Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

Barbara Bleyaert

Committee Member

David Anderson

Committee Member

Diane Parfitt

Committee Member

Ronald Williamson


The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between multiple characteristics of high-performing middle schools as identified in the schools to watch rubric and how those characteristics as well as grade configurations may affect students’ progression through their first year of high school. A student’s middle level experience strongly impacts the odds of graduating from high school. This is especially true of urban districts with a high-poverty student population. This study was conducted in such a district. Middle level education is supposed to serve as a catalyst of sorts to prepare students for high school, yet the current reality is that many students are getting left further and further behind, particularly during the middle-grades years. Using the Schools to Watch Self-Study and Rating Rubric, this study attempted to determine the most effective strategies to implement during the middle-grades that will reposition students so they are performing at grade level or above when entering the ninth grade. As a result, we hope to put students in a better position to succeed and graduate on time. There were four questions that were presented and answered in this study: (a) To what extent do the schools in this study show evidence of implementation of key strategies? (b) Is there a relationship between levels of implementation and students’ progression through the ninth grade? (c) Do either of the grade configurations lend itself to greater implementation as measured by administrator and teacher responses? (d) Is there a relationship between grade level configuration and identified indicators in reference to students’ progression through ninth grade based on the dependent variables? The Self-Study and Rating Rubric was the instrument used to obtain implementation information and to assess educator responses. The rubric was created by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform. Linear regressions were also applied to determine if there were any relationships between the dependent and independent variables. The following major findings were noted: strategy implementation was occurring and was almost equal within the participating schools, some indicators proved to be more important than others during the implementation process, and there was no significant difference between either grade configuration studied during this research and students’ successful progression through the ninth grade.

Included in

Counseling Commons