recent survey found that U.S. middle schoolers have the most
negative views of the climate of their schools and peer culture.
While not many studies directly compare K-8 schools with middle
schools, those that do suggest that young teens do better both
academically and socially in K-8 schools.
According to an article written by Time Magazine,
middle schools have been the educational setting for roughly
two-thirds of students in Grades 6 through 8 for the past decade.
But increasingly, communities and questioning whether they really
are the best choice for this volatile age group. The most
comprehensive report on middle schools, a review of 20 years of
educational research, was released in 2004 by the Rand Corporation,
a nonprofit research group in Santa Monica, CA. This report found
that: More than half of eight-graders fail to achieve expected
levels of proficiency in reading, math and science on national
tests; in international ratings of math achievement, U.S. students
rank about average--ninth out of 17--at Grade 4, but sink to 12th
place by Grade 8, setting the stage for further slippage in high
school; reported levels of emotional and physical problems are
higher among U.S. middle school students than among their peers in
all 11 other countries surveyed by the World Health Organization.
The same “health behavior” survey found that U.S. middle schoolers
have the most negative views of the climate of their schools and
peer culture. The report also found that crime takes off in middle
school. Statistics from 1996-1997 show that while 45% of public
elementary schools reported one or more incidents to the police, the
figure jumps to 74% for middle schools--almost as high as high
schools (77%). Lastly, the report found that while not many studies
directly compare K-8 schools with middle schools, those that do
suggest that young teens do better both academically and socially in
K-8 schools. Jaana Juvonen, a UCLA psychologist who spent more than
18 months collecting data for this report, believe that 11- and
12-year-olds are already dealing with so many changes that it makes
little sense to add on a change in schools as well. A 2002 study
found that eight-graders in Philadelphia’s K-8 schools typically
scored 50 points higher on state tests than peers who attend middle
schools. In 2003, this particular district began downsizing their
number of middle schools from 46 to 8 by the year 2008. At the same
time, they will be increasing their K-8 schools from 10 to 120.
According to this article, K-8 schools are in some ways better
positioned to implement the ideas of the middle school movement. Not
only do these more intimate schools tend to foster strong
teacher-student relationships, but they often put their older
students in positions where they can exercise judgment and
Middle School Bad for Kids?, Time
Magazine, August 1, 2005, pp. 1-6.