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Seventh-Grade Workload Too 'Difficult,' Board Member Says

Judy Castiglione believes there's a 'huge difference in expectations between sixth and seventh grade.'

With the new year to start on Wednesday, transitioning from one school to the next will be on the minds of many parents.

It’s been on the minds of several Board of Education members too, most notably Judy Castiglione, who has asked the board’s education committee to look into her biggest concern, the transition between sixth and seventh grade at l. She appeared to be upset with the response she got to her concerns at a recent board meeting.

“When students come into sixth grade, they are treated with kid gloves and taken very good care of,” Castiglione said. “But when they get to seventh grade, things are much more difficult. There seems to be a huge difference in expectations between sixth and seventh grade, and if you polled 25 middle schoolers, I bet you’d get the same answer from all of them, that seventh grade is difficult.”

She said she had heard from “several” parents who told her stories of students crying, vomiting and pulling their hair out over the amount of work, projects and tests, almost all due at the same time, in seventh grade.

Castiglione had voiced her concerns to the Education Committee, chaired by board member Stacey Poulas, who returned with responses at the most recent board meeting.

“We are going to do a study this year of the transition and the work load at all grade levels,” Poulas said. “What we need is for parents to go through the chain of command, and inform the child’s teachers if there is a problem with the work load. We certainly don’t want to hear of students pulling their hair out, but parents need to help us out and let teachers know what is going on.”

Castiglione was unsatisfied with that response, saying that she was “offended” by what she felt was the lack of attention given to the problem.

“When Kathy (Fuchs, the prior superintendent of schools) was still on board I had brought this up. I was told the board was going to look into making the end of sixth grade more difficult, and having more of a transition period in seventh grade. Then several meetings went by and I never heard anything about the subject,” Castiglione said. “I may not have acted in the most mature way to Mrs. Poulas’ report, because I was so shocked that nothing that I had discussed with Kathy had been acted upon. Why aren’t we looking at making this better? This is not the response I wanted at all.”

Poulas admitted that Castiglione’s comments were the first she’d heard of problems individual students were having, and reiterated that parents need to reach out to teachers.

Superintendent Joseph Kraemer also added information, including addressing the problem with the teachers. The middle school works on a team premise, where students are divided into three different teams, and teachers are grouped into teams as well.

“We’ve made some changes at the team level and we have also obtained lesson planning software for all the teachers,” Kraemer said. 

