Fresh Starts: School Form and Student Outcomes

Weiss, Christopher Charles; Bearman, Peter Shawn

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.


More About This Work

Academic Units
Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy
Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics
Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, Columbia University
ISERP Working Papers, 04-05
Published Here
August 18, 2010