Studies Compare K-8 To Middle School


• A study by ACT Inc. concluded that the academic achievement in 8th grade has the biggest impact on college and career success. “By the time they leave eighth grade and go into high school, it’s too late, said Al Summers, director of professional development for the national middle school association.

American test scores drop sharply relative to other nations between elementary school and middle school, according to the Third International Mathematics Science Study. U.S. 4th-graders ranked 12th among 26 nations in math, but 8th-graders ranked 18th.

• National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) showed that U.S. 4th- graders increased standardized math scale scores by 24 points between 1978 and 2008, but 8th-graders improved scores only 17 points. 4th-graders improved reading scores by 10 points, compared to 8th-graders’ 4 points.

• Middle school 6th-graders have twice as many discipline problems as their K-8 school counterparts, according to a study of North Carolina middle schools published in 2008 in the Journal of Policy Analysis. The higher rates of behavioral problems for the middle school 6th- graders continued into high school.

• Students who shift to middle school in sixth grade had a 3 percent decline in high school graduation rates, according to a 2005 study using national data by Kelly Bedard and Chau Do.

• Parents of middle school students gave their schools an 18 percent lower “grade” than the parents of 6th- and 7th- graders in K-8 schools, according to a study published in Education Next. Parents were less satisfied with middle schools, even when student test scores, school characteristics, school size and the student-teacher ratio were taken into account.

• Students shifted to K-8 schools did much better than students in the same grades still in middle school, according to a study of the changeover in Cleveland schools. Only 6.8 percent of 6th-grade students in middle schools passed the Ohio Proficiency Test, compared to an average of 31.5 percent in the newly configured K-8 schools a year later. Overall 6th-grade scores in the new K-8 schools were 18 percent higher in reading and 23 percent higher in math than the scores of students who remained in grade 6-8 schools.

• When the 43,000-student Cincinnati Public School District converted from middle schools to K-8 schools, discipline problems and absenteeism dropped and test scores rose, according to a study published in Education Next.


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