Why Choose an N-8 School?
A Model that Works: Continuity and Confidence
Washington Episcopal School includes grades from Early Childhood (Nursery) through Grade 8. We believe this model best serves the educational, social, and emotional needs of our students. The WES philosophy is supported by a number of underlying precepts. First is the conviction that the continuity of the academic program is important. Elementary programs need to build year by year in a consistent format on the skills acquired in preceding grades. Grades 7 and 8 represent a culmination of that development and those skills.
Another factor, perhaps even more important, addresses the social development of the students. The years from 11 - 14 are full of change over which a young person has little control. Boys and girls strive to cope with the rapidly emerging facets of their personalities, abilities, and physical growth. They are beginning the difficult transition from childhood to adulthood at a time when the only thing that seems constant is change.
A key feature of the N-8 model is that the middle schoolers are senior members of the student body. A stand-alone middle school or a school that goes through Grade 12 cannot offer this opportunity. Being the oldest students in the school gives an inherent vote of confidence to young adolescents. At a time when self-confidence can be shaky, it says, "Look how far you have come compared to the younger children" rather than "Look how far you have to go compared to high schoolers." We encourage the maturity and leadership of the middle schoolers by having them work with the younger students, a practice that benefits both age groups.
Likewise, students graduate at a time when they are best able to make a smooth transition to a new school. A student in Grade 8 has a far better idea of the high school best suited to his or her needs than a sixth grader. Equally important, they are also more ready to adapt to a new school environment, having left some of the "growing pains" of early adolescence behind and been allowed to develop a genuine, grounded self-confidence.
The Advantages for Younger Students: Kids Can Stay Kids
First, the Early Childhood - Grade 8 setting offers opportunities for "little kids" to work with "big kids" who are older than they are but not as old as adults. This unique and special partnership helps the younger children develop self-esteem, conferred by the attention of older students.
Second, as they progress through the school, the younger students are able to stay in a familiar, home-like environment where they are recognized and valued by a group of families and friends they have come to know over time.
Third, an N-8 school is a place in which "kids can stay kids" until they are ready to look at high schools, without the expectation of acting as they think older students should behave.
Finally, by keeping students together through early adolescence, roughly the equivalent age-range of medical pediatrics practices, the faculty can focus its entire energy, expertise, and professional understanding on developing "the whole child," without being required to split that focus on a highly differentiated age cohort with very different, albeit appropriate, needs.