Freshman Academy by yaosaigeng


									                                                             Impact of Freshman Academy 1



   A Study of the Effects of Freshman Academy on East Tennessee High School Students’

                              Graduation and Dropout Rates


                                    Students’ Names

        A Research Proposal Submitted to the Department of Graduate Education of

                    Lincoln Memorial University in Partial Fulfillment

                          Of the Requirement for the Degree of

                                 Specialist in Education

                                      Summer 2008

                         Faculty Name: Committee Chairperson

                           Faculty Name: Committee Member

                           Faculty Name: Committee Member
                                                                Impact of Freshman Academy 2


       Researchers wanted to determine whether the attendance of Freshman Academy, also

referred to as ninth grade academy, positively or negatively impacted the graduation rates and

the dropout rates in East Tennessee public high schools. This study employed a causal-

comparative research design with a data collection from 110 East Tennessee public high schools.

The data indicated there was no way to determine whether Freshman Academy impacted

graduation rates or dropout rates due to the fact only one high school had implemented Freshman

Academy for more than four years. Additional future research or a broader research sample size

could determine if Freshman Academy would have an impact on these rates.
                                                                                                  Impact of Freshman Academy 3

                                                                  Table of Contents

Abstract ............................................................................................................................................2

Table of Contents .............................................................................................................................3

List of Figures ..................................................................................................................................4

Chapter I - Introduction ...................................................................................................................5

Chapter II – Review of Literature ....................................................................................................9

Chapter III – Methodology ............................................................................................................31

Chapter IV – Results ......................................................................................................................33

Chapter V – Discussion .................................................................................................................39

References ......................................................................................................................................42

Appendices .....................................................................................................................................47

Appendix A - Freshman Academy Data Collection Form...........................................................48

Appendix B - Human Subjects Form A .......................................................................................49

Appendix C - List of East Tennessee Public High Schools ..........................................................50

Appendix D - Certificate of Authorship ........................................................................................53
                                                                                  Impact of Freshman Academy 4

                                                 List of Figures

Figure 1   Freshman Academy...............................................................................................33

Figure 2   High School Total Enrollment...............................................................................34

Figure 3   Number of Ninth Graders......................................................................................35

Figure 4   Graduation Rate.....................................................................................................35

Figure 5   Dropout Rate..........................................................................................................36

Figure 6   Data for Schools with Freshman Academy...........................................................37

Figure 7   Data for Schools without Freshman Academy......................................................37
                                                                Impact of Freshman Academy 5

    A Study of the Effects of Freshman Academy on East Tennessee High School Students’

                                 Graduation and Dropout Rates

                                            Chapter I


Background and Statement of the Problem

       The majority of Americans have agreed that graduating from high school is of utmost

importance in society. The high school diploma, even though to some is just a piece of paper,

signified a young adult’s readiness to take the next step into adulthood whether they choose

college, technical school, military, or the workforce. However, some students who entered high

school failed to complete the requirements necessary to graduate, had poor attendance, had

failing grades, and therefore made the decision to “dropout” of school. Research showed that

high school dropouts typically earned 30% less than an individual who received a high school

diploma and that dropouts were more likely to find themselves in jail or on welfare (Hall, 2005).

Approximately two-thirds of ninth grade students graduated with a regular high school diploma

(Dedmond, 2005). Due to these reasons alone, one could not stress enough the value of an

education and the importance of fulfilling high school graduation requirements.

       For many teenagers, the transition from the middle school atmosphere to the high school

environment was a tumultuous period of time. Adolescence alone was a very difficult time for

many because of the emotional, physical, and social changes that were taking place. During the

middle school years, students were familiar with their surroundings, had small classroom sizes,

and were frequently nurtured by their teachers and parents. As eighth grade students, they were

the oldest in their school and possessed a sense of confidence that they tended to lose when they

progressed to ninth graders. Upon entering high school, students were suddenly faced with a
                                                                 Impact of Freshman Academy 6

deeper level of responsibility and accountability, new surroundings, large classroom sizes, and

unfamiliar teachers and classmates. They acclimated to their new school and courses which

sometimes caused anxiety to arise. Due to such impersonal interactions, students in large

schools had less contact with their teachers and found themselves struggling with a sense of

belonging (Hughes, Copley, & Baker, 2005). Sometimes students had failing grades, were not

attending school on a regular basis, and lacked the skills necessary to succeed academically. By

the time teachers, principals, or counselors were aware of the problems it was too late. For these

reasons, ninth grade students needed a high level of support academically, socially, and

behaviorally. It was imperative that the first year in high school should have begun in a positive

manner in order for success to occur (Rourke, 2001). High school should not have been a period

of time when these students got lost in the shuffle or slipped through the cracks. Steps needed to

be taken to ensure that they were successful in high school and did not contribute to high school

dropout rates.

