• unlimited access with print and download
    $ 37 00
  • read full document, no print or download, expires after 72 hours
    $ 4 99
More info
Unlimited access including download and printing, plus availability for reading and annotating in your in your Udini library.
  • Access to this article in your Udini library for 72 hours from purchase.
  • The article will not be available for download or print.
  • Upgrade to the full version of this document at a reduced price.
  • Your trial access payment is credited when purchasing the full version.
Buy
Continue searching

Ninth grade academies in South Carolina: Early adopters versus late adopters

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2009
Dissertation
Author: Daniel Timothy Mullis
Abstract:
The addition of ninth graders to the high school level brought administrative challenges: increased failure rate, truancy, and disciplinary infractions; as a solution, the Ninth Grade Academy concept evolved. This study's purpose was to examine South Carolina schools' academies to determine if early adopters were more effective than late adopters. The study's research was based on Institutional Theory with its main focus as Institutional Isomorphism. This qualitative study used survey results to determine how much administrators used data from existing academies before beginning their own implementation process. The study used institutional theory to assess whether new academies were a form of customization--creating an academy for specific school-identified issues--or conformity, implementation based on a preexisting program. The findings from this study, although not definitive, suggest that the early adopters did appear to be more effective than the late adopters. This study provides a model for educational leaders to help ensure success when implementing a new program.

vi TABLE OF CONTENTS

Page

TITLE PAGE....................................................................................................................i

ABSTRACT.....................................................................................................................ii

DEDICATION................................................................................................................iii

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS..............................................................................................iv

LIST OF TABLES..........................................................................................................ix

LIST OF FIGURES.........................................................................................................x

CHAPTER

I. INTRODUCTION.........................................................................................1

Statement of the Problem.........................................................................4 Significance of the Study.........................................................................5 Theory......................................................................................................6 Purpose of the Study................................................................................7 Question to be Addressed........................................................................7 Limitations...............................................................................................8 Conceptual Framework of the Study.......................................................9 Definition of Terms................................................................................10 Organization of the Study......................................................................11

II. LITERATURE REVIEW............................................................................12

Introduction............................................................................................12 The Problem...........................................................................................12 The History of Change...........................................................................15 Understanding Change...........................................................................16 Ninth Grade Academics.........................................................................20 New Institutional Theory.......................................................................21

vii Table of Contents (Continued)

Page

III. METHODOLOGY......................................................................................28

Problem Statement.................................................................................28 Purpose of the Study..............................................................................29 Survey Design........................................................................................30 Research Questions................................................................................31 Research Design.....................................................................................31 Data Collection and Analysis.................................................................32

IV. DATA ANALYSIS......................................................................................36

Overview................................................................................................36 Analysis of the Quantitative Research...................................................36 Analysis of the Qualitative Research.....................................................45

V. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS......................................56 Overview of the Original Purpose.........................................................57 Conclusion.............................................................................................58

APPENDICES...............................................................................................................61

A: Survey Monkey Survey................................................................................62 B: Follow-Up Questions...................................................................................69 C: First Derivative Graph.................................................................................70 D: Second Derivative Graph.............................................................................71 E: Combined Graph..........................................................................................72 F: Question 7: Who Collected the Data?..........................................................73 G: Question 9: Were Site Visits Made?............................................................74 H: Question 10: Was Information Gathered from Existing Academies?.........75 I: Question 11: How Were the Teachers Selected?.........................................76 J: Question 12: Was Professional Development Provided Prior to Implementing the Academy?....................................................77 K: Reasons for Starting the Ninth Grade Academy – Question 4 – Discipline..........................................................................78 L: Reasons for Starting the Ninth Grade Academy – Question 4 – Socialization.....................................................................79 M: Reasons for Starting the Ninth Grade Academy – Question 4 – Attendance........................................................................80

viii Table of Contents (Continued)

Page

N: Reasons for Starting the Ninth Grade Academy – Question 4 – Drop-Out...........................................................................81 O: Reasons for Starting the Ninth Grade Academy – Question 4 – Test Scores........................................................................82 P: Reasons for Starting the Ninth Grade Academy – Question 4 – Report Card......................................................................83

