A comparative study of the effects of grade configuration on middle school and K–8 school value added scores

Nolan Clark Blair, Tennessee State University


This study examined the impact of grade configuration on academic achievement. Specifically compared were middle schools versus K-8 schools in the Middle Tennessee area. One purpose of this study was to determine if performance, as indicated by the Tennessee Value Added Assessment System 2002-2005 mean gains, was different for students enrolled in these grade configurations in the Middle Tennessee area. The other purpose was to determine to what degree, if at all, both differences and similarities of performance were related to the grade configuration of the schools. The researcher utilized data from 160 schools, a total of 100 middle schools and 60 K-8 schools from the Middle Tennessee area. The schools were representative of a range of school settings, which included rural, urban, and suburban areas. The study included both county and city school systems. This was a population study of middle schools and K-8 schools in the Middle Tennessee area (those with sixth, seventh, and eighth grades) over a three year period, 2002-2005. Data was retrieved from the Tennessee Department of Education website and consisted of Report Card Supplements from forty school systems, representing the Middle Tennessee Area. Data from each K-8 school and middle school was processed using the SPSS statistical program. Data was analyzed for statistical significance using independent group T-tests. This data was also analyzed in order to determine the effect sizes. Selection of effect size, as a basis of comparison, was deemed to be an appropriate statistical measure since this was a population study. Subtracting the middle school mean gain from the K-8 school mean gain and then dividing the difference by the middle school standard deviation determined each effect size. An effect size of 0.5 and above was considered to have a large educational significance (Vaccaro, 2000). The results did not suggest that a particular grade configuration was more appropriate for middle school age children. However, a number of effect sizes were large enough to be considered educationally significant. These effect sizes varied by grade level and subject areas in favor of both middle school and K-8 school configurations. Look (2002) noted that the K-8 configuration was not a silver bullet when deciding on which configuration helps academic achievement. However, many school systems throughout the United States are moving from middle schools back to K-8 configurations. School districts would be wise in monitoring student achievement and the area of grade configuration to best meet the needs of its students.

Subject Area

Educational evaluation|Elementary education

Recommended Citation

Nolan Clark Blair, "A comparative study of the effects of grade configuration on middle school and K–8 school value added scores" (2007). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3260215.