       In order to make the transition more comfortable and successful, small learning

communities (SLC), such as Freshman Academy, have been implemented in large schools.

Freshman Academy specifically targeted ninth grade students and strived to provide a support

network that made students less vulnerable academically and behaviorally (DaGiau, 1997). In

the Academy, only ninth grade students attended classes together, students were generally

confined to one area of the school building, classroom sizes were kept small, and students

typically had the same teachers year-round (Hughes et al., 2005). Downsizing larger schools

into smaller subunits such as Freshman Academy had its advantages. Some benefits of a small

school atmosphere included better attendance and retention, improved behavior, increased sense

of belonging, greater participation, and better academic achievement (Robertson, 2001). One

benefit of small learning communities was that schools experienced a decrease in the dropout
                                                                  Impact of Freshman Academy 7

rates and an increase in the graduation rates, which therefore produced successful and productive


Purpose of the Study

          The purpose of the study was to determine whether Freshman Academy positively or

negatively impacted the graduation rate and the dropout rate in East Tennessee public high


Research Question

          The study was guided by the following research question:

          1. Would students who participated in Freshman Academy have higher graduation rates

              and lower dropout rates than students who were not enrolled in Freshman Academy?

Justification of the Study

          The results of the study were beneficial to high schools which considered the

implementation of a Freshman Academy. The research results provided information regarding

Freshman Academy’s impact on a high school’s graduation rate and dropout rate. Some high

schools used the collected results to determine if the implementation of a Freshman Academy

was worth the time, effort, and resources necessary for its development.

Definitions of Terms

          Dropout Rate. The percentage of students who entered the ninth grade, but dropped out

of school before the end of the twelfth grade year.

          Freshman Academy. A type of small learning community which focused on the ninth

grade student population.

          Graduation Rate. The percentage of students who graduated on time with a regular high

school diploma which excluded GED and special education diplomas. Graduation rates are

required on the state report card.
                                                                Impact of Freshman Academy 8

      Schools-within-schools. A portion of a large public school divided into smaller subunits.

      Small Learning Communities. Smaller separate learning units within a large school


       Small School. Most often defined as a school with enrollment of less than four hundred


      Tennessee Report Card. The reporting method in which the Tennessee Department of

Education released the comprehensive information about the state’s public schools including

graduation rates, assessment results, demographic information, school populations and

characteristics, and other accountability results. It was a written document which provided public

knowledge of whether the school was meeting expectations. Information was obtained by

clicking the Report Card graphic on the Tennessee State Department of Education website. The

Tennessee State Department of Education was accessed on the Internet at
                                                                  Impact of Freshman Academy 9

                                             Chapter II

                                         Review of Literature


       The study attempted to determine whether the existence of a Freshman Academy

increased the graduation rates and reduced dropout rates in high schools. It was evident to

individuals from President George W. Bush to parents and students that American high schools

were in dire need of reform. Many students were at-risk of failing high school or leaving high

school without earning a diploma (Noguera, 2002). High schools had high dropout rates,

violence, low achievement, low graduation rates, poor student attendance, and discipline

problems. According to Priesz (2006), high schools have remained stagnant for almost one

hundred years, but the job market has drastically changed in the past twenty to thirty years.

Husbands and Beese (2001) stated that high schools have changed, but they have not kept pace

with the economy and demography of society especially since we live in a more global world.

Technology is present in all facets of the workforce which required students to have quality

literacy and math skills. High school graduates were not ready to attend a post secondary

institution or to enter the workforce of the 21st century. “Public School Graduation Rates in the

United States, a 2002 study by the Manhattan Institute, indicates that nearly one in three eighth

graders will drop out of high school.” (Vander Ark, 2002. p.10). Society has evolved at a rapid

pace, but high schools were incapable of keeping up with it.

       John Dewey recognized a problem with high school when he stated, “young people are

being treated more and more as autonomous individuals, who are expected to develop their

personalities and assume responsibility for their actions, while the high school continues to treat

its students as though their individuality were of little account and they should be happy to bow

to external authority” (Reid, 2002, p. 133). Dewey also identified five problems with high
                                                                 Impact of Freshman Academy 10

schools. These problems were failure to promote democracy, students did not get skills that

businesses want, no articulation between the elementary school, high school, and post-secondary

institutions, the mismatch between college preparedness and life preparation, and individual

needs were not met (Reid, 2002). The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has recognized the

necessity for high school reform. The goal of Bill and Melinda Gates foundation “is to improve

high school graduation and college preparedness rates by fostering dynamic high schools that

help all students prepare for college and work through a rigorous and challenging curriculum,

stronger relationships between students and teachers, and more relevant coursework”

(“Perspectives”, 2005 p. 9). The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation committed $56 million

dollars in grants for large schools which desire to start small schools or small learning

communities (Stern, Dayton, & Chapman, 2000).

