On an Article Comparing K-8 Centers to Stand Alone Middle Schools

Doral News published in its edition #53 an article by Ilse Bigot were the different options that are being considered for the future of our schools are explained. There it is mentioned that those who would like to see JIS transformed into a K-8 center in two campuses base their opinion, in part, in a study made at the University of Columbia on the achievements of the students attending one type and the other of schools. Representatives of a group of parents also presented this work in support of K-8 centers  over middle school models to the ABC.  I have read it and even wrote to one of the authors of the study (Associate Professor Jonah Rockoff) to confirm one point that was not written but implied in the text.

In their study “Stuck in the Middle: Impacts of Grade Configuration in Public Schools” (June 2010) the authors use the student’s standardized test results to extract conclusions on the progress of students attending K-8 centers vs. those attending middle school centers.

There are several reasons why this study can neither be extrapolated to our schools nor used to support the ABC recommendations.

1)      All the K-8 centers studied were one building centers (as confirmed through e-mails with the author). What the ABC recommendations offer is a K-8 center in two campuses. This study in no way can be used to support a K-8 center in two campuses (several blocks appart) as a better option than a stand alone middle school.

2)      The authors speculate that one possible reason for the better performance when the students stay in a K-8 center has to do with the fact that they may feel they are roll models to the younger ones because they keep contact with them. This will not happen in a K-8 two campuses model.

3)      The demographics of the population studied are completely different from those of our schools.  It is not scientifically correct to extrapolate those results to our schools.

4)      The relative performance of the students in the middle schools studied by Rockoff et al. (compared to that of the students in the same grade in K-8 centers) is negative (lower) and decays from 6th to 7th, and to 8th grade.  DMS got the best FCAT results in the region last year when comparing students in grades 6th to 8th of all public schools. Although I do not have the information for the same generation from year to year, in graph 1 you can compare the results of the Base Line Interim Assessment Test of 6th graders (that is to say the students that have just entered the school and have barely been influenced by DMS education) with those of the other centers in Doral, and the results of the 8th graders (they have almost completed three years in DMS) with that of other 8th graders in Doral’s public schools. Renaissance Middle Charter is not included as their results have not been published yet. From these data it can be inferred that if a study similar to that  by J. Rockoff et al. was performed in our community, there is no way to get similar results to those in the aforementioned study. In Graph 2 you can see the results of this year’s three Interim Assessment Tests for DMS, compared to the District average for all public schools (including charters) considering grades 6, 7, and 8.

 GRAPH # 1

GRAPH # 2

The unabridged version of the mentioned study is available at:

http://www0.gsb.columbia.edu/faculty/jrockoff/papers/Rockoff%20Lockwood%20JPubE%202nd%20Revision%20June%202010.pdf

A summary of the study was published in EDUCATIONnext and is available at:

http://educationnext.org/study-finds-students-in-k-8-schools-do-better-than-students-in-stand-alone-middle-schools/

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One Response to On an Article Comparing K-8 Centers to Stand Alone Middle Schools

  1. Maria E. Fernandez says:

    I wonder if the Doral News and Ms. Bigot took the time to address their concerns with the Principals of the Charter Schools in the city of Doral. Both Renaissance and Doral Academy have separate buildings for their Elementary and Middle School students. Renaissance went as far as to build a new facility to house their Middle-schoolers, who used to be housed with the Elementary students before. Why? Is it that K-8 Centers are just an experiment in M-DCPS, like many others, and they really don’t work? Charter Schools are the way of the future. The possible closing of Doral Middle School has benefited Doral Academy. Some of our best students are leaving DMS, not to Rolando Espinoza nor Eugenia B. Thomas but to Doral Academy. The public schools in Doral are losing out on these students and the District remains unfaced and stubborn!
    To the parents of John I. Smith Elementary, my son’s school for six years and one that will remain dear to my heart, I say: Be careful what you wish for! You have vilified DMS and in turn the former students of John I. Smith in order to get “smokes and mirrors” that will never materialize! JIS will never be a true K-8 Center, your children will be housed in 2 separate buildings, the same way they would had been housed had DMS been left to strive as always! There is no money at this time for new facilities! And if there is ever funds, they will be directed to Ronald Reagan/Doral Senior High School first. The District is being sued and this is the real story behind the ABC recommendations: save the District at the expense of our children! Turn a community upside down and parents against each other in order to save face for the District! The bureaucrats have managed to destroy the peace of our city and we let it happen! Well done Doral! We have failed our children!
    Maria E. Fernandez

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