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Why PreK-8?


“If I could design psychologically safe schools, every elementary school in the United States would go from kindergarten through grade 8 and be no larger than four hundred students.”
Best Friends/Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Worlds of Children, Michael Thompson, Renowned Child Psychologist 

Research on schools indicates that the benefits of a Pre-K through Grade 8 education go beyond psychological safety. St. Pius V School's model supports the healthy spiritual, social, emotional, and intellectual growth of all students.

Here are a few reasons why we believe in the PK-8 model…


  • PreK-8 schools preserve childhood. St. Pius V students remain more ingenuous, more likely to engage in healthy, age-appropriate activities, and more comfortable being kids a few years longer than peers at many other schools. This organizational structure allows for the validation of the unique needs of pre-adolescents in Grades 6, 7, and 8. 
  • St. Pius V School students enjoy the privilege of having close and continuous relationships with their teachers, who are experts both in their curriculum area and in child development. Knowing that their teachers are their mentors and allies, St. Pius V School students feel safe taking intellectual risks and benefit from early leadership opportunities. 
  • Students in the St. Pius V Upper School serve the school as leaders.  They are not at the beginning of high school or in the middle of anything…They are at the “top of the hill.”  They respond to new responsibilities, such
    as mentoring students in the lower grades, with maturity and vision uncommon for their age.
  • St. Pius V School students have signature academic experiences that they cannot get anywhere else. Hands-on science and math projects, literature, and art studies go beyond what their peers experience elsewhere. Students who graduate from our 8th grade are uniquely prepared for academic success in high school.
  • St. Pius V School students graduate from 8th grade with a strong sense of who they are, both as learners and as members of society. The faculty and staff know each student well and assist each 8th grader in the selection of the high school that best matches his/her strengths. As a result, our students emerge well-prepared to succeed in their next school environment.
Research supports the pK-8 model


A 2012 study shows how “students who left elementary schools for middle schools in grades six or seven ‘lose ground in both reading and math compared to their peers who attend K–8 schools’ ” and “were 1.4 percentage points more likely than their K–8 peers to drop out of high school by 10th grade — a whopping increase of 18 percent”.
Read discussions about this study here: Do Middle Schools Make Sense? Harvard Ed Magazine, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Fall 2012

The American Educational Research Journal published a 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 academic 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

We hope the proven benefits of a PreK-8 education will give you even more confidence that St. Pius V School is the right place for your child.