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IES Grant

Title: How Should We Organize Primary Schooling? Grade Span, School Size and Student Academic Achievement
Center: NCER Year: 2004
Principal Investigator: Stiefel, Leanna Awardee: New York University
Program: Improving Education Systems      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years Award Amount: $487,910
Type: Exploration Award Number: R305E040096

Purpose: In this project, the researchers aimed to explore potential relationships among the organization of primary schools, classroom configurations, and the academic achievement of the students who attend them. At the time of the study, little was known about how different ways of organizing schools impact students' academic achievement. At the end of this study, researchers intended to have new information on school organization characteristics, particularly grade span—a factor that has been largely overlooked in the research literature and the associations between these characteristics and student academic outcomes.

Project Activities: The researchers proposed to leverage a database of a large urban school district. At the time of the study, the database contained information on more than a million students in grades 1 through 8 for each year over a 7-year period (1995–96 through 2001–02), including extensive data at the individual, classroom, and school levels. The researchers would focus on analyses involving cohorts of third, fourth, and fifth graders followed longitudinally. They were going to use statistical modeling techniques to assess whether school organization characteristics, including school size, grade span, or the number of classrooms, and class size at particular grades related to changes in students' math and reading achievement, as assessed through standardized tests administered annually in third through eighth grades. The large sample size would also allow these analyses to include assessments of whether relationships between school organization characteristics and academic achievement vary depending upon selected student characteristics, including gender, special education status, eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch, race/ethnicity, home language, English proficiency, and country of birth.  The database would also allow for tracking student progress over time and for association with school organization characteristics.

Products and Publications

ERIC Citations: Find available citations in ERIC for this award here.

Select Publications:

Journal articles

Rubenstein, R., Schwartz, A.E., Stiefel, L., and Zabel, J. (2009). Spending, Size, and Grade Span in K–8 Schools. Education Finance and Policy, 4 (1): 60–88.

Schwartz, A., Stiefel, L., Rubenstein, R., and Zabel, J. (2011). The Path Not Taken: How Does School Organization Affect Eighth-Grade Achievement?. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 33 (3): 293–317.

** This project was submitted to and funded under Education Policy, Finance, and Systems in FY 2004.