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Students attending middle schools are at an academic disadvantage according to a new report, raising questions about whether school boards should sustain smaller, more specialized schools for students about to enter high school.

The report compared math and reading scores of students who attended a separate school for Grade 6 through 8 to those who stayed in the same school from kindergarten through Grade 8. After controlling for differences in student background, the author, David Johnson, found that students scored 1.5 to 1.7 percentage points lower on standardized Grade 9 math tests if they attended middle school and 0.1 to 0.9 percentage points lower on Grade 10 literacy tests.

"In my opinion, adding another transition appears to be costly to the students," said Dr. Johnson, an education policy scholar at the C.D. Howe Institute and Professor of Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University.

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About 30 per cent of students in Ontario will attend a middle school through the course of their academic career. Studies out of British Columbia have come to similar conclusions and some studies out of the United States have even linked middle school attendance to decreased graduation rates, according to Dr. Johnson.

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