Archived project

Impact of School Transitions on Youth Adjustment

Goal: To evaluate the effect of middle grade school transitions on 8th grade academic achievement (reading, math, science) and psychosocial adjustment (self-concept, internalizing, externalizing).

Date: 1 January 2012 - 1 January 2016

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Project log

Ha Yeon Kim
added 3 research items
This study evaluates the effect of attending a U.S. public middle or junior high school as compared with a K-8 school on eighth graders’ academic and psychosocial outcomes. In a national sample, we conducted propensity score weighted regression analysis. Initial findings indicated that for eighth-grade students, attending a middle or junior high school negatively affected teacher- and self-reported reading/writing competence. After applying population weights, only reading self-concept remained negatively affected by middle school enrollment. Exploratory analysis revealed the negative effects of attending a middle grade school may be present only for the students who enter kindergarten not at risk as measured by socioeconomic status (SES) or academic performance. Taken together, results suggest that negative impacts of middle grade schooling may be limited to teacher- and self-reported reading/writing competence, more pronounced in middle versus junior high school, and more salient for less disadvantaged students. Implications for theory, policy, and practice are discussed.
During early adolescence, most public school students undergo school transitions, and many students experience declines in academic performance and social-emotional well-being. Theories and empirical research have highlighted the importance of supportive school environments in promoting positive youth development during this period of transition. Despite this, little is known about the proximal social and developmental contexts of the range of middle grade public schools US students attend. Using a cross-sectional dataset from the eighth grade wave of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort 1998-1999, the current study examines the middle grade school social context from the perspectives of administrators and teachers in public schools with typical grade configurations (k-8 schools, middle schools, and junior high schools) and how it relates to students' perceptions of school climate. We find that administrators and teachers in k-8 schools perceive a more positive school social context, controlling for school structural and demographic characteristics. This school social context, in turn, is associated with students' perceptions of their schools' social and academic climate. Implications for educational policy and practice are discussed.
Introduction: School transitions are critical periods for intervention to promote youth achievement and reduce maladjustment. Although school transitions in 6th or 7th grade occur at the same time as significant, often disruptive, developmental shifts, this period receives less attention in prevention and policy than earlier or later transitions. The middle grade transition literature is theory-rich and policy-relevant. However, gaps remain. Few studies use methods that permit causal estimates of the impact of school transitions on youth. National samples are rare, limiting external validity. Rigorous studies with population-based samples focus on standardized test scores, neglecting other academic outcomes critical to school success. In this study, we capitalize on a national longitudinal dataset to determine via causal analysis the effect of middle grade transitions on 8th grade academic competence and interest. The goal is to inform education policy and prevention to increase the likelihood that young people experience positive adjustment across the middle years. Method: Participants are 5,754 students followed from k-8th grade in a national sample (ECLS-K). Dependent variables are measured with 8th grade student reports of academic competence and interest (reading, math). Covariates measured in 5th grade include achievement test scores, demographic and family information, and school structure and composition. We estimate the causal effect of a school transition in 6th or 7th grade in contrast to no transition on 8th grade students’ academic competence. To do so, we first conduct regression analyses to test hypotheses in a correlational framework. Then, we use a propensity score matching procedure, which reduces selection bias by matching individuals from each group to one another based on observed covariates, to test hypotheses in a causal framework. Results: Results from preliminary regression analysis indicate that, above and beyond child, family, and school covariates, 8th graders in k-8 schools reported higher reading competence and interest than students who experienced a school transition in 6th or 7th grade (b = .07, β = .04, p < .05). School size, but not school transition in the middle years, significantly contributed to 8th grade math competence and interest beyond covariates (b = -.03, β = -.03, p < .05). Propensity score matching analysis is underway to examine the causal effect of the school transition in 6th or 7th grade on students' academic competence and interest in 8th grade. Conclusions: Findings may inform education policies and practices regarding the grade spans and structures of middle grade schools. We will discuss implications of findings for intervention to support young adolescents who experience school transitions in the middle years.
Ha Yeon Kim
added a project goal
To evaluate the effect of middle grade school transitions on 8th grade academic achievement (reading, math, science) and psychosocial adjustment (self-concept, internalizing, externalizing).