Date of Award

2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

First Advisor

Douglas Eury

Abstract

The purpose of the study was to perform a program evaluation of the Back-On-Track program to determine the program's impact on overaged eighth-grade students' attitudes towards school, motivation to continue and complete a formal education, and academic self-perception. The mixed-method evaluation consisted of an experimental-comparison design that included conducting focus group interviews with and administering surveys to all consenting program participants, performing field observations, and comparing the attitudes and motivations towards school, and the academic self-perception of program participants before and after completing the Back-On-Track program.

The researcher and a trained interviewer administered surveys to and conducted focus group interviews with the Back-On-Track certified staff members as well as the director, the core content teachers of the home middle schools' eighth-grade teachers, current students in the program, and former students of the program. The benefits and limitations of the program were examined based on teacher and student perceptions, analysis of survey data, and field observations.

The four research questions that guided the study were as follows: (1) what are the contextual issues that warrant an academic acceleration program for middle school-aged students; (2) what resources does this school system possess that enable it to provide an academic acceleration program for middle school-aged students; (3) is the Back-On-Track program following its design as planned; and (4) what is the impact of the Back-On-Track program on student attitude, motivation, and student academic self-perception?

Analysis of the data indicated that students and teachers overall felt that the program for overaged eighth graders was an asset to the school system and provided a much needed avenue for grade acceleration for students who were off track for expected graduation. The director, teachers, and students felt the district provided the necessary resources for the program. While the students and program personnel revealed that the program followed its plan as designed and communicated to them, teachers at the home school admitted unfamiliarity with the details of the program's plan. Both teachers and students alike presented qualitative agreement that the program had a positive impact on student attitude, motivation, and academic self-perception. Regarding self-motivation, a significant statistical difference was shown between the pre- and postsurvey administrations indicating an increase in self-motivation after attending the Back-On-Track program.

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