A good deal of research has been conducted on which school configuration is the best for children in the middle grades, and there are a number of configurations from which to choose. For instance, there are schools that cover grades K-12, 7-12, 4-12, 6-12, 9-12, and many more. In Clairbourn’s case, we have chosen Preschool-8th grade, and it’s not by happenstance.
Clairbourn began in 1926, enrolling children of various ages. They were all taught by one teacher, Mrs. W.W. Butterfield. However, in just the span of ten years, Clairbourn had students in grades Kindergarten through 12th. Yes, for a few short years, Clairbourn had a high school!
After World War II, Clairbourn reconfigured, adding preschool to its offerings. The Baby-Boom generation was just beginning, and adding a preschool class answered the public desire for more early education opportunities. In fact, Clairbourn’s first nursery school director, Grace Smith, helped to write many of the first preschool regulations in California. Clairbourn honors this tradition by continuing to offer one of the best-funded, highest quality preschool programs in the area.
Following the war, a decision was made to discontinue the high school classes, and the school then stopped at 6th grade. In subsequent years, the school added a junior high school (grades 7-9), but then readjusted its educational offerings to a more effective middle school model (grades 6-8). So now, Clairbourn is a preschool through 8th grade school.
NPR Education Reporter Anya Kamenetz cited a recent study by Michah W. Rothbart at Syracuse University. It drew from a large group of 90,000 students and found that when middle school students were not at the bottom of the grade structure (as seen in 7-12 grade schools), they reported feeling “safer" with "less bullying, less fighting, and a greater sense of belonging.” Additionally, the report indicates that fully one-third of 6th graders in 6-12 school reported that they were threatened or bullied by other students “most or all of the time.” Only one in four students at K-8 schools said the same thing.
Clairbourn believes that leadership is a key ingredient in private, independent school education. Our students are prepared to seek and secure leadership positions as their careers develop. Middle school at Clairbourn offers students an opportunity to feel supported and encouraged as they try out new leadership roles without the social pressure of older grades bearing down and even belittling their efforts.
While it’s natural for parents to be anxious about high school admissions, it’s important to understand the long-term benefits of completing the Clairbourn Middle School program in all its facets. When students have experienced leadership opportunities and gained additional maturity, the high school experience will be richer and more rewarding.