Research reveals that students who attend middle school or junior high school tend to do worse than students who are at schools with grades K-8

A thorough study revealed that students who attend middle school or junior high school perform significantly worse socially, emotionally, and academically than their counterparts who get to be the “oldest” students at K-8 schools.

The study, published in the Journal of Early Adolescence, followed nearly 6,000 students from kindergarten to eighth grade, tracking the performance of students who switched to middle school in sixth grade, junior high in seventh grade, or attended a K-8 school.

The reason behind the decreased performance of students moving to junior high or middle school is that starting in a new school at the sixth or seventh grade hurts students’ perceptions of their own abilities, particularly in English language arts like reading and writing.

Researchers recommend working on improving all schools that serve adolescents

Elise Capella, one of the head researchers of the study, said: “I don’t think middle and junior high schools are the problem or the solution.”

“Instead, we need to strengthen all schools that serve early adolescents, regardless of whether they are K-8, middle schools or junior high schools.”

Capella stresses the importance of educators and parents alike being aware of the psychological development of early adolescents.

“Early adolescence is a time of major growth. Brain development occurs at a rapid pace. Young people are experiencing physiological changes [puberty], social changes [peer group influence], and personal changes [identity development].”

Capella suggests schools should work on hiring teachers who understand early adolescent development, provide support to students in need, and encourage students to build healthy, positive relationships with each other.