REFERENCES..............................................................................................................84

ix LIST OF TABLES

Table Page

1. Question 2 from the Ninth Grade Academy Survey....................................37

2. Data Numbers from Question 2 on the Survey............................................38

3. Data Numbers from Question 4 on the Survey............................................44

x LIST OF FIGURES

Figure Page

1. Conceptual Framework of the Study.............................................................9

2. Logistic Regression Curve...........................................................................39

1 CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

In the late 1980's and early 1990's, American education shifted away from junior high schools with grades seven to nine to middle schools with grades six to eight. During this time, middle school leaders conducted studies of issues that needed to be addressed because of this new grade structure. They implemented programs to ease the transition of elementary students to middle schools. The new alignment also moved the ninth grade to the high school level. Unlike the new middle schools, the high schools did not put any new programs into place to accommodate the addition of their new grade, the ninth grade. They soon found, though, that the transition for rising ninth graders was not going to be as smooth as they had hoped. Because ninth grade students had difficulty adjusting to their new freedom and to the academic challenges of the high school level, they were eventually expelled from school or they dropped out. In its May, 2009 newsletter, The Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement addressed the need to give ninth graders special attention: With increasing alarm at the number of high school dropouts across the United States (Dynarski et al., 2008), educators are seeking ways to help students stay in school, graduate, and move on to meaningful and productive careers. Recent research points out that a smooth transition to ninth grade can contribute to students’ success in high school and beyond (Oakes and Waite, p.1).

2 The National Middle School Association also addressed the need for a transition programs since their research has shown that Students experience a decrease in achievement from middle school to high school (Alspaugh, 1998a, 1998b; Isakson & Jarvis, 1999). This achievement loss may represent the first time [that] high-achieving students experience grades lower than As (Smith, 2006, P.1). Academic challenges are not the only problems the ninth grade students have to deal with: In addition to academic struggles, behavior problems in the form of suspensions and expulsions appear to increase significantly early in the ninth grade year (Graber & Brooks-Gunn, 1996) (Smith, 2006, p. 1). Thus, by 2000, high school administrators were trying new programs and approaches to deal with problems ninth graders were experiencing: problems of increased failure rate, truancy, and disciplinary infractions. Schools were simultaneously under pressure to increase their graduation rate numbers and to decrease dropout rate, so educators were looking for new and innovative ways to ensure the success of ninth graders and thus to increase their graduation rate. One of the solutions that administrators instituted was the Ninth Grade Academy or Smaller Learning Communities. This restructuring was an attempt to isolate ninth grade students from the rest of the student body. At the same time teachers and school leaders employed strategies to transition the students from middle school to high school.

3 One school that implemented the Ninth Grade Academy program is Ingraham High School in Seattle, Washington (Sheets, Izard-Baldwin et al., 1997). The school leaders developed a bridge to ease the transition from middle school to high school. The bridge is a program that "provides all ninth graders with access to the educational opportunities available through a variety of activities that promote academic achievement, responsibility, school spirit, fellowship, acceptance, and empowerment” (Sheets, 1997, p. 94). The issues that the bridge focused on were addressed through a class that all ninth graders took during first period for a semester. Each teacher taught a specific skill, and the students were rotated from teacher to teacher in order to learn different skills. The program proved to be successful and was verified by increases in grades, attendance, and participation in school-related activities. At the same time, a decrease in absenteeism and disciplinary referrals occurred. Another approach to the problem of ninth grade transition is academic teaming. In this approach, the teachers share the same students rather than the same subject. Teachers usually share the same planning period and often the same area of the building in order to more effectively serve their students: "Academic teaming at the high school level does not mean that the teachers coddle their students and treat them as if the student were still in elementary or middle school. Academic teaming in high school is a way of keeping the curriculum pressure higher than ever, while attempting to use an organizational strategy to build more of a sense of community into the school so the students will learn more than they otherwise would” (George, 1999, p.19).

