oak Park and Cedar Ridge Middle School, making the pattern of moving from fifth grade to middle school a more seamless transition.
Douglas believes that sixth grade is a critical year, when students “are leaving the fairy tale and talking about being engineers and accountants.”
National studies agree that sixth graders have a difficult adjustment due to the change in social structure from leaders of the school to being the new kids with little social standing in middle school
“It’s a scary time,” said Brookhaven Middle Principal Anita Clarke about students moving to sixth grade. She says that students are not mature enough to deal with conflict and are not comfortable around older students.
“We do all we can to prepare them, but the transition is huge,” Clarke said.