Analysis of a Stand Alone Ninth Grade School Transition Program Model: 1993-2003

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Virginia Tech


The movement from middle school to high school is a crucial period as adolescents frequently have a difficult time acclimating to the high school environment and often experience a decline in their academic achievement from middle school to ninth grade (DeLamar and Brown, 2016; Ellerbrock and Kiefer, 2014; Fulk, 2003; Mizelle and Irvin, 2000; Neild, 2009). Many students who drop out of school do so in ninth grade and do not graduate on time with their classmates (Asplaugh, 1998; Bottoms, 2002; Fulk, 2003; Neild, Stoner-Eby, and Furstenberg, 2008). The components of a successful middle school to high school transition program address the academic, procedural, and social challenges students face during this time (Akos and Galassi, 2004; Anderson et al., 2000; Block, 2016; Cauley and Jovanovich, 2006; Ellerbrock et al., 2015; Smith et al., 2006).

Richard Samuel School (RSS), a stand-alone ninth-grade center, has addressed transition challenges for over 25 years. This single case study research examined the reasons for development of this unique school configuration, as well as the programmatic structures created to address students' academic, procedural, and social concerns, through the perceptions of former students, staff, and administrators. This study identifies the effectiveness, benefits, and drawbacks of the program design which addressed the middle school to high school transition for all students at RSS. The study analyzes the program during the first ten years of its existence, from its inception in 1993 until 2003.

As a result of this study, themes around responsive and supportive accountability among staff and students were evident. Through transition structures, such as development of a school support team, core content teachers planning for and teaching advanced and standard level curriculum coupled with student placement on an interdisciplinary team and every student assigned a teacher advisor, students at RSS experienced a positive transition to high school. As a result, a decline in student retention occurred and after year three of implementation, there was a 0% dropout rate. The results of this case study will contribute to research regarding impactful transition programming from middle school to high school.



ninth-grade transition, high school, challenges, academic, procedural, social