       High schools faced many challenges. Hard work was required for all students to stay in

school. Educators were challenged to alter instructional practices in the classroom in order to

provide activities with more student engagement, problem solving, and project-based learning.

High schools also needed to improve the relationships between teachers and students and to add

more challenging curriculum for all students.

       Once the need for reform was recognized, high schools needed to determine a course of

action to achieve the desired results. Many schools have selected a reform model or strategy to

improve, but these plans have required time, money, and resources with no guarantee of their


The Transition into Adolescence

       Psychologists defined adolescence as “a period in the life cycle encompassing puberty,

value formation, and social group identification, as well as marked shifts in learning” (Smith,

1997, p. 145). It has also been defined as “a young person whose reproductive system has
                                                               Impact of Freshman Academy 11

matured, who is economically dependent upon adults, whose chief source of need gratification

are his/her peers, who has open interest in the opposite sex, and for whom status and roles as

defined for children and adults in his/her culture are confused” (Smith, 1997, p. 145). As they

mature, adolescents experienced and exhibited a wide array of intellectual, physical, emotional,

and social changes, ranging from developing the ability to think more critically and at higher

levels to exhibiting immature behavior because their social skills lagged behind their mental and

physical development (Potter, Schlisky, Stevenson, & Drawdy, 2001).

        Piaget defined the period of adolescence as the stage of formal-operational thinking.

During this stage, adolescences moved toward a stable identity and understanding of other

people’s views and behaviors. A child should have begun to have and use tools to make

decisions based on alternatives and consequences at this stage. These changes tended to lean

toward independence and maturity. They were also the cause of challenging authority and

rebellion against limitations (DaGiau, 1997).

       Adolescence was defined as the early stage of sexual pleasure, according to Freud. It was

also the time when children experienced conflicts learning how to control sexual feelings in an

acceptable way. He believed the libido was involved in the formation of friendships and

relationships. Freud believed this was the stage where people remained for the rest of their lives

(DaGiau, 1997).

       Erik Erikson identified the area between childhood and adulthood as the stage of identity

versus role confusion. He identified adolescence as the time when maturing children struggled

with whom they were and how they fit into the social world. He felt the reinforcement of peer

social relationships was a key factor in securing identity (DaGiau, 1997).

       Major cognitive, psychosocial and biological changes marked the end of childhood and

the beginning of adolescence. Cognitive functioning expanded during adolescence to include the
                                                                 Impact of Freshman Academy 12

ability to think hypothetically, reason abstractly, and to look to the future. This carried

implications for prevention practices since it suggested that adolescents challenged ideas

critically and conceptualize the long-term consequences of unhealthy behavior and imagine

themselves as adults. Adolescents also experience psychosocial changes that may link feelings

of invulnerability to risk behaviors (Berliner, 1993).

       Biologically, adolescence was defined by the onset of puberty, “a period of growth and

development more rapid than any other phase of life except infancy” (Berliner, 1993 p. 8).

Hormonal changes occurred in their body causing rapid growth in which the size and shape

changed significantly.

       During the transition into adolescence the importance of peers and desire to belong to a

crowd increased. Adolescents started to exercise their independence and individuality, which

strained close emotional ties to parents. Although they sought independence, they also desired

acceptance. Girls hoped to be perceived as attractive and were concerned about their appearance

and how people responded to them. Female adolescents tended to be more concerned and

troubled by interpersonal relationships. Boys did not focus on body image as much as girls.

Boys tended to show more reaction to challenging restrictions and attaining independence, rather

than self focus (DaGiau, 1997).

       For youth previously stressed due to parental divorce or remarriage, latchkey supervision,

or poverty, the discord of school change heightened vulnerability to developing problems

(Berliner, 1993).

Transition to High School

       The transition from elementary school to high school was a period of uncertainty and

great change in adolescents’ lives. While adolescents experienced social, emotional, and

biological changes, they were also faced with the transition to high school. Anxieties were often
                                                                 Impact of Freshman Academy 13

compounded by a larger school, larger student body, and rumors of violence and drug use

(Morgan & Hertzog, 2001). Major concerns for students during this transition time included:

getting lost, older students and bullies, too much homework, school rules, making friends,

lockers, preparing for college/life, parent expectations and math class (Akos & Galassi, 2004).

