Fresh Starts: School Form and Student Outcomes

Christopher Charles Weiss; Peter Shawn Bearman

Fresh Starts: School Form and Student Outcomes
Weiss, Christopher Charles
Bearman, Peter Shawn
Working papers
Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy
Persistent URL:
ISERP Working Papers
Part Number:
Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, Columbia University
Publisher Location:
New York
Seemingly endless tinkering and adjustment of the structure of education in the United States over the past century has led to the adoption of different school forms at different times. Currently the middle school is the dominant form of schooling for the middle years of education; however, the middle school is a relatively new form that replaced the junior high school, which itself replaced previous schooling forms. Despite the rhetoric of policymakers and practitioners, little research has considered what school forms work for what kinds of adolescents across what dimensions. In this article, we show that for both academic and non-academic outcomes, how school systems structure the transition from 8th to 9th grade makes almost no difference. Where differences appear, they are small and point to the benefits of school transitions for providing fresh starts to adolescents in socially difficult situations. The policy implications are correspondingly clear: the optimal school structure for any school district is the one that maximizes building space, reduces crowding, and achieves administrative rationality.
Middle school education
Educational administration
Sociology of education
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Suggested Citation:
Christopher Charles Weiss, Peter Shawn Bearman, 2004, Fresh Starts: School Form and Student Outcomes, Columbia University Academic Commons, http://hdl.handle.net/10022/AC:P:9693.

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