K-8 Schools: Best for Battling Bullying

It should come as no surprise to anyone who can recall his middle school years that most incidents of bullying take place in grades 6 through 8.  According to a recent study–one of the largest of its kind– published in the American Educational Research Journal, students in middle schools report higher rates of bullying and fighting.  These students also experience a drop in academic performance. 

The study tested the “Top Dog/Bottom Dog Theory” in schools with grades spans of K-8, 6-8 and 6-12.  The study drew from over 90,000 students in over 500 schools during a 3 year period.  Researchers found that “tweens” at K-8 schools reported less bullying, less fighting, and a greater feeling of safety and belonging than students at traditional middle schools serving grades 6-8.  When the “tweens” are the “top dogs” there is a marked decrease in instances of bullying. Anaya Kamenetz, lead education blogger for NPR, points out, “one-third of 6th graders in 6-12 schools reported that students threatened or bullied other students “most or all of the time.”  Only one in four students at K-8 schools said the same thing.  And their grades and test scores were better, too.”  The study also shows that students who transferred into K-8 schools faired far better than students who began at traditional 6-8 middle schools.

What’s the answer?

This latest study proves what middle school teachers and administrators already know:  sixth graders suffer the most from incidents of bullying. To minimize these incidents, sixth graders should be in a higher position in the school.  Choosing a K-8 school for your child will likely provide a safer, more comfortable environment during those difficult “tween” years. At Ss. Peter and Paul. a Catholic K-8 school,  students in sixth grade are given leadership roles in activities such as reading buddies, service club and student government to counteract the “bottom dog” feeling that leads to bullying.  Many students transfer from larger middle schools during 6th grade and report a much better experience at our K-8 school. We can’t eliminate 6th grade, but we can strengthen its position in the school and positively affect our students’ experience.

For Further Reading:

Shorter School Grade Spans Linked to Bullying

Education Week, October 4, 2016

Is Middle School Too Early for Students to Lose ‘Top Dog’ Status?

neaToday, September 27, 2016

The Benefit of Being the Big Kid on the Playground

The Atlantic, September 22, 2016

Traditional Middle Schools Could Actually Be Hurting Your Kids, Study Finds

Good Housekeeping, September 21, 2016

Worried about little children attending school with much older students? A study says they’ll be better off

Chalkbeat, September 20, 2016

Schools With Wider Grade Spans Have Less Bullying, N.Y.C. Study Finds

Education Week, September 20, 2016

As if being 12-years-old wasn’t hard enough, a new study confirms many schools make it even harder

Quartz, September 20, 2016

Sixth Grade Is Tough. It Helps To Be ‘Top Dog’

NPR, September 19, 2016


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