Students moved from the secure and nurturing surroundings of their elementary school to a high

school with a population larger than previously known. This included submitting to a school

culture that was often under the influence of other adolescents who were four years older, but

only slightly more mature. Faced with a larger, more impersonal, more competitive, more

academically oriented environment, a greater diversity of teachers and peers and more choices to

make about curricular and extra-curricular activities, students began to slip academically,

focusing on everything except grades (Potter et al., 2001). Incoming ninth grade students viewed

this time with a mixture of excitement, anxiety, and uncertainty (Kneisler, 2001). The number

one concern of eighth graders who faced high school was bullying by older students. Other areas

of anxiety included getting lost in the building, opening combination lockers, finding friends, and

teachers who assigned too much home work (Hertzog, 2006).

       Self-image and what others think was more important during adolescence than at any

other time of life. The need for socialization and acceptance was so great at this stage of life that

adolescents often gravitated to groups that resulted in negative activity and influence.   Students

searched for personal recognition. Adolescents desired to be treated as adults, but were not

ready for the responsibilities. The need for independence and identity created adjustment

problems. Peer pressure interfered with the desire for academic success because adolescents

sought social acceptance that led to popularity as a priority rather than focusing on academic

goals which impacted the future (DeGiau, 1997).

        Some ninth-graders entered high school lacking the skills necessary for success. “Weak
                                                                Impact of Freshman Academy 14

study or organizational skills or gaps in their learning may have limited their success in eighth

grade, and they have to play catch-up for four years. Perhaps they are socially immature. Or

they may have rarely received the attention needed to tackle academic challenges

independently.” (Campbell, 2001, p. 12).

       Difficulties in adjusting to school transitions heightened the potential for developing

more serious problems, such as alcohol and other drug use and dropping out of school (Berliner,

1993). Additional issues which surfaced during adolescence transition included the risk of

criminal offenses, psychiatric problems and teenage parenthood (DeGiau, 1997). More

difficulties associated with transition included: “declines in achievement, decreased motivation,

lower self-esteem, dropping out shortly after they enter high school or falling behind, and failing

to graduate on time” (Akos & Galassi, 2004, p. 217). “The freshman year of high school is the

year when most high school students tragically commit suicide” (Riley, 2000, p. 7).

       Adjusting to the new academic and social roles of high school challenged even the most

self-confident adolescent, and was particularly stressful to the millions already vulnerable to

“high risk” factors, such as single family homes and poverty.

       Anxiety for most parents increased during this transition period for their child. Fear of

the unknown fostered this anxiety. Questions such as, how will the student react to a totally new

environment, relate to more teachers and peers, handle the expectations of increased

independence, and prepare for the adult world were of major concern for most parents

(Milligan,1995). Parent communication with the school was necessary for all concerned. The

best results were attained when communication existed between parents, student, teachers,

guidance counselor, school administration, and support staff (Hemphill, 1996).

       Improving adolescents’ coping and problem-solving skills reduced the rate of stress,

absenteeism, and depression associated with school change.      Schools provided skills and
                                                                Impact of Freshman Academy 15

information to adolescents along with school-based social reinforcements and problem-solving

mechanisms. School-based supports such as buddies, small group orientations, or training

teachers and students to welcome, orient, and assist incoming students were found to ease the

coping process associated with school transition stress (Berliner, 1993).

       Adjusting to the social aspects of a school transition was equally as important as

adjusting to its academic demands. Students said the primary method of adjusting to a new

school was spending time with friends. High school teachers identified fitting in and making

new friends as primary challenges and opportunities for students involved in school transition.

Research has identified a positive relationship between students’ need for belonging and peer

acceptance in school on the one hand and academic achievement on the other hand (Akos &

Galassi, 2004). But, usually there was little opportunity for students to interact during the day.

Small group activities during orientation, cooperative learning, team building, and adjustments

that resulted in small learning environments helped students with both social and academic

difficulties of school transitions. These types of school environments were evident in the

movement to smaller learning communities, ninth grade academy, schools within a school, and

house structures for ninth grade. These types of transition interventions were completed over

time rather than an orientation event.

Graduation and Dropout Rates

       Public school accountability has been an issue of much conversation for the past five

years. With the passage of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), educators have been held to higher

standards concerning student progress as compared to their peers from earlier decades. Two

significant concepts of school accountability were graduation rates and dropout rates. Both rates

were publicized on an annual basis. Both percentages gave the local public a better

understanding of what was occurring in the local schools, but was the public aware of what
                                                                  Impact of Freshman Academy 16

really transpired in the classroom or was the public able to interpret the statistics?

       In the past, a school’s graduation rate referred to the number of students who graduated in

an academic year. However, there were different methods to determine the graduation rate of a

local district or state and uniformity among these areas was not the norm. According to the CCI

(Center for Civic Innovation), the graduation rate was calculated by the number of diplomas

granted in an academic year divided by the number of students who entered the ninth grade four

years earlier. In addition, within the denominator, it is calculated for the change in population

between the summer of the ninth grade year and summer before the twelfth grade year (Greene

& Winters, 2006). This was only one way in which graduation rates were calculated. Not all

states and districts used the same method. Therefore, many argued that stakeholders received an

inaccurate picture of graduation rates. To illustrate, analyze the following formulas in the next

paragraph which were used to calculate graduation rates.

