Is Middle School Bad For Kids?

Cities across the U.S. are switching to K-8 schools. Will the results be any better?

It's 10 a.m. on a bright May day, and the arts wing at Gustav A. Fritsche Middle School in Milwaukee, Wis., is hopping. In a band room, 21 members of the jazz ensemble are rehearsing Soul Bossa Nova with plenty of heart and impressive intonation, in preparation for a concert downtown. In another room, woodblocks, timpani and bells are whipping up a rhythmic frenzy as the 75-member Fritsche Philharmonic Orchestra tackles Elliott Del Borgo's Aboriginal Rituals. In an art room, eighth-graders are shaping clay vessels to be baked in the school kiln. Down the hall, students are dabbing acrylic paints on...