The U.S. Department of Education defines middle-level schools as involving no grade lower than fifth and no grade higher than eighth. Two generic labels are commonly used to describe middle-level schools. The label “middle school” typically refers to schools comprising grades sixth through eighth; the term “junior high school” usually refers to schools having grades seventh through ninth. These differing definitions contribute to some difficulties in identifying and communicating trends in school composition.

According to the National Middle School Association (NMSA) (2003), the percentage of middle schools and the percentage of children attending them have increased dramatically since the 1970s; the reverse has occurred for junior high schools. In 1971 there were 10,445 total middle-level schools, of which 1,662 (16%) had sixth through eighth grades. In ...

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