What do you think of the seventh grade work load? Take our poll and share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Elisa DeYoung September 04, 2012 at 11:40 AM
My children have already gone through the middle school. I honestly believe the elementary school teachers had prepared the children very well for the 6th. For some reason it seems to be the teachers of the 7th & 8th grades for the most are tyrants. You can count on one hand the teachers that aren't. Parents need to step up for their children and see what goes on in the class. Even my child with straight A's was able to see the teachers were NOT teaching and expect the children to do the work. When I had a child coming home crying and vomiting it had to be addressed. These teachers are bullies. When is it going to be stopped? When will something be done with these teachers? You know who you are!!! Kids will happily work for teachers that treat them with respect. Love what you do and you wont work a day in your life! this is all in your mental attitude.
JS September 04, 2012 at 11:48 AM
I think calling the teachers "bullies" is a tad much but I agree on the workload. The kids are in school over 6 hours a day. There is no need for homework in every subject not to mention the awful projects they are assigned. School work is taking away from family time. Teach them in school.
Heather Peterson September 04, 2012 at 12:32 PM
There are always going to be good teachers and bad teachers, easier years and more difficult years and as our children grow up there will be easy jobs and difificult jobs great bosses and demanding bosses. It is part of life and they need to learn that lesson. My son had a more difficult year in 7th grade but still managed to make honor roll 3 out of 4 marking periods. It taught him that life is sometimes bumpy and difficult , but that perseverance pays off. We told him that you are being prepared not only for High School where it gets even more difficult, but also for college where the professors are there to pass along information and you are expected to do the work and get the best education you can by your own efforts. Don't want to offend but I sometimes feel that this generation is being babied a bit. Just my two cents.
Alyson Music September 04, 2012 at 12:59 PM
My daughter just completed 7th grade. She is a High Honor Roll student, who has received straight "A"s since attending Middle School. She is also on a winter swim team, which I am sure most kids usually have 1 or more sports after schoool. She gets up at 5:45, comes home and does homework until she has to leave for swim team, did homework in the car on the way, came home, ate, and was up most nights until at least midnight to finish homework, projects, reports, etc... It wasn't unusual for her to be up even later, if need be. I would make her skip swim team 2x a week, just so she wouldn't burn out! She had absolutely no social life during the week! We would try and help with whatever we could. There were tears, anxiety, stress, and angry melt downs. Most of her teachers would put the weeks assignments up on Monday. She would try to work ahead to make time for big projects or assignments. She worked on weekends, vacations, holidays. It is just too much! I wanted to go to the teachers, but she was afraid they would be angry with her. I also realized the teachers had no say on the curriculm, so why bother. Yes, I absolutely think 7th grade is too hard! As they are placed on a team and these teams supposedly meet weekly, why isn't it discussed or planned on due dates for different projects so they aren't all due on the same day?? (cont'd)
Alyson Music September 04, 2012 at 01:01 PM
Now this is a straight A student. It makes me wonder how the rest of the students get this all done! Is the answer to make it harder in 6th grade.....hell no! Better planning of the curriculm! I fear going through the 7th grade with my son, who is less motivated, and gives up much easier. Something has to change! This curriculum is currently designed to force kids to give up, if not motivated. I completely agree with Judy Castiglione. We just lived this and it is horrible!
Cheryl Nowatkowski September 04, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Well, my son just entering into seventh grade and already with a learning disability, I can't wait to see how the teachers react when I call or write (and I know I will) and tell them my son is having problems keeping up with the work. My son had problems keeping up with the sixth grade work and 1 teacher stood out and tried to help him as much as she possibly could and even told us if he needed help with his summer reading he could contact her. I can see this is going to be a huge issue already this year.
sue hankinson September 04, 2012 at 07:24 PM
I totally agree with Judy C. seventh grade was a disgrace. Stress isn't even a good enough year to describe it. I did contact some teachers and even supervisors and expressed this and you know what I was told time after time "Well that's that 7th grade curriculm". Nothing was done and you got no support from the adminstration. Good luck if you have a student with learning disabilities because nothing is done to teach them properly. I felt the kids were prepared for 6th grade well and then when they hit 7th grade it was like they were in college, with the homework, tests, quizzes, reports. We worked every night, every weekend and every vacation. They say they work in teams so they can control the amount of work given etc so it's not given to them all at once what a crock of crap. We were counting the days till the last day of school. So who is reponsible for the workload for each grade? There's a lot of people who make a lot of money and who don't do alot and I think it's about time they are held accountable and earn their salary.
Christine September 04, 2012 at 11:25 PM
While I definitely agree that 7th grade was the toughest year for both of my kids, we never had any issues with any of the teachers that my children had. It was more about the heavier workload that was expected of them during that school year, including (what felt like) the never ending projects and reports being assigned. There were many nights that I felt completely stressed out while trying to help my child get through an assignment so I can only imagine how overwhelmed and stressed a child would be feeling. My kids were completely different students so my viewpoint is from both ends of the spectrum...school came easy to one, while the other struggled...yet 7th was definitely a stand out year for both as being the most difficult. I think it's great that someone is taking a stand for the kids and asking that this be looked into! Maybe they'll address the issue and make some changes before my youngest reaches middle school!
Cheryl Lewis September 05, 2012 at 04:08 PM
I have had two of my children go through the school system and 7th grade was by far the "worst" year of school for us !!! My third child is now in 7th grade and my stomach is in knots ....
Alyson Music September 05, 2012 at 05:01 PM
It's not going to be as easy as posting our dissatisfaction with the 7th grade curriculum to get them to change it. The only way to get the board to change this is to show up at BOE meetings and back Judy. They won't know how many of us are displeased unless they see us. Consider attending at the next BOE meeting!
Amy Gould September 05, 2012 at 07:19 PM
My oldest child made it through the 7th grade with more than a few bumps and bruises. The really challenging time for our family seems to be the summer work load! My son will be a junior this year and is taking all honors/AP classes. His summer work was US HIstory- 16 chapters of textbook plus one novel; English- 2 books, 1 essay, 1 study guide and an 6 page interview, Biology- 5 chapters of textbook, the study questions and a postcard describing an environment visited during the summer from a biologic point of view; Spanish- 12 journals and a power point presentation; Pre-Calc- 18 page packet. I can hardly wait for the fall to get a reprieve from this crazy workload. I also think it is funny that the AIM cited Castiglione's comments and, at the same time, referenced how we needed to get our SAT scores up. How are our children supposed to work on their SATs during the summer with all this other work? I checked out some high performing school districts that have sent their students to Ivy League colleges- WE HAVE MORE BUSY WORK THAN ALL OF THEM. Their students do well because they are drilled on their SATs from 7th grade on. Moreover, their summers are spent preparing them for the actual exams. The schools hold summer classes for this purpose. Why can't we catch on. By the way, I will be at the next BOE meeting to address the summer work issue. I would appreciate any help from other parents prior to arriving that are willing to support me.
Kathy H. September 09, 2012 at 03:42 AM
My son just graded from JTHS and made the honor roll several times, through his academic years the grade that stood out the most was 7th grader - absolute nightmare - the amount of daily homework was beyond any grade previous and after.

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