Research finds that keeping students in K–8 schools has benefits.
Transitioning from elementary school to middle school can be tough. Assistant Professor Martin West remembers the “shock” of the new environment he encountered at the larger, all-boys school when he entered the seventh grade.
Still, his transition was pretty mild, he says. He was lucky to have been the beneficiary of “outstanding” educators in his private K–6 school located within the beltway of Washington, D.C., and the fact that his new school spanned grades three through 12 meant he would avoid making another transition once he reached high school. It was even during this time that West decided he wanted to be a teacher one day.
Not all students are so fortunate, as West discovered last spring when he released a study that explored the achievement and dropout rates of students enrolled in grades three through 10 in Florida’s public schools. The findings? In sum, students who left elementary schools for middle schools in grades six or seven “lose ground in both reading and math compared to their peers who attend K–8 schools,” he wrote in “The Middle School Plunge,” published in the spring 2012 issue of Education Next. Additionally, Florida students who entered middle school in sixth grade were 1.4 percentage points more likely than their K–8 peers to drop out of high school by 10th grade — a whopping increase of 18 percent.
“Intuitively, I had not expected this to be an important policy lever, but there are a lot of indicators that things are not going well for students in the middle ....
Written by Mary Tamer in Harvard Ed. Magazine.