2004 - Volume 27, Number 2
Editor, David L. Hough, Missouri State University
The Relationship Between Middle Level Grade Span Configuration, Professional Development, and Student Achievement
One goal of professional development is to improve student achievement through improved teacher practice. The middle school philosophy, which supports the rationale that student learning is inextricably interwoven into the fabric of an active learning environment, contains many promising practices that "mirror" what is often considered to be high quality professional development. However, researchers' efforts to identify and measure this relationship have proven difficult at best. In this study, levels of professional development as components of various school reform initiatives are identified, and their relationships to student learning are measured across various grade configurations, specifically, K-8, 6-8, and 7-12. This study found a significant percent of 6-8 middle level schools to be more highly engaged in professional development activities than their K-8 and 7-12 counterparts. However, when taken together, professional development and grade configuration were not found to have a direct relationship to student achievement. Some variance in state assessment scores, albeit not statistically significant, was found to be marginally related to grade configuration, indicating the need for further study. This finding, coupled with other analyses of the data, suggest that relationships among professional development, grade configuration, and student achievement may exist but cannot be fully explained until researchers are able to identify and account for other variables that may be related to the unexplained variance. Until empirical evidence is produced, policymakers are encouraged to continue discussions regarding the most appropriate means of addressing young adolescents' academic needs regardless of other factors.