       The following examples were based on a school which had 100 ninth graders in year one

and only 70 graduates four years later. The first ratio was simple, the number of graduates (70)

was divided by the number of ninth graders from year one (100). The end result was a

graduation rate of 70%. This example excluded students who transferred out of the school or

who were retained. Transfer students were hard to measure because the previous school had no

clue if the student graduated. Many times students who transferred were not reflected (Black,

1998). A second graduation calculation included transfers, retentions, and dropouts. This time

the number of graduates (70) was divided by the number of ninth graders from year one (100)

minus the number of transfers out of the school (20) plus the number of transfers into the school

(0). When calculated, the percentage increased to 87.5%. The third calculation took the number

of graduates (70) plus the number of on-time graduating transfer students (15) divided by the

number of ninth graders in year one (100). The calculation here was 85% (Swanson, 2004).
                                                                Impact of Freshman Academy 17

Variance in calculation formulas posed a problem with the accuracy of graduation rates. There

was no standard way in which the rates were measured. Rates were most often exaggerated to

protect the system or state from the public (Hall, 2005).

       Still, graduation rates, no matter how inconsistent, provided the American public with

interesting trends concerning education. According to the statistics, white students were

graduating from high schools at a larger percentage than African Americans and Hispanics.

According to the CCI report, 78% of white students in America graduated as compared to 55%

of African Americans and 53% of Hispanic students (Greene & Winters, 2006). Gender

differences were also notable when analyzing graduation rates. Nearly 72% of all females

graduated as compared to 65% of male peers. The differences in gender among the races were

notable as well. About 59% of African American females graduated as compared to 48% of

males. In comparison, 58% of Hispanic females graduated while 49% of males completed the

high school requirements (Greene & Winters, 2006). The statistics gave the educational public

enough information to determine ways to improve the current system. Yet, other specific

measurements were emphasized as well.

       State graduation rates were published for the public to analyze on an annual basis. The

public wondered if the rates were 100% accurate because not all states calculated the statistics in

the same manner. As a result, many times the information was skewed to a higher percentage

which made the state look better. For instance, during the academic year of 2002-2003,

Tennessee reported a 76% graduation rate while the CPI (Cumulative Promotion Index) rated the

state at 58% (Hall, 2005). Of course, this was a difference of 18 points. Both used different

methods to calculate the percentage rendered. Yet, this was not the only difference for the same

academic year. According to the CCI, Tennessee had a 60% graduation rate for the 2002-2003

year (Greene & Winters, 2006). In addition, the CCD (Common Core of Data) ranked
                                                                 Impact of Freshman Academy 18

Tennessee at 63.4% (Seastrom, Hoffman & Chapman, 2006). The above noted examples

screamed for a consistent way of measuring the rates. Despite the differences, one could

conclude there were areas that the state needed improvement.

       Low graduation rates were a red flag for local communities. One could usually find other

societal problems like high crime rate, drug use, and poverty in areas with low graduation rates.

Over half of all young high school dropouts between the ages of 16-24 were unemployed. This

population became a burden on society. Many required some type of federal assistance and

many did little to improve work skills. As a result, the community suffered economically and

socially (Thornburgh, 2006). It became of the utmost importance to keep kids in school and to

obtain a diploma. Yet, it has become harder to graduate more students than thirty years ago.

       Where were schools with low graduating rates found? The answer was a lot of areas.

Schools in areas of high urban populations tended to struggle with graduation rates. Schools

with large numbers of minorities also possessed decreased rates. Of the 100 largest school

districts in the U.S., only 24 graduated at least 70% of its students. Most of these districts could

be found in large urban areas with a large percentage of minorities (Greene & Winters, 2006).

For instance, New York City had the most students which registered at over a million. In 2002-

2003, New York City graduated 43% of the students. Los Angeles, the second largest system,

was a little better at 51%. The state of Tennessee had four of its systems in the top 100.

Memphis City, Shelby County, Davidson County, and Knox County were all listed in the CCI

report. Memphis City had a graduation rate of 51%, Shelby County was 68%, Davidson County

was 58%, and Knox County had the highest rate at 71% (Greene & Winters, 2006). As was the

case with national averages, Tennessee’s graduation rates for minorities were well below that of

whites. According to the CCI report, 41% of African American males graduated while 59% of

African American females graduated in the 2002-2003 school year. Meanwhile, 56% of white,
                                                                Impact of Freshman Academy 19

male students graduated as compared to 63% of white, female students.

