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Study Gives K-8 Schools an Edge Over Middle Schools

“Stuck in the Middle: How and Why Middle Schools Hurt Student Achievement”

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New York City students who moved from elementary to middle school experienced a bigger dip in mathematics and language arts achievement than their K-8 counterparts did and tended to be absent more often, according to researchers.

Jonah E. Rockoff and Benjamin B. Lockwood, researchers at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business, report their findings in the fall issue of Education Next, a journal published by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. They analyzed data on successive cohorts of students entering 3rd grade at regular (not chartered) public schools from 1998 to 2002, following individual students for six years, through 2008.

They found that the earlier students moved to a middle school, the greater the gap between them and their K-8-attending peers¬—and that gap widened as students aged.

Besides higher academic achievement, the study found that, on average, students missed two more days per year in middle schools than they would have had they attended a single school. Unlike previous studies, though, this one did not find differences in the number of suspensions among students attending different types of schools.

“I wouldn’t view this as definitive,” Mr. Rockoff said, “but if I was running a school system, I would see this as cause for serious further investigation.”

Vol. 30, Issue 03, Page 5

Published in Print: September 15, 2010, as Study Says Pupils Fare Better in K-8 Schools
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