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A Quantitative Evaluation Of The Lindbergh Freshman Transition Programs

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            According to Regional Educational Laboratory for the Central Region (REL Central) (2009), there are higher stakes attached to the dropout levels since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.  Middle school educators gave priority to improving the performance of middle school students.  Educators are held accountable for preparing students for life outside of the school.  Individuals without high school diplomas that had lower incomes and higher rates of unemployment, as well as more likely to be incarcerated than individuals with a high school diploma (REL Central, 2009).  As children moved from one level to another to receive their diploma, elementary, middle and high schools appear like separate islands because of the significant changes that they have to encounter and overcome in order to maintain academic success (Chapman & Sawyer, 2001).

            Klekokta (2005) stressed that in order to ease the transition from middle school to high school and to help students succeed even in their post-secondary education, many states, districts and schools; there is a need to implement a collaboration of innovative and traditional programs.  There was a call from the National Education Summit on High School in 2005 for the schools to make sure that every student to graduate, to be proficient and prepared for the real demands of work and post-secondary learning (National Governors Association, 2005).  It was apparent that K-12 educators, parents and community members should work hard to ensure more students graduate from high school with an education that would truly equip them (Klekokta, 2005).  Part of bringing the students from middle school to receiving a high school diploma involved helping them to experience high school success.

         The transition into high school is a critical time in a student’s life (Herlihy, 2007).  This transition is the time wherein one moved from an often smaller and more supported middle school environment into large high schools, wherein the academic and social standards are significantly steeper.  Haviland (2005) noted that even if there are students that welcomed moving into high school, there are those that are anxious in how they would fare in the larger, more impersonal, competitive and grade-oriented setting.

         Eighth and ninth grade were described as a defining period for adolescents due to adjustment problems during this transition period (Herlihy, 2007).  Herlihy (2007) noted that there was a need to help freshman students to catch up with all the changes occurring, while making sure that they remain challenged and engaged in learning.  Transition into high schools could be eased through experiencing structural and specialized curricula reforms.

         Letrello and Miles (2003) considered that although the transition from the middle school into high school could be with ease, there are still a significant number of students that would experience having a decline in their grades and attendance.  Moreover, they also begin to view themselves in a negative light and experience an increased need to belong and for friendship.

         During the transition into high school, students are challenged because of the changes they experience in their bodies and they have to adjust to a new physical sense of self, new intellectual abilities and challenges, as well as significant cognitive demands and broaden verbal skills (Potter, 2001).  It is also a period in the student’s life wherein they would experience and demand emotional and psychological independence from their parents.  The transition from middle school, they would establish adult vocational goals, develop significant peer relationships, manage their sexuality and develop self- control (Potter, 2001).  Since students that experience transition are usually in their adolescent stages and challenges they face are usually based on such changes, it would be significant for transitional programs to support the challenges of adolescent life (Potter, 2001).

         According to Herlihy (2007), the cost of failing in the transition process would mean higher dropout rates, lower on-time graduates rates, and low achievement in American high schools. Thus, it would be significant to identify what worked and to ensure that all students would be able to make through this important passageway.  There is a need to increase the capacity of high schools to equip ninth-grade students to overcome these changes and earn the credits they need for core subjects, maintain their attendance and develop maturity in high school, as key predictors for students to graduate on time (Herlihy, 2007).

Problem Statement

            It has been noted that one of the most overwhelming responsibilities of educators today is to equip students to face the world beyond the classroom (Dedmond, Brown & La Fauci, 2006).  However, one of the more daunting problems would be the increasing population of dropout students in the United States, wherein one in every three eight-grade students in the country does not graduate from high school (Orfield, 2004).  McIver (1990) pointed out that the ninth grade was a level wherein the most students fail, in comparison to any other grade level.  However, when students are exposed to different programs that provide social support orientation to the next school environment, peer interaction and curriculum information, fewer students fail from ninth grade (Dedmond et al., 2006).

            The critical role of transition programs is associated to significantly lower rates of dropouts and failure in ninth grade students (Bottoms, 2002).  While this role has been recognized in studies (Bottoms, 2002; Dedmond et al., 2006; Herlihy, 2007; Hertzog & Morgan, 1999), there is a research gap when it came to the recognition of the appropriateness of transition programs to different school settings and districts.  Furthermore, there is also a significant lack of studies that evaluated the existing transition programs and its effectiveness in fostering the success of ninth grade students.  There is a need to determine the best practices that are available when it came to the design and implementation of transition programs for eight graders in order to ensure a more successful transition into high school. The study will focus on a comparison of transition programs, as there is a need to provide more evidence-based practices when it came to the implementation of middle school to high school transition programs.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this action research is to evaluate the implementation of the Freshman Focus program and recommend viable improvements at the high school level.  The intent of this study is to identify the first-hand effects to providing specialized attention to freshman students from the beginning of the school year and throughout the rest of their transitional period from middle school to high school.  The study will measure the effect of implementing consistent, positive interaction with freshman students on their success through their first year of high school.  Findings from this study will determine the best practices for middle school to high school transition programs according to different school environments.

