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September 17. 2012 2:59PM

Could K-8 schools boost Manchester academic achievement?

Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas has said for years that the city should eliminate its middle schools and switch to larger K-8 schools. This would save the city a lot of money, he says. A new study suggests that it also would provide a notable boost in academic achievement.

Professors Martin West and Guido Schwerdt of the University of Munich studied student achievement in Florida, a large state with a mix of middle-schools and K-8 schools. They write, "The research found that students who make school transitions at grade 7 experience drops in achievement of 0.22 and 0.15 standard deviations in math and reading, respectively. For those making the transition at grade 6, math achievement falls by 0.12 standard deviations, and reading achievement falls by 0.09 standard deviations. These declines in achievement amount to between 3.5 and 7 months of expected learning over the course of a 10-month school year."

They also found that "entering a middle school in 6th grade increases the probability of dropping out of high school by grade 10 by 18 percent (1.4 percentage points)."

Obviously, this is but one study. What is interesting that it found no drop in outcomes attributable to K-8 schools, where five-year-olds are in the same building as 13-year-olds, but the opposite -- a notable increase in performance. The thinking is that the transition to a new school in sixth grade is hard on kids that young, and they do better if they stay in the same school until high school.

It's definitely food for thought given the city school district's recent woes.


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