Date of Award

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

First Advisor

Doug Eury

Abstract

This dissertation was designed to identify and describe the impact a freshman academy has on high school transition for ninth-grade students at a rural high school in western North Carolina. This case study investigated the problems ninth graders encounter as they transition from middle school to high school. The study examined student achievement, student attendance, and the graduation rate in an effort to determine whether a freshman academy at the high school helped students transition successfully.

The transition to high school may be difficult for some students because of the countless changes they are experiencing as adolescents. The high school in this study was located in a rural western town in North Carolina and identified the ninth-grade class as the class with the most struggling students. In an effort to help students transition successfully to high school, a freshman academy was implemented.

This qualitative study consisted of interviews with the principal, assistant principal, guidance counselor, and teachers in the freshman academy. Additional data was collected from high school principals in the district with freshman academies to determine strategies implemented for freshman academies in the school district. Focus group interviews were conducted with teachers in the academy. A central office person was also interviewed. A survey was conducted with teachers to ascertain their perceptions of the freshman academy since the implementation.

Interview data was collected, transcribed, analyzed, and reported in a narrative format according to themes and research questions. Survey data was collected, analyzed, and reported in a frequency table. Data from interviews, archival data, and the survey were triangulated to validate the findings for the study.

An analysis of the data revealed the freshman academy at the high school did not impact student achievement, student attendance, or the graduation rate. The data did reveal there was an impact on student motivation, students' attitudes toward school, and the school culture. Students participated in the learning process by interacting with their peers. Teachers used various instructional strategies including technology to help motivate students. Students enjoyed positive relationships with their teachers. School-wide expectations and teacher collaboration contributed to the culture of the school.