Significance of the Study

            According to Rodderick (1993), dropping out is significant problem in the schools for decades. Most of the time, the reason why students dropout is because they were doing poorly and they disliked school; the more difficulties that a student would experience in school, the greater the risk of the student for dropping out.  This problem revealed that there is a dire need for high schools to keep students in school.  More than retaining students in school, there is a also the necessity to make sure students are performing well, at a level by which their potentials could take them.

            Minaya (2007) described freshman students’ first-day experience in high school to be nerve-wrecking, nail-biting experience even for a level-headed adolescent.  They are under the great pressure of making new friends, adjusting to the new school setting and system and defending themselves from high school bullies, being freshman students in a new school.  In order to help freshman students overcome the tension of experiencing transition pressures and challenges, the school leaders need to implement programs that would enable them to adjust in high school.

            This study will determine the evaluate the best practices for transition programs because of the high risks that are involved in the process.  The need to understand the best strategies for this program could lower the dropout rates, improve their academics and reduce the risk behaviors of freshman high students.  There is also an increase in the prevalence of vices during this stage, which should be addressed through transition programs (Weiss & Bearman, 2004).  Students that failed to transition adequately were at risk for developing behavior problems and would be placed at a higher risk of dropping out or failing to graduate on time (Neild, 2009).

            This study will provide an important evaluation for the effectiveness of the transition programs that will be studied in this research.  It would analyze the strengths and the weaknesses of the program in order to recognize what recommendations could be provided to improve this process.  This would add to the literature of transition programs for best practices and to help in the continuous development of this process.

Nature and Scope of Study

            In order to address the research questions and to test the hypotheses, this action research study will use the quantitative method to identify and evaluate the most appropriate transition programs across varied school environments.  The quantitative method is selected because of the need to verify data and to test the hypotheses (Creswell, 2009).  This method is used when there is a need to measure and statistically analyze data.  The study will be grounded on the literature review that will be presented in the second chapter.

            The literature review will present the theoretical framework for transition programs.  It will also discuss the problem of the increasing rate of high school dropouts in the country.  The discussion will critically analyze the studies that discussed about transition programs and its relation to student success and academic performance.  Furthermore, the literature review will provide a review of the existing transition programs that are currently implemented and available in different school settings.

            The setting of the research will take place at the Lindbergh High School, which is located in the south of St. Louis County, Missouri.  It is the only high school in the district of about 5,000 students. It is a prominent high school in St. Louis and it chiefly focuses on preparing all students for college.  The data collection process of the study will begin by obtaining consent forms from the school administrations, as well as the parents of the students to use the students’ academic records for review, if ever deemed necessary.

There will be at least two ninth grade classes that experience the Lindbergh’s Freshman Transition Program.  They will be compared to classes from the past three batches of 9th graders who were not able to undergo the transition program. The two classes that will serve as participants will be the graduating class of 2011 and the class of 2012.  The data that will be collected will be the academic performance, attendance rates, and the number of behavioral referrals.  These data will be statistically analyzed and compared between the classes that have undergone transition programs and those that have not.

The scope of the study is to determine the best practices in the implementation of transition programs for the success of freshman students.  Freshman students and ninth graders will be used interchangeably throughout the paper.  It reviews the role of transition programs in decreasing dropout rates in the high school level. It will focus on presenting evidence-based practices that will foster academic success for ninth grade students.  It will evaluate the use of consistent and positive interaction with the freshman class and how it is an effective approach in ensuring the success of first year high school students.  Furthermore, the focus of the study will be the identification of the strategies that work best for different high school environments.

Research Question

The following research questions will be addressed in this quantitative study:

  1. Is there a difference in the average performance of the Lindbergh High School freshman classes that received specialized attention and those that did not?
  2. What is the significant difference in the average performance of the freshman classes that underwent the Lindbergh’s Freshman Transition Program and the freshman classes that did not?
  3. What is the transition program strategy that is most effective in fostering student success for freshman students?


H11: There is a significant difference in the performance between Lindbergh High School freshman classes that received specialized attention and those that did not.

H10: There is no significant difference in the performance between Lindbergh High School freshman classes that received specialized attention and those that did not.

H21: There is a significant difference in the average performance of the freshman classes that underwent the Lindbergh’s Freshman Transition Program and the freshman classes that did not.

H20: There is no significant difference in the average performance of the freshman classes that underwent the Lindbergh’s Freshman Transition Program and the freshman classes that did not.


            The study will use the following significant terms:

Transition. According to the NSW Public School (2007), this term refers to the time wherein students move from middle school to secondary school.  It is described as a critical time for students because during this time they experience a different range of emotions, behaviors, and concerns.

