Officials all over New York got some bad news yesterday: Reading and writing scores of students drop dramatically between fifth and sixth grades. State Education Commissioner Richard Mills said, "Despite improvements in elementary school over the past several years, the Grade 3-8 results show substantially lower achievement starting in the sixth grade. The neediest children require more support. The problem is literacy in the middle grades. These results demand improvement in curriculum, instruction, and professional development.” And it's going to be a big problem - here's the NY Times on the federal issue:

The steady erosion of student achievement through eighth grade offers a particularly bleak outlook on New York State’s chances of meeting the goal of No Child Left Behind, which seeks 100 percent proficiency in reading and math among all categories of students by 2014 and imposes sanctions on schools and districts for failing to make annual progress.

Schools Chanceller Joel Klein found the silver lining, when noting that city's results were higher, but teachers' union head Randi Weingarten say the overall results show class size in grades 4-8 need to be lowered.

The NY Times has the raw data of score results - the decline in scores is seen in all schools - poor and wealthy alike. And yesterday was National Backpack Awareness Day, as kids today have heavier backpacks. We stumbled across an ergonomic backpack, the Mochi-Pak that seems to distribute the weight more evenly but it seems like it'll be a magnet for teasing.