For years, educators, parents and academic research institutes have uncovered benefits for students at K-8 schools – schools that include elementary and middle school grades.
At a school that starts with sixth grade, the middle school-aged students are at the bottom of the pecking order. Shifting from “top dog” status in fifth grade to “bottom dog” as a sixth grader can be tough on students and may contribute to academic declines in middle school, a difficult time for students when hormonal changes and peer pressures may affect their perspectives.
Students in K-8 schools thrive in the vibrant sense of community, develop important leadership skills and perform better academically than those who attend traditional K-5 and 6-8 environments.
Here are five advantages a K-8 school offers its students:
1. Culture of Community
A K-8 culture is built on relationships with an emphasis on community being central to its culture. At schools like Corbett Preparatory School of IDS in Tampa (which teaches PreK3 through 8th grade), faculty and staff collaborate across grade levels. Teachers partner with families in a community of caring that continues long after students have been promoted to the next grade level. Year after year, the school community nurtures these relationships, resulting in increased student self-esteem and a spirit of success.
2. Continuity of Parent Involvement
A key indicator of student success is parent involvement, which remains steady in K-8 schools through the middle school years when it tends to drop off as students move from 5th grade to a separate middle school environment.
3. Leadership Opportunities
When the expectation for 8th graders is to be role models for the rest of the school, they rise to the occasion. Waiting until high school delays the chance for students to grow and think as a leader. Students in K-8 schools can put leadership skills into practice at school wide events where middle schoolers act as buddies to their younger peers, in sports and on teams, and in multi-age casts of dance and drama performances. Opportunities abound for students in the K-8 school to feel empowered to lead without being overshadowed by older high school students.
4. Time to Discover Strengths
The K-8 student graduate has acquired a composite of leadership and personal experiences that allows him or her to transition to high school, many with interviews and application processes, with confidence. Many K-8 schools have smaller class sizes which, like parent involvement, also contributes to social and academic success.
5. Academic and Social Success: “Top Dogs”
Test scores may improve as well. In a study done by Dr. Robert Offenberg of Philadelphia tat compared outcomes of students who attended K-8 schools versus the traditional 6-8 environment, the results support K-8. SAT scores in reading, math and science are significantly stronger in K-8 schools. Students from K-8 schools were 11 percent more likely to be enrolled in selective high school programs. Students from K-8 schools also demonstrated a higher GPA in 9th grade.
Students who attend schools that encompass kindergarten through 8th grade — such as Corbett Prep, which starts in PreK3 — have more chances to be “top dogs.” That privilege translates into a better experience socially and academically for students. Overall, “top dogs” felt safer at school, reported fewer disciplinary instances and benefited from increased academic achievement.
Corbett Prep, a PreK3-8th grade school in Tampa, is noted for its vibrant community and nurturing culture as well as it leadership model for Middle School students. As the role models for the entire school, 6th-8th graders enjoy opportunities for on- and off-campus retreats to learn leadership skills, discover their personal strengths and work together as teams. These experiences offer more than preparation for high school; rather, they offer preparation for life.