The author Nan Menon is currently the Chief Education Officer of Cedar Hill Prep School located in Somerset, NJ.  For more information on Ms. Menon or Cedar Hill Prep School please contact 732.356.5400 ext 32 or visit our website at

A study in the Journal of Early Adolescence states that preteens who attend K-8 schools have higher perceptions of their reading skills than those who attend middle schools or junior high schools (Kirsh, 2017). 

For this study, Cappella and colleagues examined data that followed a sample of 5,754 kindergarteners from 1,712 U.S. schools until they entered the eighth grade. The data measured each student’s math and reading test scores and his or her psychosocial development, as well as each student’s beliefs about his or her academic abilities.

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When the researchers compared outcomes for students enrolled in K-8 schools to outcomes for students who left elementary school for junior high school after fifth grade, the differences were staggering.

K-8 students were significantly more confident in their reading skills and reported significantly more interest in reading than middle school students. Middle school students were also more likely to assume that their teachers did not think highly of their abilities.

Three other studies also reported similar findings.   Researchers in Milwaukee conducted a longitudinal analysis of 924 Milwaukee students who either attended K–8 schools or attended K–6 elementary schools and then proceeded to a middle school for 7th and 8th grade (Simmons & Blyth, 1987).

The study was controlled for race, ethnicity, teacher-student ratios, and levels of teacher education.  The researchers found that the students in the K–8 schools had higher academic achievement as measured by both grade point averages and standardized test scores, especially in math. These students also participated more in extracurricular activities, demonstrated greater leadership skills, and were less likely to be bullied than those following the elementary/middle school track.

The authors concluded that the intimacy of the K–8 environment and the delay of the transition to a new school until students were more mature may have accounted for the discrepancy.  In Baltimore, researchers undertook a longitudinal study of two cohorts of students: 2,464 students who attended K–5 schools and then went on to middle schools, and 407 students who attended K–8 schools (Baltimore City Schools, 2001). After controlling for baseline achievement, the researchers found that the students in the K–8 schools scored much higher than their middle school counterparts on standardized achievement measures in reading, language arts, and math.

The students in the K–8 schools were also more likely to pass the required state tests in math. Further, more than 70 percent of the K–8 students were admitted into Baltimore's most competitive high schools, compared with only 54 percent of students from the middle schools (Baltimore City Schools, 2001).

The results can be attributed to the design of K-8 schools which are organized to systemically build student foundational skills based on their developmental needs. The curriculums are horizontally mapped to sequentially build the conceptual knowledge. 

Teachers meet on a school-wide basis to ensure that the students are learning the concepts and applying them as they progress through the grades. Additionally, children thrive emotionally with a community approach in school design. 

K-8 schools tend to operate such that the students, teachers, administration and families function as a cohesive unit with many students spending their entire foundational years in one school.

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