Policy Factsheet

School Grade Configuration (K-8 vs. Middle School Configuration)

Reasons for Policy

  • School grade configuration is an important issue in public education.1
  • Grade configuration influences academic achievement, school attendance, and social development.1
  • In a K-8 grade configuration, the absence of school to school transition and continuity of experience may lead to higher academic achievement.1

Community Groups

  • Local School Board
  • Local School District

Policy Components

  • K-8 grade configuration (elementary-wide) as opposed to a 6-8 grade configuration (middle school).

Desired Outcomes

  • Improved academic achievement
  • Improved social development and functioning
  • Improved school attendance
  • Decreased drop-out rates

Level of Evidence Available to Evaluate Effectiveness of Policy

For all policies we describe on this website, we have applied the Standards of Evidence as defined by Flay et al. (2005) in the Standards of Evidence document published by Prevention Science.

The effectiveness level of this policy is 3: Insufficient Evidence Available.

The levels of effectiveness as noted are:

  1. meets criteria for policy effectiveness (consistent, positive outcomes from at least two high-quality experimental or quasi-experimental trials using a comparison group or interrupted time series design);
  2. consistent evidence available linking policy with positive outcomes from high-quality observational studies only;
  3. insufficient evidence available for policy or policy components.

Achievable Results

  • Additional research is needed to conclude that K-8 grade configuration has positive effects in the desired outcomes. Available evidence generally suggests that achievement in grades 6-8 is higher in schools having a K-8 grade configuration than a middle school configuration. However, more research is needed.1


1 Coladarci T, Hancock J (2002). Grade-span configuration. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 17(3), 189-192.

2 Flay, BR, Biglan, A, Boruch, RF, Ganzalez Castro, F, Gottfredson, D, Kellam, S, Moscicki, EK, Schinke, S, Valentine, JC, & Ji, P (2005). Standards of evidence: Criteria for efficacy, effectiveness and dissemination. Prevention Science, 6(3), 151-175.