Sanford Middle School Research Wins Best Article Prize

Sanford Institute faculty members Phillip Cook, Clara Muschkin, and Jacob Vigdor have earned the 2008 Raymond Vernon Memorial Prize for best article published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management (JPAM). Co-authorRobert MacCoun, a professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, also shared the honor.

The group’s research report, titled “Should Sixth Grade be in Elementary or Middle School? An Analysis of Grade Configuration and Student Behavior,” deals with the effects of including sixth grade in elementary school, as was typical until the 1970s, or incorporating it into middle school, a more recent configuration widely adopted in North Carolina.

The analysis was based on disciplinary rates and end-of-grade standardized test scores at public schools in North Carolina. It found that students are more likely to be involved in disciplinary problems and score lower on standardized tests if they attended a school where sixth grade comprised part of middle school, and that those problems continue for several years past the completion of sixth grade. A plausible explanation proposed by the authors is that the greater amount of freedom and the influence of older peers in middle school “can have deleterious consequences.”

The Vernon Prize is awarded annually by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) and includes a $1,000 cash prize and recognition at both APPAM’s fall conference and in the next issue of JPAM.

Cook is the ITT/Terry Sanford Professor of Public Policy Studies and associate director of the Sanford Institute, and Muschkin and Vigdor are PPS professors. Vigdor, along with Edgar T. Thompson Distinguished Professor of Public Policy Studies Helen Ladd and two other authors, also won the Vernon Prize in 2004.

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