Since the inception in 1990 of the Kentucky Education Reform Act, the Commonwealth of Kentucky has taken steps to improve middle-school student education, particularly in science. In this study, we evaluated the effects that these changes on middle school student performance, particular with respect to misconceptions about free fall and inertia. We collected data from approximately 750 seventh- and eighth-grade students from three middle schools in south-central Kentucky. We then surveyed the students, using a series of questions related to force and motion, after they had completed coursework at the relevant grade level. Overall, we found that students had a poor understanding of these topics. Seventh graders tended to perform better than their eighth grade counterparts, and male students tended to perform better than female students. We also conducted video interviews with a select number of students to evaluate their understanding of free fall and inertia. The video interviews showed the depth of misconceptions. We found that those students retained these misconceptions even after having completed the appropriate coursework.