Middle School vs. Junior High: What’s the Difference?

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Straight from elementary school, children often struggle to fit into high schools. Hence, the introduction of middle schools and junior high schools. While these two are similar in purpose – getting students ready for high school, there are still some differences between them.

While junior high schools focus mostly on teaching standard subjects and offering help to students in the form of memory and cognitive development, middle schools focus on helping students with social and organizational development. As expected, middle school and high school similarities may confuse parents, but a careful study will reveal their differences.

Understanding the difference between the two will help you choose, which would be best for your child. This article would be focused on explaining the difference that exists between middle schools and junior high schools. Read on to find out more.

Is Middle School and Junior High the Same Thing?Is Middle School and Junior High the Same Thing?

Middle school and junior high are essentially the same in terms of ages and grades. However, despite the seeming similarity in grades and ages, there are still a few areas that are different. One such difference is in the way the classes are divided.

Classes are typically divided in a heterogeneous manner in middle schools meaning that students get their classes without considering their ability levels. This arrangement puts a little more burden on the teacher to struggle to teach at the pace that’s comfortable for different students. So, a middle school English class can consist of 20 kids with some reading at their second-grade level and struggling to write one sentence correctly. On the other hand, other students are probably reading at the 10th grade level with the ability to write a five paragraph essay in 30 minutes.

However, junior high models tend to divide their classes homogeneously. Like high schools, this arrangement puts students of the same ability at the same level. This means that students are placed in a class with people of the same understanding ability. For instance, students who are reading at a second-grade level will be grouped together in the same English class. A teacher that specializes in those areas of difficulty is then assigned to help them improve at the same pace. It’s usually the same for different subjects as students get to work with people on their level to understand and work better.

Why Did They Change Junior High to Middle School?

Why Did They Change Junior High to Middle School?

The transformation of junior high to middle school can be traced to 1888, when Charles Elliot, the then president of Harvard University, launched a campaign to reorganize the primary and secondary school structure. At this time, Elliot argued alongside his colleagues at the National Education Association’s Committee on secondary school studies that having young adolescents attend the last parts of elementary school was a waste of time. Instead, they recommended that students this age be introduced to college preparatory courses like Latin and algebra.

These recommendations gave rise to the consideration of grades seven and eight as introductory or junior high schools instead of elementary grades. Over time, names like junior high schools (grade 7-9), junior-senior high schools, and intermediate schools (grade 7-8) began to appear.

The main reason for introducing these school grades was to offer unique and more substantial curriculums to young adolescents. It also intended to address common practical problems like high dropout rates and overcrowded k-8 elementary schools.

Additionally, this system gave college-bound students earlier access to college preparatory works. The system also meant that non-college-bound students had the opportunity to remain in school through grade nine because they’ll be offered domestic, commercial, and vocational curricula.

Today, junior high schools contribute a lot to mid-level education. Thanks to several new policies, these schools have introduced an exciting range of exploratory courses and activities to help young adolescents walk the path towards discovering their abilities and interests. Junior high schools have also grown into becoming the source of educational innovations like extracurricular activities and teachers-adviser programs.

What is Considered Middle School?

What is Considered Middle School?

Also known as junior high schools, intermediate schools, or lower secondary schools, middle schools are a transitional stage in some countries’ educational structure between primary education and secondary education. The concept of middle schools, as well as the regulations surrounding them, varies between different countries.

For instance, in the United States, middle schools either cover grades 6 to 8 or 7 to 9. All through history, different schools (including public and private schools) have been allowed certain freedom in how schools are organized. Therefore, you can expect some variations in organizations. Middle schools typically feature the teaching of basic subjects, with pupils remaining in one or two classes throughout the school day. Although middle school comes with its unique challenges for preteens, it can also be quite interesting depending on several factors. It serves as a time of growth and change.

What Grade are You When You're in Junior High?

What Grade are You When You’re in Junior High?

Junior high is usually a three years program with grade variations across different countries. For instance, the United States education system typically categorizes middle school to cover grades 6-8 or 7-9. For a long time, both public and private schools have been allowed the liberty of having variations in their organization of schools.

