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Decatur City Schools

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6th Grade Academies Helping Students Transition to Middle School

The transition to middle school can come with nerves and anxiety. Students may go from having one teacher all day and being with the same classmates to moving to different classes throughout the day, where they have a different set of classmates in each period. In past years, they may have also had classes with students who were older than them.

This year, things are a little different.

In August, Decatur City Schools began the first year of instituting 6th grade academies, which separates 6th graders into their own area of the building and prevents them from being placed in electives with 7th or 8th graders.

Principals Anita Clarke and Rachel Poovey say that the changes have been great for their students and parents. Dr. Poovey says, “It’s helped with the beginning-of-the-year anxiety for both students and their parents. There’s a big difference in the maturity of an 11 year-old and a 14 year-old, and a lot of parents feel nervous putting their kids in a school with teenagers for the first time. Giving the younger students a separate space in the school eases that anxiety, and my teachers have seen fewer concerned emails as a result.”

Ms. Clarke is excited for next year, when the academy space will be even more clearly defined. She notes that “The teachers will really have an opportunity to get to know the students better since they will have their own space in the school, so students will be more comfortable and actively engaged in class. They won’t have to worry about feeling a sense of competition with older peers.”

Both principals look forward to seeing how their new buildings will further enhance the effect of the 6th grade academies.