What does the research say about K-8 schools?

Research Summary

  • Student Achievement

    • Higher GPA
    • Better scores on standardized state math tests
    • Better scores on standardized state reading tests
    • Better state test composite scores 

    Multiple studies found that elementary school students did significantly better than middle and junior high school students of the same age in GPA, standardized state math scores, standardized state reading scores, and state test composite scores. In addition, studies showed that when students transition to another school, they experience a significant drop in academic related outcomes. Overall, the literature appears to favor a K-8 model over a middle school or junior high school model.

    Student Psychological and Social-Emotional Outcomes

    • Higher self-esteem
    • Higher self-concept of their achievement potential
    • Lower levels of school threat or violence
    • Reported significantly less substance abuse 

    The majority of the research reviewed showed significant advantages in the student psychological and social-emotional areas for students in elementary and K-8 grade configurations over students in middle school or junior high school grade configurations. Researchers also showed a significantly negative impact on students’ psychological and social emotional well-being when students transitioned from one school to another. One clear finding across the studies was that school transitions, overall, had negative effects on academic, psychological and social-emotional and student behavior outcomes. This suggests that the fewer transitions for students, the better. 

    Student Behavior

    • Higher rates of suspension after transitioning to new school
    • Absent less often in K-8 schools
    • The more transitions in districts, the higher the rates of student drop-out

    Authors of these studies caution that more research is needed to explore how school culture, student-teacher relationships, leadership, teaching practices, school size, cohort size, and demographic differences in student populations contribute to the differences seen in elementary school grade configurations versus middle and junior high school grade configurations. This is because several of the researchers suggested that some of the differences found in student academic achievement, psychological and social-emotional wellbeing, and behavior in the K-8 models may be due to differences in these other factors rather than grade configuration per se. 

    What may be more important, then, is a school’s organizational culture and teaching practices such as developmentally appropriate practices for early adolescents, student-teacher relationships and support for learning (promoted in K-8 by smaller grade size), heterogeneous grouping and high expectations for all students, and collaborative teacher relationships such as team teaching. In districts with fewer transitions (K-8/9-12), student drop-out rates were significantly lower than in districts with K-5, middle school, and high school configurations.


    Want to know more? Contact the principal of the K-8 school you are interested in! 

    Arctic Light 



Last Modified on February 12, 2019