However, elementary schools would typically include kindergarten through fifth or sixth grade. Irrespective of school or system variation, a junior high school must be a three years program. This means that junior school grades will not be complete if the program is less than three years.

What is the Highest Grade in Middle School?

What is the Highest Grade in Middle School?

As explained earlier, middle schools typically serve as intermediate schools between elementary schools and high schools. This means that it serves the purpose of helping elementary schoolers transition successfully into high school. A junior high school graduate would be ready for the challenges that come with high school. Irrespective of the school or study-system adopted, the highest grade in middle school is the 8th grade. Although sometimes lower, students are expected to be fully ready for high school when they get to their 8th grade.

Major Distinctions Between Middle School and Junior High

Major Distinctions Between Middle School and Junior High

The middle school vs. junior high debate is one that has existed since the invention of the middle school concept. Both parents and education planners are interested in seeing their differences and how each one impacts students. Despite the several middle schools and high school similarities that exist, there are a few areas of difference that you should know before making the final decision for your child.

Main Focus

A significant difference between middle schools and junior high schools is felt in their areas of focus. While middle schools are known to focus more on the emotional, social, personality, and organizational development of students and general subjects, junior high schools only focus on students’ mental development. This is why junior high schools emphasize teaching subjects that develop the mental strength of students. On the other hand, middle schools do not overlook the mental development of their students. However, they combine mental development with other extra-curricular activities to ensure that progress is encompassing.


Middle schools are known to provide more exploratory and elective classes. The provision of more exploratory classes means that students can explore several other areas if they want. However, these classes are not compulsory, giving only self-motivated students an advantage in those areas. On the other hand, Junior high school provides fewer exploratory classes. However, making each class compulsory means that students would advance at the same pace.


Middle school is known to provide more flexible schedules for students. Of course, students would have more classes across different fields to explore from. But the classes are typically flexible for students, so students can have their classes at times that are comfortable for them. Junior high schools typically have six to eight periods per day, and students compulsorily offer the periods.

Class Arrangements

The classroom arrangement is perhaps one of the most obvious differences between middle schools and junior schools. In middle schools, classrooms are typically arranged by grade levels. Meaning that students in the same grade get to offer the same number of subjects, irrespective of personal interest. On the other hand, junior high schools do not arrange classes in grades. Instead, classes are arranged by subjects. For instance, science students get to sit in a chemistry class or other core courses together.


It goes without saying that the education system in middle schools is designed to be more students oriented. This way, the curriculums are designed to help students catch up with challenging aspects of the subjects individually. However, the education system adopted by junior high schools is typically subject-oriented. Students are exposed to each subject’s intricacies on a more generic level so that they can move at the same pace throughout the semester.

Content Organization

Students at junior high schools would usually have six to eight classes per day. These classes include a free period that’s referred to as a study hall. Students take advantage of this free period to independently work on personal and group assignments. The arrangement of classrooms by grade levels makes this system easier in junior high schools. Middle schoolers have to work with block scheduling, which coincides with the collaborative lesson plan goals created by middle school teachers. Unlike high school students, middle schoolers don’t do every subject every day, giving them extra time to explore elective classes like music, theater, art, and physical education.

Desired Outcome

Middle schools often have their teachers working together to meet state curriculum requirements. Teachers in these schools combine planning sessions to develop unified, all-encompassing lessons. The ultimate goal of middle schools is to offer seventh and eighth-graders the opportunities of working in collaborative environments that provide more social and academic challenges than elementary schools. On the other hand, the design of junior high schools makes them look like miniature high schools. They typically train students to keep up with assignments, books, and requirements of individual teachers and classes. This is why less common planning is done in high schools than in middle schools.

Wrapping Things Up: Middle School vs. Junior High

Both junior high schools and middle schools are organized to have the same goal: to educate students and get them ready for higher education levels. However, both school systems adopt different approaches and education styles to reach this goal. One of the most obvious differences between these two is seen in the age of students. Middle schools have younger students than junior high schools, with middle schools typically consisting of 6, 7, and 8.

Several other differences exist between the two, and a proper understanding of these differences would help you know which would be better for your child. Bear in mind that the structure of these schools may slightly differ across different locations. Therefore, making it imperative for you to research each school type in your locality before choosing one for your child.

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Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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