How Persistent Are Differences in the Academic Effects of Middle Schools?
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
In this paper, we aim to fill that gap by examining middle schools’ short- and long-term effects on student achievement. To do so, we utilize an exceptionally rich longitudinal data set that follows a cohort of 125,704 students in Massachusetts who entered 7th grade between 2004 and 2006 as they move from elementary school through secondary school and into college. In the main analyses, we estimate middle schools’ effects on students’ 8th-grade test scores and 10th-grade test scores, net of students’ previous test scores and demographic characteristics (i.e., race, poverty status, immigration status, gender, and age). We also examine middle schools’ effects on a non-test score outcome: the likelihood of college enrollment. The results suggest that middle schools’ effects on student achievement, as measured by both test score and college enrollment outcomes, persist in the long-term net of high school effects. In supplemental analyses, we show that the findings are robust to alternative definitions of middle school and to the use of both mathematics and ELA test scores. We conclude that school quality generally, and middle school quality in particular, meaningfully shape students’ long-term educational trajectories.