Middle school should be a place where students can flourish without fear. The early teen years are filled with many changes. Studies have shown students attending Kindergarten through 8th grade schools benefit academically, enjoying a sense of community and opportunity to develop leadership skills that set them up for greater success as they move on to high school and beyond. With mental health issues on the rise among youth, educators seeking to reduce stress and anxiety for middle school students are looking to the K-8 model.

Promotes Academic Achievement

A recent study, “Do Top Dogs Rule the School?” published in the American Educational Research Journal (August 2017) found students in K-8 schools perform better overall than students in specialized (6th-8th grade or 6th-12th grade) schools. While transitioning from one school to the next can be a stressful event that inevitably occurs at some point in every student’s life, in a K-8 school, instead of making two transitions during the awkward years of hormones, changing bodies and social growth, students only make one change in 9th grade.

Research has shown that it is academically beneficial for students to stay in the same school for Grades K-8 rather than transitioning to a separate middle school. Many school districts around the country are eliminating middle schools in favor of the K-8 model, and educators are finding this curtails the loss in achievement that many students experience when they transition from elementary to middle school.

Promotes Relationships & Community

K-8th grade style schools foster a sense of community and family. Students who attend a K-8 school grow up with many of the same kids, parents and teachers over a longer period of time, giving students and families the opportunity to build community, a sense of belonging and lasting friendships, all of which contribute to good social and emotional development. These relationships with other students and faculty ultimately contribute to the student’s support system as well as their success.

Promotes Leadership & Responsibility

In K-8 schools, older students have more opportunities to take on leadership roles. They mentor younger students and act as good role models. When schools set the expectation for their 8th graders to lead the school, students rise to the occasion. This structure teaches older students responsibility and provides positive modeling for younger children. In addition, students feel a sense of pride in their ability to mentor. It is an exceptional experience being “top dog” in 8th grade and bolsters student confidence at a time when teens are often insecure about themselves. This position of earned leadership fosters responsibility and builds self-esteem, which is essential to a healthy mental state.

For more information and tips on guiding middle schoolers through these challenging years in an effective and compassionate way, join Ascension Lutheran’s parent talk, “Raising Resilient Kids,” on Thursday, Dec. 6, at 6:45 p.m. in the school gym. Find out more at ALSchool.org.