What to do with Sixth Graders?

Tulsa, OK – Tulsa Public Schools announced today that it will put together a task force and seek input on the structure and placement of sixth grade classes in the district. The issue is one that remains largely unresolved from the Project Schoolhouse initiative. Based on research and input from the community and school personnel, it was recommended last spring that the ideal school configuration placed sixth-grade students in the elementary schools, and the Board subsequently expanded the grade spans in several elementary schools to include sixth-grade classes.

At this time, 44 of the district's 52 elementary schools have sixth-grade students in their classrooms. Of the 11 junior high/middle schools, four include the sixth grade as part of their grade configuration. In all, about 860 sixth-grade students are currently being served in a middle school or junior high setting.

"There is no doubt that the sixth grade is a critical year in determining a student's future success and academic achievement," said Dr. Keith Ballard, superintendent. "While there is research that suggests that the 7th grade appears to be the ideal time to make the transition to junior high, it is hard to argue with the success that many of our students are having at TPS application schools. At the same time, we think it's important to determine the desired instructional practices and opportunities that we'd like to see for sixth-graders across the district, and build a model for TPS that best delivers high achievers. That's why it's important that we get the opinion of parents, teachers and the Tulsa community. Once we determine our philosophy for the sixth grade, then we can build a model that works best, and that may not be materially different from what we have today."

Public input is expected to come in the form of a task force comprised of educators, parents and members of the Tulsa community. There will also likely be a broad-based survey of parents, teachers, administrators and others in the district, and possibly some community forums on the subject. The goal is to come to a conclusion no later than Dec. 19.

"The input we received from TPS supporters in the community was invaluable in finalizing the Project Schoolhouse plan," said Ballard. "While this effort to discuss sixth-grade options will be much smaller in scope, we are committed to an open discussion with parents, educators and others committed to quality education. A number of possible solutions have been discussed, but nothing has been finalized.

The task force, which we plan to announce next week, will evaluate all of the issues and develop recommendations for the board's consideration."