I was just watching ABC's World News and saw a report about middle schoolers--and the academic difficulties that seem to strike at that age. There was also mention of a lack of Title I money going to middle schools, and the fact that teachers are often trained for elementary or high school but not specifically for middle school.
If I recall correctly (I haven't yet found the story on their web site--hopefully it will be up soon), 33% of middle schoolers in the US are at grade level in reading, 32% in science, and 28% in math.
Then what did I see? During the report there was video of a middle school in New York State, and a math teacher was correcting a student for a mistake he seemed to be making on a graphing calculator.
What math could a middle school class be covering that necessitates the use of a calculator, much less a graphing calculator? With the exception of square roots--which don't require a graphing calculator-- I'm at a loss.
Update, 9/26/06: EdWonks (see blogroll at left) posted a link to the video here, although I haven't watched to see if it's the same as I saw on tv last night.