       Schools started looking at ways to identify future problems which hurt their graduation

rates. One such way was to analyze the student population every year. Promoting power referred

to the number of ninth graders who entered school in year one as compared to the number of

students who returned in years two, three, and four (Balfanz & Legters, 2004). This

measurement gave administrators a gauge as to how the numbers compared and gained an

understanding of who was on track to graduate. Looking over the information and analyzing it

took time, but it was very beneficial. There were similarities when comparing promoting power

and graduation rates. For instance, weak promoting power schools could typically be found in

large, urban impoverished areas in northern and western cities and scattered around the South.

Minority students were more likely to attend a school characterized as weak promoting (Balfanz

& Legters, 2004). To illustrate, Texas was an example of a state which had districts described as

weak promoting. A weak promoting school in this case was one where less than 60% students

could be found in year four as compared to year one. In three of the states largest cities, weak

promotion was the norm. In Dallas, 21 high schools, or 81%, promoted students at a rate of 60%

or less. Houston had 20 high schools, or 80%, graduating students at the rate of 60% or less. At

the same rate of 60% or less, Austin had eight high schools, or 80%, promotion. Once again, a

strong correlation could be found with weak promoting districts and number of minority

students. In the Texas cities, minority students made up a large percentage of the students.

Dallas had an 88% minority population, Houston’s minority population was 86%, and Austin

had a 58% minority population (Balfanz & Legters, 2004). The overall results from the above

noted information showed low graduation rates and high dropout rates.

       The issue of dropout rates was similar to that of graduation rates. There was no clear cut

way of determining who was a dropout. Some states and systems listed GED recipients as
                                                               Impact of Freshman Academy 20

graduates while others did not. Sometimes, schools had limited knowledge about what happened

to a student once they left the school and transferred to another school. The general consensus

was dropout rates were reported to be very low, but actually the rates were probably higher than

reported. Current Population Surveys (CPS) were sent out regularly to the American public.

Many high school dropouts were not reached for these surveys because of a few factors. For

instance, some young adults, particularly males, could not respond because of incarceration,

whether in jail or juvenile detention. Young mothers may have been living in group homes.

Both groups could have been in drug treatment facilities, hospitals, or deceased (Balfanz &

Legters, 2004). Therefore, the dropout rates that states report were skewed to a low number

when they actually could have been higher. In addition, many students just did not go to school.

There were students who never attended one day of high school. Yet, these students were not

included in annual dropout rates. Immigrant children were in this category. For example, many

Hispanic males, who spoke little English, came to America and did not attend high schools.

Immigrants who did not receive a diploma in their native country did not count toward dropout

rates in America (Balfanz & Legters, 2004). Graduation and dropout data were similar in terms

of the people being affected. Males dropped out at a higher rate than females. Minority students

dropped out at a higher rate than white students. For instance, 298,000 males dropped out of

school in 2001 while 207,000 females dropped out the same year. Therefore, for every 100 girls

who dropped out, 144 boys dropped out. Many in the educational field believed the male

number was probably higher (Balfanz & Legters, 2004). Still, the correct number could never be

fully known because many male dropouts could have been incarcerated, in treatment facilities, or

in group homes.

       A general opinion developed among the educational field regarding graduation and

dropout rates which emphasized early at-risk student identification as a key to increasing
                                                                 Impact of Freshman Academy 21

graduation rates and decreasing dropout rates. The ninth grade year was considered the most

important year for a high school student. Many changes took place academically for the student

and it took some time to transition fully, but this transition was necessary. A lot of districts and

states developed ninth grade academies. These academies offered individual attention and

isolated the ninth grade population from the rest of the high school. Maryland was one state that

adopted this approach of individual attention and team teaching to improve graduation rates

(Jerald, 2006). Other areas were doing the same. In Philadelphia, an area of high poverty,

crime, and high dropout rates, similar measures were tried. The Talent Development Program,

which helped students with core work after school, was implemented. As a result, more ninth

grade students passed to the tenth grade and more students were on track to graduate (Jerald,

2006). These targeted approaches became a trend in American high schools because of

staggering dropout rates and low graduating rates. The American educational system and the

public were aware that things needed to change for the better.

High School Reform

       There were numerous factors which necessitated high school reform. Many students

were at risk of failing or dropping out because of poor performance, disengagement with the

curriculum, apathy, or lack of support. Large comprehensive high schools left students with a

feeling of isolation. Students’ learning at these large schools was very fragmented and

disengaging. Students were unable to see a connection between the classroom, their present

lives, and their future. According to Quint (2006, p. 1), “typical freshman class shrinks by 40

percent or more by the time students reach their scheduled twelfth-grade year.”

