Date of Award

2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

College

College of Education and International Services

Program

Educational Leadership PhD

First Advisor

Duane M Covrig

Second Advisor

Janet Ledesma

Third Advisor

Jimmy Kijai

Abstract

Problem

High school graduation rates have improved over the last decade. However, approximately one-fourth of U.S. high school students still do not graduate within four years. The rates are higher especially among minority and low socioeconomic status students, including students with special needs and English Language Learners. More ninth graders fail than any other grade in high school. A disproportionate number of students held back in ninth grade subsequently drop out. Students who do not complete high school face significant social, financial, and health challenges. Programs have been developed to address this need. One of those is the Accelerated Academic Achievement (AAA) Academy. This program selects students pre-identified to be highly likely to struggle in ninth grade and provides them help to become academically successful. This study examined the influence of AAA Academy on the achievement gap, particularly between minority and/or low socio-economic status (SES) ninth-grade students who attended the AAA Academy.

Conceptual Framework and Research Design

The theoretical framework of this study is anchored in Sergiovanni’s "school as community" or "gemeinschaft" perspective. As opposed to viewing schools strictly as bureaucracies and rigid organizations characterized by hierarchy and tight mechanisms of control, he advised educators to look at schools as communities, where members are not guided by contractual obligations or profit calculations, but rather by shared meaning and purpose, teamwork, collaboration, and local decision making. This would foster a sense of mutuality focused on networks of meaningful relationships that convey a strong sense of belonging (Sergiovanni, 1994). This approach has promised to create relational links for children and youth to keep them in school as a place with a nurturing community. AAA was designed with some of these community building aspects. A quantitative causal-comparative method was used. It compared differences in GPA in the presence of Mathematics California Standards Test (CST) scores, English Language Arts CST scores, credits earned, student attendance, and student discipline as covariates between a group of ninth-grade students who attended the AAA Academy and a group of ninth-grade students (control) who did not attend. It also sought to determine whether a significant difference existed in the GPA in the presence of Mathematics CST scores, Language CST scores, credits earned, student attendance, and student discipline as covariates of students according to their demographic characteristics of gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Comparison was made between independent variables (intervention, i.e., control group and experimental group; and demographic characteristics, i.e., gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status) and dependent variable (GPA) while controlling the effects of covariates (Mathematics CST scores, English Language Arts CST scores, credits earned, student attendance, and student discipline). Archival data from 208 ninth-graders, 104 involved in the AAA Academy intervention and 104 with matching characteristics in the control group were used in this study. The statistical tool of Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA) was used.

Results

ANCOVA results showed that the GPA between students who participated in the transition program and those students who did not were significantly different when controlling the effects of Mathematics CST scores, Language CST scores, credits earned, student attendance, and student discipline as covariates. Comparison of unadjusted means showed that the students who participated in the transition program had significantly greater GPA than those students who did not participate in the transition program or had been exposed to a general and normal high school program. However, comparison of the adjusted means showed that students who did not participate in the transition program had a greater GPA than those students in the experimental group or than those who had participated in the transition program, adjusting for the covariates of Mathematics CST scores, Language CST scores, credits earned, student attendance, and student discipline as covariates. Also, ANCOVA results showed that GPA was significantly different between the different ethnicity groups of the ninth-grade students when controlling the effects of Mathematics CST scores, Language CST scores, credits earned, student attendance, and student discipline as covariates. Comparison of unadjusted means and adjusted means showed that students in the other race groups of Caucasian, African American, and Other had a significantly higher GPA than did Latino/Hispanic students. Also, there was a significant interaction effect of ethnicity and intervention on GPA wherein Latino/Hispanic students in the experimental grouping had significantly greater GPA than did Latino/Hispanic students in the control grouping.

Conclusions and Recommendations

This study's mixed results, especially between unadjusted and adjusted GPA, indicate a delicate web of influences at work on high school students. Descriptive data indicated that students in the experimental group earned more credits, had fewer behavior incidents and higher attendance than students in the control group suggesting some positive effects of the intervention. There was a positive effect on those in the transition group on Mathematics CST scores, Language CST scores, credits earned, student attendance, and student discipline. Ethnicity also seemed to play a role in the GPA of both groups as Caucasian, African American, and Other had greater academic achievement in terms of GPA than Latino/Hispanic students in both programs. Nuancing these effects further will be crucial, not only for researchers, but also for practitioners and policy makers. Leadership that can strengthen the nurturing culture and community of schools may be central in the process of developing programs and supports that help teens through the difficult transitions in high school.

Subject Area

Academic achievement--California; Ninth grade (Education)--California; High school students--California

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

DOI

https://dx.doi.org/10.32597/dissertations/1720

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