A few weeks ago I blogged about some of the differences in instructional time between Marshall and area public schools. In particular, I noted that next year our 9th graders will have the equivalent of 7 weeks more school than their peers.

I’ve since been asked if there are similar differences in the middle school.

Because our middle school day and school year are both longer, Marshall middle school students will spend about one month more in school each year than their public school counterparts.

While that figure is significant in and of itself, we are also quite proud of how we use that extra instructional time.

Our middle school has 8 periods each day — versus a 6-period day in the public schools.

In the 7th and 8th grade, we allocate a full block of time for the following subjects:

  1. English
  2. Math
  3. Science
  4. Social Studies
  5. Physical Education/Health
  6. Foreign Language (German, French, or Spanish)
  7. Visual or Performing Arts (Orchestra, Choir, or Band)

That totals 7 periods. Already, you may be asking yourself what gets cut in other schools if they only have 6 periods?

Good question, and one worth asking as you consider educational options for your children.

At Marshall, we don’t feel that our students are sufficiently prepared for high school (and life) if they have not had a solid grounding in foreign languages and the arts.

So what about the 8th period?

To help prepare our 7th and 8th grade students for the rigors of high school, we add an additional period of English — providing students with a total of 80 minutes of instruction in literature and writing every day! This is particularly powerful when you combine it with our small class sizes, because it means that our students do a lot of writing and get a lot of feedback from their teachers.

Time is used slightly differently in our 4th, 5th and 6th grade program, which bridges the gap from upper elementary to middle school. Their core consists of English, social studies, science, math, foreign language, and PE. They then use the extra two periods for a rotation of “workshops” that include:

  • Visual arts
  • Performing arts (choir, band, orchestra)
  • Extended English
  • Extra science labs
  • Robotics
  • Technology

If we chose to cut some of these “extras” out of our program, we could save money. But we believe our students would not receive everything they should out of a liberal arts education.

The Added Value

As a result of our rigorous middle school program, we are particularly proud of how our students are prepared for success in high school:

  • Nearly all students enter into a Level 2 foreign language,
  • a majority of our students continue their participation in music and art,
  • and they have all had a grounding in the study skills necessary to be successful when it counts in high school.

Most importantly, our high school graduates continue to tell us they are very prepared for the rigors of college.

Why is this important?

According to the Washington, DC-based think tank, Complete College America, 41% of students who start college are not ready for the work. Slightly less than half of students who start 4-year colleges finish in six years.

Marshall is expensive, but if students spend six, seven, or eight years in college — that is not only a large added expense but also a huge source of frustration for students (and their parents).

When you think about the value of a middle school education or a high school diploma, it is important to consider the preparation you receive to be successful in college.

Remember, it is not just about getting in to college — you’ve got to get out as well.