       High school reform should be centered on teacher-student relationships because many

students’ needs were not being met by their families. Many students lived with poverty, crime,

broken homes, parental unemployment, or incarcerated parents. According to Noguera (2002), a
                                                                 Impact of Freshman Academy 22

quality education and diploma enabled students to get a good job and to escape the circle of

poverty. A study of high school graduates found that there was a gap between high school

learning and the expectations of colleges or the requirements of the workforce (Zapf, Spradlin, &

Plucker, 2006). Jobs for high school dropouts have extremely decreased because most jobs

require a minimum of two years of college education. Employers reported that about 40% of

high school graduates were prepared for entry-level jobs, and 20% of employers hired large

numbers of recent high school graduates (Lewis, 2005).

       In fall 2002, the Oregon Department of Education determined eight key findings

regarding the elements that kept students attending high school. According to Mitchell and

Waiwaiole (2003), this report found that:

      students wanted to be respected and accepted;

      high school students needed to feel caring from adults;

      students’ life outside of school was recognized;

      students desired to leave high school and go on with their lives;

      high school student met high expectations given to them;

      expectations were reflected in higher goals;

      students learned differently in regards to learning rates and in their styles of learning; and

      school success created school spirit and pride.

       The Secretary of Education’s high school initiative named Preparing America’s Future

stated that high schools needed to demand high expectations, to add classroom learning and

activities that provided more student engagement, to improve teaching and leadership, and to

accelerate transitions (“Perspectives”, 2005).

       To improve high schools, administrators needed to ensure that teachers were highly
                                                                  Impact of Freshman Academy 23

qualified, that class sizes were small, that class periods were lengthened, and that classroom

instruction was designed to increase student engagement (Botstein, 2006). Botstein (2006) stated

that teachers must think that the reform improved achievement and that teachers participated in

the decision-making process during the reform’s selection and implementation.

       High school reform needed to get students ready for the 21st century by developing

critical thinking skills, formulating challenging curriculum, and increasing literacy in all students

(“Perspectives”, 2005). High school students needed to feel respected, took responsibility for

their own learning, and had the ability to make choices regarding their education (Dedmond,

2005). High school faculty and administrators provided support for students and listened to

them. Students needed to feel that a school adult cares for them (Priesz, 2006). Letgers,

Balfanz, and McPartland (2002) found that high school curriculum was fragmented and did not

relate to the daily lives of the students. Students felt that the learning opportunities were not

equal for all students and that the classes were boring (Letgers et al.).

       According to ACSA Secondary Education Council, reforms should: “serve all students”,

“expand the range of opportunities for students”, “prepare all students for life”, “support

students”, “support principals”, and “support teachers” (Priesz, 2006, pp. 10-12).

       In 2000, the United States Congress designated $45 million in the Appropriations Act

with which the United States Department of Education funded new small learning communities.

The federal government began an initiative in 2005 with competitive grants in an effort to entice

districts to start or expand small learning communities (Zapf et al., 2006). The Department of

Education established nine guidelines for school reform. The guidelines were:

      “research-based methods”;

      “comprehensive approach”;

      “staff development”;
                                                                Impact of Freshman Academy 24

      “goals”;

      “supportive staff members”;

      “parental and community involvement”;

      “external assistance”;

      “evaluation”; and

      “coordination of funds” (Husbands & Beese, 2001, p. 32).

       Letgers et al. (2002) stated that schools in the reform process often received mixed

messages from the Department of Education. The U. S. Department of Education “could model

institutional coherence by creating a national office dedicated to high school improvement that

would house under one administrative roof all federal activities affecting high school. This

office would promote alignment of all reform efforts including not only those focused on

standards or career themes, but those relating to special education, ESL, health and safety,

service learning, and other programs presently operating in high schools” (Letgers et al., p. 20).

       When selecting a reform model, school leaders needed to correlate the school’s needs and

resources with the model. The selected model needed to be a model that teachers, staff, and

students believed would accomplish the desired results. If teachers felt that they had to agree to

the reform or thought that the reform would not help, the reform was destined not to succeed

(Finnan, 2000). Reform models required 80% participation from teachers. Teacher readiness

for the change process was a must because there would be changes in the school, changes

between people of the school, and changes in the classroom. The school, classroom, and reform

cultures combined to work as one force toward the desired goals (Finnan, 2000).

       School reform would not happen quickly. Most models and strategies do not show

improvement for approximately three years. To see noticeable effects, a reform had to be
                                                              Impact of Freshman Academy 25

implemented up to five years (Quint, 2006). During this period of reform, school leaders and

faculty assessed the progress and made adjustments. School administrators and leaders had

strong leadership skills and helped steer the school through the reform process. Teachers worked

together to improve instruction and provided support for students.

