With demolition of the Doctors Hospital site about to begin, a new study by a pair of Columbia University researchers was released today showing that students who enter middle schools in New York City fall behind their peers in K-8 schools in Math and English achievement. To read the detailed study, titled “Stuck in the Middle: How and why middle schools harm student achievement,” by Jonah E. Rockoff and Benjamin B. Lockwood, please see http://educationnext.org/stuck-in-the-middle/.
Though the study did not definitely determine all the complicated reasons for the differences in student achievement, the researchers do believe that part of the problem is that there are simply too many students in each grade (due to the combination of students from several elementary schools) and statistically this seems to decrease achievement in middle schools in comparison with K-8 schools.
New York City Council Minority Leader James S. Oddo (R- Mid-Island), who is a strong proponent of making the new PS 48 a K-8 facility, said: “This important study provides another piece of evidence demonstrating why the new PS 48 at the Doctors Hospital site should be K-8. Along with the PS 48 PTA, I have said from day one that it should be K-8, and I will continue to advocate for this grade configuration as the construction process continues.”
Below are some selected quotes from the “Stuck in the Middle:”
“[T]he simple fact is that students who enter public middle schools in New York City fall behind their peers in K-8 schools. This is true for math and English achievement. Even more troubling, the middle school disadvantage grows larger over the course of the middle school years. With the transition into a middle school, students set out on a trajectory of lower achievement gains.”
“Even though a full explanation of the middle-school achievement gap eludes us, there does seem to be a consensus among New York City students and their parents that educational quality in the city’s public middle schools is lower than in the boroughs’ K–8 schools. We reached this conclusion after examining responses to a citywide survey of parents of children in grades K–8 and students in grades 6 and higher, which was conducted at the end of the 2006–07 and 2007–08 school years as a part of the city’s new school accountability system.”
“On average, New York City parents of students in middle schools gave their schools lower marks on measures related to education quality than parents whose children attend K–8 schools.”
“We don’t yet know whether the troubling slide in test scores for middle-school students persists through the end of high school, a question that is certainly worth studying. Unfortunately, our data do not allow us to follow the students in our study further than grade 8. If the decline does continue, middle schools not only hurt student achievement in the short term but set students up for unnecessary longer-term disadvantages.”
“Of course, it is possible that transitioning to high school could be more difficult for students who come from K–8 schools than for middle school students. If K–8 students experience a larger drop in achievement upon entering high school, that could bring the two groups of adolescents back into parity. But it is hard to recommend closing the middle-school achievement gap by bringing everybody down. The better option is to address the trouble with middle schools—or do away with them altogether.”