by Damon Boughamer
Public Radio Capitol News, serving Pennsylvania
New York (PRCN, 8 March 2006) -- A study of some Philadelphia schools suggests students in kindergarten-through-grade-eight schools don’t perform any better than those in traditional middle schools.
The city school district is in the midst of closing middle schools and shifting most students to "k-through-8" environments.
Columbia University researcher Christopher Weiss says his study found "k-through-8" students felt safer and had better self-esteem, but had no fewer absences or F’s.
“I think we have some important outcomes, and we are raising some important questions, about the way that, say, Philadelphia, New York City, other districts are rushing to get rid of middle schools," Weiss says. "But what would be the truest comparison or the best outcome to look at would be test scores. Those we don’t have. We have grades.”
Philadelphia Schools C-E-O Paul Vallas says the district still plans to eliminate all but eight middle schools by 2009.
Another expert, quoted in an Education Week article, said the research informs what the city school system is doing, but he – quote – "wouldn’t say it tells them to slow down or tells them that they’re wrongheaded."
Weiss said he thought that was a fair assessment.
Weiss said he chose Philadelphia as the subject of his research because – over the time period studied – it was one of the few districts to have about the same number of K-through-8 buildings and middle schools.
The report is outlined in the most recent American Journal of Education.