The path not taken: How does school organization affect eighth-grade achievement?

Amy Ellen Schwartz, Leanna Stiefel, Ross Rubenstein, Jeffrey Zabel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although rearranging school organizational features is a popular school reform, little research exists to inform policymakers about how grade spans affect achievement. This article examines how grade spans and the school transitions that students make between fourth and eighth grade shape student performance in eighth grade. The authors estimate the impact of grade span paths on eighth-grade performance, controlling for school and student characteristics and correcting for attrition bias and quality of original school. They find that students moving from K-4 to 5-8 schools or in K-8 schools outperform students on other paths. Results suggest four possible explanations for the findings-the number and timing of school changes, the size of within-school cohorts, and the stability of peer cohorts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-317
Number of pages25
JournalEducational Evaluation and Policy Analysis
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • grade span
  • mobility
  • school reform
  • student achievement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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