4 These early attempts to address problems that high schools were having with their ninth graders led to the creation of ninth grade academies. This study will be examining ninth grade academies throughout the state of South Carolina to determine their effectiveness in solving the problems associated with ninth grade students’ adaptation to a high school environment and thus keeping these students in school based on the time- frame the schools began their academies. The study will be using institutional theory to assess whether academies throughout the state were implemented as a form of customization-early adopter or conformity-late adopters.

Statement of Problem Ninth grade students seem to have difficulty adjusting to the new freedom and academic challenges of the 21 st Century high school. There have been increased failure rates along with truancy and disciplinary infractions among ninth graders. Research shows that high schools are trying new programs to deal with these problems. One approach to address the issues is the Ninth Grade Academy. This study examined when the ninth grade academies in the state of South Carolina were implemented so the researcher could determine if they were effective in addressing concerns that developed from adding the ninth grade to the high school level. Once the concept of the Ninth Grade Academy was started in high schools in South Carolina, other schools around the state started ninth grade academies too. Schools were identified as either early adopters or late adopters of the academy approach. Early adopters developed their own unique form of an academy to address their own school-

5 identified concerns/needs. Schools were identified as late adopters of the Ninth Grade Academy concept because they implemented “canned” programs that they had seen or heard about instead of spending time studying their own specific needs to create a unique academy.

Significance of the Study Like many high schools throughout the United States, South Carolina’s high schools have been facing challenges in attendance, discipline, and grades in their ninth grade student body. Other states have started ninth grade academies to transition the students from middle school to high school in response to these problems. Once this new approach began in South Carolina, it spread as the solution to these concerns about the ninth grade transition to the high school. This study utilized research to examine ninth grade academies to determine if their success was based on the time frame in which they were started. It addressed institutional theory to assess whether academies throughout the state were implemented as a form of customization-early adopters or conformity-late adopters. These late adopter academies were examined to determine if administrators used programs or ideas from the early adopters when implementing their academies. This act of copying someone’s existing program— institutional isomorphism—can come about in several ways as DiMaggio and Powell (1983) explained: We identify three mechanisms through which institutional isomorphic change occurs, each with its own antecedents: 1) coercive isomorphism that stems from political influence and the problem of legitimacy; 2)

6 mimetic isomorphism resulting from standard responses to uncertainty; and 3) normative isomorphism, associated with professionalization (p. 150). This study examined these isomorphic pressures and how they influenced schools to adopt ninth grade academies. Some schools started academies for ninth graders in name only to appear to be addressing the problems of the ninth graders. These educational systems appeared to be isomorphic, and as a result, gave the appearance of change without the reality of change. However, cutting-edge educational ideas and programs do not ensure that children learn. Instead, policy implementation determines this outcome (Kovel-Jarboe, 1996). So, late adopters, like the early adopters, needed to do a comprehensive self-study and implement a catered plan to address their individual needs instead of using someone else’s plan.

Theory The research for this study was based on Institutional Theory and why organizations such as educational institutions all seemed to be structured the same. The main focus of this study was the concept of Institutional Isomorphism, the pressure on organizations to all appear to be alike. DiMaggio and Powell explained this pressure in their article “The Iron Cage Revisited: Institutional Isomorphism and the Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields”: We identify three mechanisms through which institutional isomorphic change occurs, each with its own antecedents: 1) coercive isomorphism

7 that stems from political influence and the problem of legitimacy; 2) mimetic isomorphism resulting from standard responses to uncertainty; and 3) normative isomorphism, associated with professionalization (DiMaggio and Powell 1983, p. 150). The concept of mimetic isomorphism and how it led to schools adopting ninth grade academies across the state of South Carolina was examined closely.

Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of when ninth grade academies in South Carolina were adopted and to determine if the early adopters were more effective than the late adopters. The academy’s effectiveness was based on how well this new concept increased the schools’ goals of increased graduation rates. Schools were surveyed to see how much prior research, planning, and staff development were conducted before starting their academies. Special emphasis was given to assessing how administrators used data from existing academies before embarking on the process of implementing their own academies.

