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Student Transitions Through the Middle Grades

About Student Transitions Through the Middle Grades

Educators have long asserted that the middle grades are a time of both great importance and vulnerability. Anecdotal and empirical evidence suggest that students encounter new social and emotional challenges, increased academic demands, and major developmental transitions during these years.

However, despite increasing awareness of the academic and developmental challenges associated with the transition through the middle grades, there is still surprisingly little concrete evidence about whether changes in students’ achievement or attendance during this period can help us anticipate their progress toward long-term goals, such as high school graduation.

About Our Study

The Research Alliance investigated how NYC students’ achievement and attendance changed between grades four and eight, and whether certain changes foreshadowed future problems. As detailed in our report, we found that declines in attendance and achievement (particularly in math) strongly predicted that students would be “off track” for graduation by the end of 9th grade—a pattern that held true across demographic groups and schools. These findings adds to a growing body of evidence about the importance of identifying and better supporting struggling students in middle school.


This project was made possible through general operating support to the Research Alliance.

Related Publications

Navigating the Middle Grades

In this study, we investigate whether and how students' achievement and attendance change between grades four and eight and identify moments during this period when students' achievement and attendance suggest they will struggle to graduate from high school on time. (2011)

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