Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education



Major Professor

Thomas N. Turner

Committee Members

George Harris, Russell French, Lester Knight


This study examined the impact of middle schools organization versus K-8 school organization on achievement using a type of measure which is intended to take differences in ability of students into account. One purpose of the study was to determine if performance, as indicated by the Tennessee Value Added Assessment System 1997-99 mean gains, was different for students enrolled in K-8 schools in the East TennesseeRegion than it was for those enrolled in middle schools. Another purpose was to determine to what degree, if at all, both differences and similarities of performance are related to the grade configuration of the schools.The researcher utilized data fi-om 119 schools, a total of 57 middle schools and 62K-8 schools from the East Tennessee Region. The schools were representative of a range of school settings which included urban, suburban, small town, and rural areas. The study included both county school systems and city school systems.This was a population study of all middle schools and all K-8 schools in the EastTennessee Region (those with sixth, seventh, and eighth grades) over a three year period,1997 through 1999.Data were obtained from the Tennessee Department of Education and consisted ofReport Card Supplements from 32 school systems, representing the East TennesseeRegional Office. Data fi"om each K-8 school and middle school were processed using theSPSS statistical program. These data were analyzed in order to determine the effect sizes. Selection of effect size, as a basis of comparison, was deemed to be an appropriate statistical measure since this was a population study. Each effect size was determined by subtracting the middle school mean gain from the K-8 school mean gain and then dividing the difference by the middle school standard deviation. An effect size of .5 and above was considered to have a large educational significance.The four large effect sizes which were considered to be educationally significant were found in the following four areas: 1) a large effect size favored middle schools in seventh grade math, 2) a large effect size favored middle schools in seventh grade science, 3) a large effect size favored K-8 schools in eighth grade reading, and 4) a large effect size flavored K-8 schools in sixth grade reading. Seven moderate effect sizes were also found.The researcher drew the following conclusions from the data:• A K-8 organizational structure is more appropriate than a 6-8 structure for sixth grade.• A 7-8 middle school organizational structure is more appropriate than a K-8 structure for seventh grade.• One cannot say that either K-8 or middle school (6-8) configuration is best for all students.• Factors other than grade configuration may have a relationship on whether schools were higher or lower gain schools.

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