Question to Be Addressed The research raised the question of whether self-developed programs begun early in the implementation of the Ninth Grade Academy concept were more effective than late adopters in meeting the challenges brought on by the addition of ninth graders to high schools. The information will be gathered through an emailed survey and follow-up

8 questions. This mixed method research allows the researcher to make data driven conclusions when attempting to distinguish whether early or late adopters were more effective in addressing ninth grade issues. The specific question addressed in this study is the following: Do schools that are late adopters of the Ninth Grade Academy concept differ from early adopters in their effectiveness in addressing ninth grade discipline, truancy and retention problems?

Limitations Many studies have been conducted on individual schools or districts to examine their academies, but there is limited information of any state-wide studies relating the adoption date of a ninth grade academy to the effectiveness of the school’s program. The academy’s effectiveness was based on how well this new concept increased the schools’ goals of increased graduation rates. The information was gathered by an email survey sent to principals. Follow- up telephone interviews were added to get more details about the academies and to ensure that individuals answering the questions were knowledgeable about their own school’s Ninth Grade Academy. This process was sometimes complicated because some of the administrators that had instituted their academy were no longer at the high school that was contacted. Some of the new administrators, because of the time frame, may have lost the data about the process of their school’s starting the academy and the reason it was begun in the first place. Some other limitations on the study were that some of the late adopters received grant money to start their program. New state initiatives such as Smaller Learning Communities (SLC)

9 and Single Gender classes have been tied closely with some of the late adopters. These initiatives from the state ensured that professional development and documentation based on data would be an on-going process. This may have affected the accuracy of some of the gathered information.

Conceptual Framework of the Study The conceptual framework of the study is shown in Figure 1.

Participants High Schools in the State of South Carolina that have had an Ninth Grade Academy

Partici p ants Im p lementation Date Reasons for Starting the Ninth Grade Academy Research, Plannin g, Staff Data Collected on Ninth Grade Academy

Figure 1 Conceptual Framework of the Study

For this study, the participants included South Carolina high schools that had a Ninth Grade Academy at one time. The variables in this study included the implementation date, reasons for starting a Ninth Grade academy, research/planning and staff development, and data collected on the Ninth Grade Academy.

10 Definitions of Terms  A Ninth Grade Academy is a separate program for students in their first year of high school. It places them with small interdisciplinary teams of 4 or 5 teachers who share the same the same students and a common planning time.  Smaller Learning Communities are forms of school structures that are increasingly common in secondary schools to subdivide large school populations into smaller, autonom ous groups of students and teachers.  In-Service Training is a form of teacher training that is presented to educators. There is usually no follow-up to ensure the information presented is being used.  Staff Development is also known as professional development. It encompasses all types of facilitated learning opportunities, ranging from college degrees to formal coursework, conferences, and informal learning opportunities situated in practice. The trainer will usually have some type of follow-up to ensure the information presented is being used.  No Child Left Behind is the latest federal legislation that enacts the theories of standards-based education reform. It is based on the belief that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals can improve individual outcomes in education.  Academic Teaming organizes groups of teachers across departments, so teachers share the same students rather than the same subject.  A canned program is a pre-existing format that schools adopt without customization; it may be a stock approach that is taught by consultants or is

11 advocated in trade literature. It is usually fixed in form and capable of being copied with little or no modification. Characteristics of a canned ninth grade academy program include the following: core classes that meet every day; students grouped together on a team; a common planning period for team teachers; some type of freshman success class taught to the students; and the students isolated from the rest of the student body, either on separate hall or in a separate building.

Organization of the Study The literature will be reviewed in Chapter 2. The organization of the review will include a history of change, the adoption of the ninth grade academy concept, the theoretical framework, and relevant research. Chapter 3 will address the design and methodology of the research project. The procedures for reducing and interpreting the data within a mixed quantitative and qualitative will be discussed as pertinent grounded theory. Chapter 4 will reveal the findings of the study. An analysis of the findings will be presented in the form of charts, tables, and a narrative, telling the story grounded in the data. Lastly, Chapter 5 will summarize and report the findings. These findings will be supported by vital information included in Chapters 2, 3, and 4.

