Turns Out Middle School Students Aren't Smarter Than a Fifth Grader

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Monday 15 August 2059 41054 Shares

Turns Out Middle School Students Aren't Smarter Than a Fifth Grader

When the television show "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader" first aired in 2007, the majority of Americans believed that everyone over the age of eleven would be able to answer that question with a “yes”. But now, nearly fourteen years later, numerous studies have shown that is not the case for students in grades six through eight in public schools around the nation. "I am not sure exactly what happens between fifth grade and the end of the middle school years, but time and time again, studies have shown that the intelligence level of middle school students decreases drastically when compared to that of elementary school students," said Dr. Lionel Jackson, psychology professor at Virginia University.

Given the sad state of public education today, not many people would be surprised by these findings and to make matters worse, the country is still in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic which is expected to make that gap even wider. “I feel like this is something we should have all seen coming,” said Cheryl Roberts, a mom of two middle school students. “This is why my children have never attended public schools. For the last few generations, my family has only attended private school. We want to make sure our kids are ready for high school and beyond.”

Although there has been a noticeable decrease all across the United States over the past five years, Dr. Jackson said his home state of Virginia has seen the biggest drop. "This data is alarming," said Virginia State Director of Education Dr. Kenneth Ashby. "I asked the State Board of Education for input on how we should address this and I am happy with the direction Virginia is heading in regards to fixing this problem."

A source familiar with the Board of Education discussions said there are a few things on the table to solve this problem, including the possibility of moving fifth grade from elementary school to middle school to increase middle school scores or adding an additional year of middle school for students to complete before they move onto high school. Sources say these changes could impact current eighth grade students as they could occur as early as the fall of 2022.

When asked about the pushback from parents and students if these radical changes are made, Dr. Ashby said, "We want to make sure our eighth grade students are fully prepared for high school and beyond and right now they aren’t. It isn't fair to send them to high school knowing they aren't even scoring at a fifth grade level, and we are committed to doing what is best for our students - even if that means making some unpopular decisions."

“I think the Board of Education should consider adopting both of these ideas,” said Julie Simmons, a former Virginia educator who now lives in North Carolina. “Moving the fifth grade to middle school makes sense because their higher test scores will improve the middle school’s scores overall and keeping eighth graders in middle school for one more year will ensure they will be prepared for high school. Virginia has the ability to show real educational leadership here.”

[Update] The Board of Education is expected to make their decision on whether or not eighth graders will need to spend another year in middle school for the 2022-2023 by January 20, 2022. The discussion about whether to move fifth grade to middle school has been tabled for now.

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