Advantages of an open K-8 school

Adrienne Scott is a member of the Open Structured Classroom Long-Range Planning Committee

Recently the CUSD Board of Trustees unanimously approved a new educational option for junior-high-age students—an alternative school for kindergarten through eighth grade. In response to the district’s strategic plan, the Open Structured Classroom (OSC) Program at Hooker Oak is expanding its K-6 small-learning-community model to include seventh and eighth grades in fall 2005. Registration for the new seventh/eighth-grade classroom(s) is open to the entire Chico community and will be taking place this spring.

Why choose a K-8 school?

Research by national education experts shows that young adolescents need a smaller, more personal learning community with close relationships to teachers, other adults and their peers. They need opportunities for enriched, hands-on learning, creative projects, inventive explorations, and to be accountable as mentors to younger children. The same experts question whether these needs can be met at the large, impersonal junior-high schools where students often face anonymity, bullying and static textbook assignments.

Although new in CUSD, K-8 schools across the nation and in California are providing an educational environment that is proving to be successful. Research shows that eighth-graders in K-8 schools have higher self-esteem and higher test scores than their middle-school counterparts, even when adjusted for socio-economic disadvantages. These eighth-graders also transition well both academically and socially to larger high schools, according to studies.

The Open Structured Classroom Program, an education alternative in CUSD for 31 years, strives to create hands-on learning activities and opportunities that build student motivation, promote individual responsibility and keep kids enthusiastically engaged in the learning process.

Students learn by doing, using themes for study that are integrated across multiple subject areas. Many assignments are project based and involve working in small groups and teams in which students learn leadership and communication skills. Studies are relevant and applicable to the real world, not just textbook based. Cross-age tutoring and parent volunteers build a close community.

Parents, teachers, administrators and students know that “one size does not fit all,” especially when it comes to adolescence. That’s why educational options are important and valued by parents, students and teachers in the Chico community. Some K-8 schools are driven by parents’ desires to shelter young teens. The OSC K-8 is driven by a desire to meet the needs of young teens by providing an enriched and stimulating educational environment for academic excellence and social well-being.