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ERIC Number: EJ968956
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 7
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-1539-9664
The Middle School Plunge
West, Martin; Schwerdt, Guido
Education Next, v12 n2 p62-68 Spr 2012
Policymakers nationwide continue to wrestle with a basic question: At what grade level should students move to a new school? In the most common grade configuration in American school districts, public school students make two school transitions, entering a middle school in grade 6 or 7 and a high school in grade 9. This pattern reflects the influence of enrollment pressures and pedagogical theories that, over the past half century, all but eliminated the K-8 school from the American education landscape. A small fraction of students do attend public schools encompassing grades K-8, 6-12, or even K-12, however. The authors exploit this variation by comparing the achievement trajectories of Florida students entering a middle school or a high school to those of their peers who do not make those transitions. Their study extends research conducted in New York City, in which Jonah Rockoff and Benjamin Lockwood found that entering a middle school causes a sharp drop in student achievement relative to the performance of those remaining in K-8 schools. The authors find that moving to a middle school causes a substantial drop in student test scores (relative to that of students who remain in K-8 schools) the first year in which the transition takes place, not just in New York City but also in the big cities, suburbs, and small-town and rural areas of Florida. Further, they find that the relative achievement of middle-school students continues to decline in the subsequent years they spend in such schools. The results confirm that transitions into both middle schools and high schools cause drops in student achievement but that these effects are far larger for students entering middle schools. (Contains 2 figures.)
Hoover Institution. Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-6010. Tel: 800-935-2882; Fax: 650-723-8626; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Elementary Education; Elementary Secondary Education; High Schools; Middle Schools
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Florida; New York