Good question! There are many reasons that include academic reasons and social reasons, opportunities now and opportunities later, and benefits for the students as well as benefits for the parents. In its simplest terms, combination elementary/middle schools allow students to experience both challenge and nurture in an environment that supports where they are developmentally. We are preparing them for their next level of education from a position of knowledge but without the need to put their resume for college ahead of their growth and learning today.
By choosing St. John’s, a PS/K through 8 school, you are choosing an environment where teachers know the child and his/her social and academic development. Finding those opportunities to expand their social and emotional skills is easier in a school where students can remain younger longer. Knowing the right point that is challenging academically but not continually frustrating is possible because of the small classes and individualization that occurs. There is evidence from a number of studies that students show greater academic progress in elementary/middle schools because of the continuity (teachers know the students) and the lack of a transition to a much larger and socially more challenging environment. Students are more likely to be willing to take academic risks and understand that making mistakes is part of and necessary for learning because the setting is supportive and the kinds of errors that can be made are safe ones.
In PS/K through 8 schools, students have more opportunities for leadership. They are old enough to take on responsibility and to understand that they are role models for the younger students, and there are no high school students who will usurp those leadership positions. Being a Big Buddy (fifth through eighth students) is meaningful. For the Little Buddies, their Big Buddy is not that much older than they are so seeing themselves in that role is easier, and with the smaller age difference, the Big Buddy is more likely to take a real interest in their Little Buddy.
From the age of three to fourteen, and even from the age of twelve to fourteen, a student makes important and tremendous strides in development. Their strengths and interests become clearer, and making a decision about which high school will best meet their needs, wants, and wishes also becomes much clearer. Parents and students have a better idea of what to look for in a high school when a student is 13 or 14 than they possibly can when a child is five. Yes, students who stay at the same school from kindergarten through twelfth grade are often happy, but has the school shaped the student to its image or might that student and family made a different choice if they began their selection process at the beginning of eighth grade?]
And finally, there is also evidence that parents at PS/K through 8 schools are more engaged. Parents become more involved with the school events, “friendraisers,” and fundraisers. They also become more involved with the other parents at the school because of greater shared interests and experiences – their children are closer in age – and because the smaller school creates more opportunities for parents to really get to know each other. Parents who participate more translates to students being more engaged because the children will see their parents involvement as the school being important and children value what their parents value.
It’s a win-win-win. Academic and social growth, leadership opportunities, knowing better who they are, and education all being seen as a life-long value!