Elise Cappella Receives Spencer Foundation Grant for Study on Middle School Transition and Academic Achievement

Elise Cappella, an assistant professor in Steinhardt’s Department of Applied Psychology, has been awarded a Spencer Foundation grant for a project titled, “Impact of School Transitions on Youth Adjustment: Developmental Trajectories and School Processes in a National Sample.”

Edward Seidman, professor of psychology, and Jennifer Hill and Marc Scott, associate professors, are co-investigators of the study.

School transitions have been identified as critical periods for intervention to promote achievement and reduce maladjustment. Yet, although most students move to a new school in the middle years, this transition receives little attention in educational policy and reform. Middle school transitions occur at the same time as significant, often disruptive, developmental shifts. Research suggests the risks associated with these shifts are magnified when youth, particularly those from poor and minority backgrounds, move to schools mismatched to their developmental needs.

Using a nationally representative and longitudinal dataset that includes achievement test scores, questionnaires completed by children, parents, teachers, and school administrators, and demographic characteristics across levels, the investigators will determine the effect of middle school transitions on 8th grade academic achievement and psychological adjustment. Follow-up analysis will explore school factors that advance or impede youth development across the middle school transition.

Findings from the study will be used to inform educational policy and practice regarding the grade spans of middle grade schools and school instructional and social processes to promote achievement and adjustment in the middle years.

(Photo:  Debra Weinstein, NYU Steinhardt.)