Middle Level Reports and Studies

Sexual Behaviors of Middle School Students: 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey Results From 16 Locations
Public debates on adolescent sexual health often focus on high schools, but a study published in the January 2013 issue of Journal of School Health suggests that middle schools deserve more attention.  This study examines available data on the sexual behaviors of middle school students and offers surprising results.

Listening to Their Voices: Middle Schoolers’ Perspectives of Life in Middle School. 
If you could change one thing at your middle school, what would it be? Researchers posed this question to 15 kids in a study on the opinions of middle school students about their education, published in The Qualitative Report. The study sought to gain a better understanding of how middle school students perceive their experiences at school, and what they believed would make it better or worse.

School Engagement Among Parents of Middle School Youth.
Most educators agree that students’ academic performance tends to be better when their parents are more involved in their school. Chapin Hall, a policy research center at the University of Chicago, has released an issue brief on increasing parent participation in schools. The report places strategies to bolster parent engagement into three categories: home-based involvement, school-based involvement, and “academic socialization,” which involve parent communication to kids about academic expectations and the importance of education to future success.

The Aftermath of Accelerating Algebra: Evidence from a District Policy Initiative.
Over the past decade, there’s been a movement to introduce algebra to students in middle school rather than in high school, since mastering algebra holds the key to unlocking higher-level math and science. Nationally, the proportion of eighth-graders enrolled in algebra doubled between 1988 and 2007.  In this study, researchers from Duke University examined data from North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District, one of the 25 largest districts in the nation and one that adopted an aggressive policy to accelerate middle school students into algebra. Compared to their peers not taking algebra, moderately-performing students who were accelerated into algebra in the eighth grade scored worse on end-of-the-year examinations. They were also 18 percentage points less likely to pass geometry by the end of grade 11, and 11 percentage points less likely to pass Algebra II by the end of grade 12. The impact was similar for lower-performing students who transitioned to algebra in grade 9. High-performing students who took algebra in grade 7, though, showed no adverse impacts.

The Status of Programs and Practices in America’s Middle Schools: Results from Two National Studies.
Researchers C. Kenneth McEwin and Melanie Greene examined a random sample of 827 public middle schools, as well as a survey of 101 middle schools identified as “highly successful,” based partly on test scores. The differences between the high-performing middle schools and the other schools were stark. These programs had higher percentages of core teachers with separate middle level teacher certification, placed higher emphasis on critical thinking and problem-solving, and more frequently provided teachers with 10 planning periods per week. The most successful schools—90 percent of them—reported using an interdisciplinary team approach. The report includes advice from principals of highly successful middle schools.

Bullying in Schools: An Overview.
Increasing student engagement is one of the most powerful tools available to keep bullied children in school and achieving at higher levels, according to research by the National Center for School Engagement that was funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

The Impact of Alternative Grade Configurations on Student Outcomes through Middle and High School.
As any educator who interacts with seventh-graders can attest, middle school can be rough. A Harvard University study offers more evidence that the transition to middle school can trigger serious academic setbacks—and many students never regain their footing.