12 CHAPTER TWO LITERATURE REVIEW

Introduction A growing body of literature has described research about educational reform. This chapter includes a review of the literature about successful educational changes. The purpose for change to assist ninth grade students is examined first. From there, a conceptual framework for understanding educational reform is explored, including a history of change and guidelines for the change process as well as lessons arising from the challenge of change. Following is an examination of effective transitional strategies for students moving from middle school to high school, with a focus on the problems that adolescents typically encounter. The concept of the Ninth Grade Academy is examined with focus on the reason that schools created academies. The chapter concludes with a review of literature on Institutional Theory with a focus mainly on pressures that made organizations implement change and where these pressures originated. After examining Institutional Theory, a connection was made between this theory and education, in particular to the adoption of ninth grade reform known as the Ninth Grade Academy.

The Problem The transition from middle school to high school is very complex for ninth grade students. These students are leaving behind, in most cases, a very structured environment where teams of across-the-curriculum teachers take an active role in their set curriculum. They enter a very impersonal high school setting where students are clustered by career

13 and where teachers are usually separated by subject departments. This new environment for the ninth graders led to a decrease in the number of students graduating in four years or even at all. With a renewed focus on graduation rates brought on by the federal “No Child Left Behind” Act, high schools examined ways to improve this rate. They had found that students were not being successful in the ninth grade, which in turn, eventually led to their dropping out of schools. Reents (2002) states that “Entering the ninth grade can be one of the most emotionally difficult, most academically challenging times in children’s lives” (p.1). These students were already having challenges dealing with their normal developmental changes and making adjustments in social, academic, and attitudinal needs. Elias (2001) goes on to say that “the changes brought on by puberty combine with cognitive and social development changes to make middle school transition a complex situation” (p. 14). One of the solutions that high schools instituted to combat this problem is Ninth Grade Academies. High schools in the 21st Century are increasingly experiencing pressures to change their context. Although school administration may be aware of the need for change, it is uncertain as to the process of successfully initiating the change. Unfortunately, a one-size-fits-all mentality does not apply to high school reform. Individual high schools are comprised of a wide variety of students with unique educational needs; hence, pre-packaged reform initiatives are generally not useful. There is no specific recipe for change (Jurow, 1999; Quinn, 1996; Tye, 2000; Willower, 1963). School administration must assess current student needs and devise programs, teaching methods, and support systems that are tailor-made to their student population.

14 Unfortunately, these initiatives may be revised as new students move into the high school system. While school administrators acknowledge that there are no step-by-step directions for change, there is additional pressure to implement organizational change. Environmental shifts, such as federal and state accountability standards, are pressuring district and campus administration. According to Duke (2004), “hardly a year goes by without new state mandates, new board policies, and new school initiatives” (p. 77); therefore, school administration is forced to improve student achievement quickly. The expectation is to increase quantifiable data in a short period of time, with little or no time to make qualitative adjustments in the teaching methods utilized on the campus. Compounding the problem is the lack of knowledge by the general public. Parents and community members who are unfamiliar with the educational system rely on newspapers and other media to interpret the success of neighborhood schools. The general public does not understand the complex accountability system for public schools. The South Carolina State Department of Education’s accountability yearly school and district report cards and the Federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) reports are ambiguous and difficult to comprehend (Schroeder, 2004). Therefore, taxpayers assess public institutions according to the bottom line: state and federal ratings. Unfortunately, the uninformed public does not understand how local schools can be ranked as acceptable or recognized on one accountability scale and fail to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) on the federal scale. This lack of knowledge and transparency of the accountability system has significant implications for school administrators: It creates an

15 environment where parents and community members are unwilling to tolerate much experimentation with educational change.

