Here are just a few reasons why…
According to a study described in the October 16, 2017 article in New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development:
1. Students who attend a 6-8 middle school compared to a K-8 school are likely to have a lower perception of their reading skills.
2. The social and academic contexts of 6-8 middle grade schools may not be well-aligned with early adolescents’ developmental needs for autonomy, feeling connected to others, and feeling competent.
3. The results are mixed on the academic impact of middle grade schools versus K-8 schools, with some studies showing a benefit for K-8 schools.
4. Teachers in middle and junior high schools may differ as well, both in their knowledge of whole child development and their experience of professional support and satisfaction. Taken together, these differences may lead teachers to be less responsive to student needs, which can have consequences when compounded with other characteristics of middle school.
5. A decrease in teacher-student closeness or school safety, or an increase in academic competition among peers, may lead to lower self-esteem and higher anxiety and loneliness among students.
The American Educational Research Journal published the study in 2016 providing evidence that students attending K-8 schools benefit from what is being referred to as the “top dog/bottom dog (TDBD) phenomenon.” The study looked at the experiences of sixth-through eighth-graders in New York City schools with different grade spans: K-8 vs. 6-8 and 6-12. “Top dogs” are the older children in these grade spans, and “bottom dogs” are the younger children. This study explores how students are better able to handle the transition from "top dog" to "bottom dog" in 9th grade, when they are developmentally and emotionally better equipped to handle being the youngest in a building. The study suggests that middle schoolers in K-8 schools report less bullying, higher acedemic achievement, and higher self-esteem, than middle schoolers in 6-8 and 6-12 schools.
Read the full study here: Do Top Dogs Rule in Middle School? Evidence on Bullying Safety and Belonging. American Educational Research Journal, September 14, 2016
Here are some additional articles and stories related to this research:
Sixth Grade Is Tough. It Helps To Be ‘Top Dog’ NPR, September 19, 2016
Schools With Wider Grade Spans Have Less Bullying, N.Y.C. Study Finds Education Week, September 20, 2016
The Benefit of Being the Big Kid on the Playground The Atlantic, September 22, 2016
Is Middle School Too Early for Students to Lose ‘Top Dog’ Status? neaToday, September 27, 2016
“Middle schoolers are proud, of course, of their new status as almost teens, but the almost is what most defines them. When educators are unaware of how developmentally close the middle schooler is to elementary schooler, we miss the opportunity to teach the whole person, both the child who is leaving childhood behind, as well as the young adult who is looking forward to the challenges of independence” (Claire Needell Hollander https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/06/18/the-middle-schoolconundrum/why-k-8-schools-may-be-better-for-middle-school-students)