Grade Configurations and Student Test Performance: Evidence from Recent National Data

59 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2018 Last revised: 18 Jun 2018

Richard DiSalvo

University of Rochester

Date Written: June 12, 2018


What grade configuration is best for student performance? Research to date typically suggests that school districts should minimize structural school switching to maximize achievement. This calls into question the common K-5/6-8 school grade structure, which serves the majority of American students in these grades. I use recent national data to bring new evidence to bear on this question. First, I identify the by-grade effects of school termination on test scores using within-district variation in student performance and school terminal grades. Consistent with the literature, I find that test performance falls at the point of a school terminal grade. However, I also find that students in districts with structural switching consistently outperform their non-switching peers in the grades prior to the switch. This suggests that the policy-relevant ultimate effects of terminal grade use are ambiguous. I use regression adjustment and matching models to attempt to estimate the total effect of terminal grade use on achievement growth and eighth-grade test performance. These models suggest that school transitions reduce both of these performance measures.

Keywords: School reform, grade span, grade configuration, student achievement

JEL Classification: I21, I28, H52

Suggested Citation

DiSalvo, Richard, Grade Configurations and Student Test Performance: Evidence from Recent National Data (June 12, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Richard DiSalvo (Contact Author)

University of Rochester ( email )

300 Crittenden Blvd.
Rochester, NY 14627
United States

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