My topic of interest is at risk students who are transitioning from middle to high school. Specifically, this topic explores students who have experienced behavioral or academic difficulties at the middle school level and are now embarking on their high school journeys. Of course, many of these students will drop out or not make significant progress in high school, while others may attenuate to the environment and find success that they were not able to achieve in their earlier school years. I am particularly interested in this topic, as understanding the factors contributing to success or failure at this stage could help one better aid these students at a critical turning point in their lives.
A search was conducted in this topic for a number of academic databases. Key words were used to narrow down the literature being searched for. In this context, key words refer to words that are used as search parameters to locate existing scholarly articles related to the subject in question. The key words used for the searches included “at risk”; “middle school”; “high school”; “transition”, and “disciplinary.” Not only did I focus on studies that considered just at risk students, but I also focused on studies that explored disciplinary questions because such research could potentially be applicable to at-risk student populations.
Search limiters refer to parameters that restrict the searches to specific criteria in ways other than just through implementing key word searches. For instance, limiters include elements such as limiting search criteria by things such as year or type of publication. The search limiters I used were year and journal article. While I initially attempted to keep the search to journal articles within the last five years, I expanded this search to see if there were any studies that were particularly penetrating.
Peer reviewed refers to journals that are written by experts and then published in scholarly publications. Once published, these journal articles are reviewed by other experts in the field to determine their level of accuracy and intellectual value. Peer reviewed is important for research because it ensures that the content contained in the journal articles is accurate and that the research methods incorporated are sound. Without a journal article being peer reviewed, it would be impossible to entirely know if the claims that are made by its authors are accurate.
The first source I located on the subject was from EBSCOHOST. Specifically, this research was DeLamar and Brown’s (2016) study “Supporting Transition of At-Risk Students Through a Freshman Orientation Model.” This study specifically explored the extent that high school orientation models could help these students. From this study, I learned a significant amount of information. Some of the most pertinent information I learned from this study wasn’t even the study’s specific findings, but rather the detailed literature review that this research included. In this respect, the literature review provided me with a very detailed understanding of the existing literature that explored the most appropriate ways that transition at-risk students could be addressed. In this context of understanding, the research noted that secondary school teachers play a particularly critical role in aiding students during this transition period. Drop out rates should not be understood as something that is entirely the fault of the community or student, but rather constitutes an action that requires active engagement on the part of the school.
The literature review further explores the importance of the middle to high school transition process as something that was critical in a child’s development. The researchers also noted that a significant amount of current approaches had been developed to address the the difficult transition process that many students underwent. Among the prominent approaches in these regards was that some high schools included separated systems for 9th grade students so that they could matriculate to the new environment better. Other solutions included specific preparation programs to ensure that students were ready for the process.
Of course, while the literature review was highly informative in providing me with a comprehensive background on the topic, DeLamar and Brown’s (2016) main research findings in the peer-reviewed study were also highly illuminating. The research specifically implemented a quantitative study to investigate if a freshman transition program was truly effective in aiding students in their transition. The program, referred to as On the Block, was an approach to aiding student transition that functioned by having an educational and information session with students before the students began high school. The research demonstrated that key differences existed for students that attended the On the Block program against students that did not attend the program. Specifically, the researchers found that students who did attend the program were statistically shown to have improved exam scores in diverse subjects such as math, science, and English. The researchers theorized that the reason these students exhibited higher levels of success was that the program provided them with an opportunity to build strong relationships with staff and students before school started. I learned a tremendous amount from this research finding, as it demonstrated to me that among the most important contributing factors to students’ success was their developing strong relationships with staff members. Such a relationship component, even independent of a structured program, was something that was highly enlightening.
The second source I examined was from Proquest. This specific study was Dudley’s (2012) study “Moving from Middle to High School: Making Sense of the Freshman Transition.” This study was particularly significant in that it instead of implementing a quantitative investigation, like the study above, the research implemented a qualitative approach. Specifically, a phenomenological interpretive analysis was implemented that dealt directly with a number of at-risk ninth grade students through interviews. Among the initial things I gained from this study was a more comprehensive overview of the various factors that could occur as a result of an individual’s inability to engage effectively at the 9th grade level. In this respect, the researcher argued that students ran the risk of potentially falling behind in school, low grades, and even potentially dropping out. While these factors were largely common sense, having them articulated in the context of an academic study was a significant factor contributing to my increased understanding of these components.
In terms of the phenomenological investigation, the researcher indicated that the process involved traditional qualitative technique of interviewing students and then developing themes based around the subjects that naturally emerged in the process. Specifically, the researcher sought to develop means of understanding how students made sense of their experiences during their first year of high school. This aspect of the research was enlightening because it provided insight into the specific sorts of mental preoccupations that students at this transition period dealt with. For instance, thematic among students was that they considered school participation and planning for the future. While the research contained a multitude of nuanced findings, among the most notable findings was the consistent emphasis that students placed on what the researcher termed as collective efficacy. Collective efficacy refers to the perception that an institution is effective in presenting strong standards of academic achievement and the support and direction to attain such achievement. When the at-risk students perceived such collective efficacy, they felt more confident in the institutional structures before them. Ultimately, considering this study, which largely emphasized the students’ knowledge, was a great supplement to the above quantitative study that embraced a top-down and positivist approach.
- Cornell, D., Shukla, K., & Konold, T. R. (2016). Authoritative school climate and student academic engagement, grades, and aspirations in middle and high schools. AERA Open, 2(2), 2332858416633184.
- DeLamar, S., & Brown, C. G. (2016). Supporting Transition of At-Risk Students Through a Freshman Orientation Model. Journal of At-Risk Issues, 19(2).
- Dudley, R. E. (2012). Moving from Middle to High School: Making Sense of the Freshman Transition. ProQuest LLC.