Math and Reading Differences Between 6-8 and K-8 Grade Span Configurations: A Multiyear, Statewide Analysis


  • David M Clark Pearson Corporation
  • John R Slate Sam Houston State University
  • Julie P Combs Sam Houston State University
  • George W Moore Sam Houston State University


K-8, middle schools, grade span configuration, reading, math, Texas


We analyzed the effect of grade span configurations (i.e., 6-8 versus K-8) on reading and math performance in Texas public schools for the last 5 school years.  Participants in this study were 628 Texas schools (i.e., 314 middle schools and 314 K-8 schools) distributed across the 5 school years examined.  Schools configured as K-8 schools were matched to middle schools using a rigorous distance-based formula.  All 15 reading comparisons (i.e., grade level by school year) yielded statistically significant results, with effect sizes ranging from small to large.  Eleven of the 15 math comparisons yielded statistically significant results, with all of the effect sizes being small.  Regardless of student grade level or school year examined, students who were enrolled in K-8 schools had higher average passing rates on the TAKS Reading and Math assessments than did students enrolled in middle schools.  Implications of our findings are discussed.

Author Biographies

David M Clark, Pearson Corporation

David L. Clark received his doctoral degree in Educational Leadership from Sam Houston State University in August 2012.  His doctoral dissertation was titled, A Comparative Analysis of Grade Span Configurations and Academic Achievement Among 6-8 and K-8 Public Schools in Texas.  Dr. Clark currently serves as Vice President of State Services for Pearson Corporation, Assessment and Information (A&I), Vice President of State Services.

John R Slate, Sam Houston State University

Julie P Combs, Sam Houston State University

Julie Peterson Combs is Associate Professor in the Educational Leadership and Counseling department at Sam Houston State University.  Previously, she worked as a school principal for 10 years.  She currently serves as the director of the doctoral program in educational leadership where she teaches Academic Writing and Research Methods to doctoral students, along with leadership courses in the principal certification program.  In addition to maintaining an active research agenda focused on stress and coping, academic writing, and the role of the school principal, she has written over 50 journal articles, 6 book chapters, and co-authored three books, The Trust Factor; Managing Conflict: 50 Strategies for School Leaders and Examining What We Do to Improve Our Schools: Eight Steps from Analysis to Action.

George W Moore, Sam Houston State University

George W. Moore is an Associate Professor at Sam Houston State University where he is teaches courses in research methods and program evaluation in the graduate programs in Educational Administration and Leadership.  His research interests include Advanced Placement participation and performance, college readiness, and instructional leadership.  Dr. Moore has served as a reviewer for several journals and for AERA proposals.




How to Cite

Clark, D. M., Slate, J. R., Combs, J. P., & Moore, G. W. (2013). Math and Reading Differences Between 6-8 and K-8 Grade Span Configurations: A Multiyear, Statewide Analysis. Current Issues in Education, 16(2). Retrieved from