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Why the K through 8th Grade Model Works

We know that the toddler years are a great milestone in a child’s life. But grades 6 to 8 are equally significant for students in every aspect of their development – physical, mental, social, emotional, and academic.

In the nurturing environment of a small school like Berkeley Hall, teachers know their students and provide them with the tools to navigate these formative years. BHS helps young people as they discover who they want to be by giving them a strong sense of identity and a moral compass.

Studies show that students from smaller middle schools, particularly those that go from Kindergarten to eighth grade, are more likely to succeed in high school and beyond. This is something we witness each year as our eighth graders go through high school placement, then identify the school that is right for them, based on their interests and goals – and get accepted! Approximately 90% of Berkeley Hall eighth graders gain entry to their top-choice high school each year and a number of factors go into this winning formula that we’ll outline below.

Fostering a Safe and Healthy Learning Environment

When children are placed in a supportive environment, they feel comfortable learning, exploring, and even making mistakes. At Berkeley Hall, we foster a “growth mindset,” which means that our students learn to meet challenges head-on and find a way to work through them, instead of giving up.

Students also benefit from a diverse student body, small classes that allow for thoughtful discussion, and teachers always available for them at school. They get to hear a wide range of perspectives and see the values we teach in action. This smaller environment, where they feel cared for, nurtured, and challenged, gives them the confidence they need to step into leadership roles.

Leadership Opportunities

As the oldest students on campus, middle school students are given exceptional opportunities to gain recognition and respect for their leadership. Rather than struggling for a sense of identity in the shadow of high school students – or emulating overly mature behaviors – these young adolescents can come into their own at Berkeley Hall. For younger students, the middle-schoolers become wholesome role models during all-school House activities, peer tutoring, and other buddy programs, which create a solid structure for relationships to form and grow.

Discovering their Passion

It is critical for both academic and personal growth that students be allowed to explore a number of different activities at school. In a smaller school environment, students are able to try their hand at almost anything they want, which helps them discover new passions!

BHS students are able to explore theater and drama, visual arts, sports, Mock Trial, STEAM offerings, outdoor activities like urban gardening, and more - regardless of prior experience. Providing all of these different options helps children develop their own unique interests and build confident, well-rounded individuals. These many activities also allow further opportunities for them to step into leadership roles and set positive examples for younger students.

Life After Middle School

Graduates of Berkeley Hall have a solid understanding of their own identity, personal standards, and moral compass. They develop the ability to have resilience in the face of challenges. When students mature and grow in an environment where they are nurtured and cared for, and where there are no limits on who they are or what they can do, they are better able to make healthy, positive decisions. Ultimately, the ability to make positive life decisions will affect them well beyond their high school and college years. This is why it’s so important to not only choose the right middle school, but to allow students to complete their middle school experience as the oldest class in a school.

Berkeley Hall School

It’s common for students to make decisions early on about which high school they would like to attend. However, from our experience as educators, this often changes throughout middle school.

Katie B. (Berkeley Hall Class of 2018) decided she wanted to attend a certain high school when she was very young. She held on to this ambition throughout her years at Berkeley Hall, and almost left in 6th grade to pursue that goal. In the end, Katie’s family realized that she would be able to attend the school of her choice, even if they waited until eighth grade. This was possible thanks to Berkeley Hall’s reputation and our relationships with all of the independent and private high schools in the greater Los Angeles area.

In eighth grade, with help from her teachers, family, and Berkeley Hall administrators, Katie decided that the school she had wanted to attend for all those years was not the right one for her.

After realizing that her original choice was not a good fit, Katie set her sights on a new school. She is now a junior at her top choice high school.

“I think it’s helpful to wait until 8th grade to choose a high school, because you know yourself better and can make better decisions about your future,” she said, reflecting on her experience. “I love my high school and I am so happy I waited until 8th grade so I could choose the right school. It is even better than I imagined it would be!"

The environment at Berkeley Hall is designed to cultivate and foster confidence and critical thinking to ultimately create self-confident, thoughtful, kind, and intelligent leaders for high school and after. Unlike many students in the K-12 or 7-12 grade model, Berkeley Hall’s eighth grade graduates experience being “seniors” before they enter high school. They are equipped with a growth mindset and all the personal, academic, and social tools necessary to be successful in high school and throughout life.

How K-8 schools benefit students:

  • Builds self-confidence and identity

  • Greater academic success

  • Less likelihood of behavior problems

  • More participation in extracurricular activities and/or sports

  • More leadership and community involvement opportunities

  • Easier transitions into high school

Interested in learning more about the middle school program from a current parent? Click here and look for the “Connect with a current parent” section of the page in the lower right. Choose a parent who has a student in middle school.

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