Date of Award

2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

First Advisor

Barry Redmond

Abstract

This dissertation is a mixed-methods research study on the role grade-level configuration plays on meeting the developmental needs of young adolescents. This study reviews the history of the middle school, explains the controversy over grade span configurations, and articulates the developmental needs of young adolescents and what schools should provide to ensure the success of their students.

Seven schools in northwest North Carolina were examined. Four of these schools serve students in a 6-8 setting and three serve students in a K-8 setting. In an attempt to ascertain what grade-level configuration best meets the developmental needs of young adolescents, surveys were distributed to the seven schools’ administration, teachers, and students. The surveys provided questions regarding programs offered, the structure of the school, and other opportunities that were available to the students that would meet their developmental (social/emotional, cognitive, and physical) needs. In addition, the researcher conducted focus groups at all seven schools to gather perceptual data that would further justify the findings from the surveys.

The data showed the K-8 schools were able to offer more opportunities to meet the students’ social/emotional and cognitive needs. A relationship was discovered that the K-8 schools also had more positive perceptions from their students. There was no relationship found for which grade-level configuration was better able to meet the students’ physical needs. Additionally, no relationship was found in meeting developmental needs and higher academic achievement.

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