The History of Change To understand present-day high school reform, the history of change movements in secondary settings needs to be reviewed. In the 1950’s, a concerted effort was made to consolidate schools and the number of school districts (Tye, 2000). During the 1950’s- 1970’s, the rational scientific movement was the principal philosophy. Sashkin and Egermeir (1993) stated that “it (rational-scientific) assumes that people accept and use information that has been scientifically shown to result in educational improvement” (p. 2). Over the next two decades the foci shifted to desegregation and issues associated with special education (Tye, 2000). This paradigm shift initiated the need for substantial change in the school systems; therefore, laws were implemented to change policies, procedures, and practices in high schools. Lawmakers assumed increased political pressure would lead to educational change and improvement (Sashkin & Egermeir, 1993); but unfortunately, the laws were only valid when people chose to follow them. Sashkin and Egermeir (1993) found that “Passing a law or issuing a requirement does not necessarily make people obey the law or meet the requirement” (p. 17). Clearly, change in schools was being dictated by legislation. To illustrate these reactive responses, Goodson (2001) wrote: “Internal change agents now find themselves responding to changes, not initiating them. In this crisis of positionality, instead of being committed

16 change agents, people become conservative respondent to, and often opponents of, externally initiated change” (p.48). Thus, organizational change was no longer proactive. Educational leaders were scrambling to make necessary adjustments in their public institutions to meet the demands of outside pressures. As the new millennium dawned, a profound paradigm shift in the organizational change movement occurred: Change was no longer welcomed and was characterized by responses to state and federal mandates. Goodson (2001) noted: “Far from being the favored posture of the progressive educator, change has often become an unwelcome and alien imposition” (p. 53). Previously, change was seen as empowering; in the new millennium, however, change was viewed with skepticism and created a battlefield in the educational system. Educational administrators were thrust into the middle trying to balance both sides of the conflict.

Understanding Change Systemic change, often called a paradigm shift, according to Reighluth and Garfinkle (1994), is comprehensive. When change starts, it requires that other changes take place in order for the new change to be complete. This type of change normally leads to a paradigm shift. In respects to education, it will affect all levels of the system. In their book, The Change Agent’s Guide , Havelock and Zlotolow (1995) outline a seven-stage change model that can now be used to bring about change. The stages include (1) care: establish the need for action; (2) relate: build relationships to and among clients; (3) examine: understand the problem; (4) acquire: seeking and finding relevant

17 resources; (5) try: committing to solutions; (6) extend: gain deeper and wider acceptance; and (7) renew, recreate, and terminate. The change agent needs to understand why there is a need for action. The nature of change must first be conceptualized: Thought must be given to the present circumstances, the future as it is likely to be, and the future as it is wished to be. This insight would come about by research and data collection on issues that are deemed to need attention. The change agent would then turn to building relationships with the people that will be most affected by the new change. These are people who may have not been directly involved in the conceptualization phase but who will be asked to support the change and who must be made aware of the change. These relationships would also be involved with trying to understand the problem; this understanding and knowledge building brings about commitment with the clients. Feedback from those not involved in the conceptualization phase, but from those who will be called on for support, must be solicited, and where possible and appropriate, incorporated into the change process. These “buy-in” relationships are important in ensuring that the change will be successful. Those who are expected to support the change will want to know how the proposed change will affect their lives. They will need to be convinced that the change is not just another passing fad. They will want to know why and how they should implement the change. These clients will expect to receive support, training, and opportunities to try the new process. They must also be made aware of incentives such as salary, fringe benefits, stipends, bonuses and conditions of work as a way of motivating them to try the new action. Because change involves risk, people must be convinced that they are working in an improvement-oriented culture. A system

Full document contains 99 pages
Abstract: The addition of ninth graders to the high school level brought administrative challenges: increased failure rate, truancy, and disciplinary infractions; as a solution, the Ninth Grade Academy concept evolved. This study's purpose was to examine South Carolina schools' academies to determine if early adopters were more effective than late adopters. The study's research was based on Institutional Theory with its main focus as Institutional Isomorphism. This qualitative study used survey results to determine how much administrators used data from existing academies before beginning their own implementation process. The study used institutional theory to assess whether new academies were a form of customization--creating an academy for specific school-identified issues--or conformity, implementation based on a preexisting program. The findings from this study, although not definitive, suggest that the early adopters did appear to be more effective than the late adopters. This study provides a model for educational leaders to help ensure success when implementing a new program.