Transition Programs. These are attempts on behalf of the educators to prepare students for high school (Chen, 2008). Mac Iver (1990) described transition programs to help students during the first year following their transition through the implementation of different articulation activities.  These are programs that included informing students and parents about the new school, providing social support and helping them understand the new curriculum and requirements.

Freshman Students. They are those in ninth grade.  This is the class or the year level that is targeted to be an important predictor for the student’s performance in high school, as well as for their graduation potential (McCallumore & Sparapani, 2010).  This term refers to the group of students that have the lowest grade point average, missed the most class and had majority of failing, grades, as well as most misbehavior referrals than any other high school level (McCallumore & Sparapani, 2010).

High School Dropouts. This term referred to the students that left high school, without a diploma or before experiencing graduation.  According to Christle, Jolivette, and Michale (2007), there were two methods for reporting dropout rates, which were the event dropout rates (i.e. the rate by which students left school in a particular year) and the status dropout rates (i.e. the rate of students between certain ages who left school).

Success. According to the guidelines of the Lindbergh High School Transition Program, success will be measured by having positive academic performance, high attendance and low behavior referral data.


            The purpose of this study is to evaluate the transition programs for freshman students and to identify best practices.  There is a significant lack of research when it came to evaluation of transition programs that would allow for recommendations to be formulated to improve the process.  The high rate of high school dropouts increased the stakes for transition program success.  Thus, there is a significant need to constantly evaluate and improve the strategies that are implemented in this process.  A quantitative study will be implemented in order to measure the effectiveness of the transition program of Lindberg High School.  The performance of different freshman classes from different school years will be compared with each other in order to determine the significant strengths and weaknesses of the program.

            The next chapter will provide a theoretical discussion about the impact of transition programs in decreasing the dropout rates of students.  It will also provide significant discussions about the existing strategies that are currently implemented.  Chapter 3 will present and justify the research method, research design, sampling procedures, data collection and data analysis.  It will also describe the measures for validity and reliability.



Theoretical Framework





Research Method and Design

Population and Sample

Data Collection Procedures

Survey/Questionnaire (validity and reliability – if one is used)

Study Validity (internal and external)

Data Analysis Procedures



Bottoms, G. (2002) Improving schools are trying new approaches to raise achievement of struggling students. In Opening doors to the future: Preparing low-achieving middle grades students to succeed in high school, 41-56. Atlanta: Southern Regional Education Board.

Chapman, M. V.; Sawyer, J. S. (2001, October). Bridging the Gap for Students At-Risk of School Failure: A Social Work-Initiated Middle to High School Transition Program. Children & Schools. 23(4), 235-40.

Dedmond, R., Brown, R. and LaFauci, J. (2006). Freshman transition programs: Long-term and comprehensive.  Principal’s Research Review 1 (4), 1-8.

Haviland, J.E. (2005, November). For Freshmen Only. Principal Leadership. 6(3), 28-31.

Hertzog, C. J. and Morgan, P. L. (1999, Jan-Feb.). Making the transition from middle level to high school. High School Magazine. 6(4), 26-30.

Herlihy, C. (2007). Toward ensuring a smooth transition to high school. Washington, DC: National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research. Retrieved from http://betterhighschools.org/pubs/documents/NHSC_ TowardEnsuring_051607.pdf

Klekotka, P. (2005). Beyond high school: Improving transition programs for postsecondary education. Policy Issues 18, 1-11.

Letrello, T.M.; Miles, D.D. (2003, April). The Transition from Middle School to High School: Students with and without Learning Disabilities Share Their Perceptions. Clearing House, 76(4), 212-14.

McIver D. J. (1990) Meeting the needs of young adolescents: Advisory groups, interdisciplinary teaching teams and school transition programs. Phi Delta Kappan, 71(6), 458–464.

Minaya, M (2007). Heading into high school with a running start. Washington Post Staff Writer.

National Governors Association. (2005). 2005 National education summit on high schools. Washington, DC: Achieve Inc. Retrieved May 17, 2005, from http://www.nga.org/cda/ files/05EdSummitGuide.pdf

Neild, R.C. (2009). Falling Off Track during the Transition to High School: What We Know and What Can Be Done. Future of Children 19, 1.

Orfield, G. (2004). Dropouts in America: Confronting the graduation rate crisis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

Potter; L. (2001, March). The Transition Years: When It’s Time to Change. Principal Leadership. 1(7), 52, 4.

Primary-secondary transition: Support material. (2007). NSW Public School. Retrieved on July 30, 2010 at http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/gotoschool/highschool/transitions/index.php

Roderick, M. (1993). The path to dropping out: Evidence for intervention. Westport, CT: Auburn House.

Weiss, C. & Bearman, P.( 2004). Fresh Starts: School Form and Student Outcome. ISERP Working Paper 04-05. New York: Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy. 

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