       Implementing high school reform was not an easy endeavor. According to Sustaining

Successful School Reform: An Interview with Jordan Horowitz (“Sustaining”, 2006), there were

many reasons that kept the reform from being successful such as absence of teacher involvement,

lack of professional development, no student support, and no evidence of curriculum alignment.

Other causes for reform failure were wrong resources, no resources, absence of student support,

no high expectations of students, high expense, and the reform no longer addressed the needs of

the students (“Sustaining”, 2006). Any school reform needed endorsement of the school district,

but this endorsement did not mean support, which was also crucial (Quint, 2006). Small school

districts usually did not have enough resources and staff members to implement reforms. (Quint,

2006). Many reform models needed or required full-time staff members for implementation or

as coordinators.

       High school reform appeared in the form of strategies such as small learning

communities, career academies, or block scheduling though some high schools decided to select

from one of over fifty pre-designed models. High Schools That Work (HSTW), Talent

Development High School with Career Academies, Coalition of Essential Schools, or America’s

Choice were some of the most dominant models.

       The transition from eighth grade to high school was difficult for students to overcome.

According to Quint (2006), students who did not finish ninth grade on time had a higher risk of

dropping out of high school. One theory was that Freshman Academy helped ninth graders make

it through this crucial year. Talent Development High School was the only model which
                                                                 Impact of Freshman Academy 26

required a freshman-type academy. The theory was that the nurturing atmosphere of Freshman

Academy, a type of small learning community, helped students deal with this transition and

increased the students’ chances of remaining in school to earn a high school diploma. Freshman

Academy embodied strong relationships between students and teachers, provided more engaging

learning, and included parental involvement. However, a Freshman Academy, in name only, did

not achieve this goal. A successful reform is required to address the ninth grade (Quint, 2006).

        Research on high school models have shown positive results in attendance, credits

earned, post-secondary preparedness, and post-graduation job earnings (Zapf et al., 2006). The

research also found mixed results on standardized test scores, dropout rates, and graduation rates

(Zapf et al.).

        There were no magic steps or checklist to enact successful high school reform. Before

adopting a reform, school administrators and staff needed to realize the reform required time to

show results; high expectation regarding the reform were necessary; and reform results were

realistic (Quint, 2006).

Freshman Academy

        In hopes of initiating an increase in graduation rates and a decrease in dropout rates,

Freshman Academies, also known as small learning communities, were being implemented

throughout the United States. The concept of Freshman Academy targeted ninth grade students

who typically had a difficult time making the transition from middle school into the high school

environment. In addition, it provided a small size atmosphere designed to provide students with

a more personalized education. Since adolescence was filled with hormonal changes and the

desire to obtain a sense of belonging, beginning high school could only magnify difficult issues

and made it more stressful. Research has shown that getting a positive start in high school

determined a student’s overall success in school (Rourke, 2001). Whether or not a student
                                                                Impact of Freshman Academy 27

succeeded during the ninth grade year in high school was directly associated with a student’s

graduation (Hughes et al., 2005). In an effort to improve educational success, it was imperative

that students possessed the motivation, support, and resources necessary in order to obtain high

school diplomas.

       According to Haviland (2005), many freshmen feared that high school courses would be

much more rigorous than the middle school curriculum and worried how to manage time while

being involved in extracurricular activities. Some additional challenges that ninth grade students

faced when reaching high school included large classroom sizes, new surroundings, unfamiliar

faces, an increase in academic competitiveness, and a strong sense to belong. The transition and

unfamiliarity could bring forth unwanted outcomes such as a decline in grades, poor attendance,

a decrease in spending time in outside activities, and a lower self-esteem (Hughes et al., 2005).

Ninth grade academies were designed to provide intense attention on this particular group of the

student population (Chmelynski, 2004).

       Freshman Academies, which were sometimes segregated into separate buildings, had

several positive attributes. Ninth graders usually remained intact and apart from the “older

crowd”. Therefore, the students were able to focus time on academics and became acquainted

with the new surroundings. Usually, classroom size remained small which definitely had its

advantages. The small school atmosphere provided greater parental participation, better

attendance and behavior, increased safety, more support for students academically and socially,

and reduced retention rates (Robertson, 2001). When students entered the academy setting, they

were less likely to feel overwhelmed by social pressures and possessed a greater sense of

belonging since the environment was less intimidating. In small schools, all students had the

opportunity to feel as though they belonged and the close relationship of the student, parent, and

teacher encouraged openness and a willingness to learn (Lashway, 1998-99).
                                                                Impact of Freshman Academy 28

       Some additional advantages of Freshman Academies included academic, social,

attendance, graduation, discipline, and financial benefits. Academically, students who were in a

small school atmosphere had better test scores than those students in large schools. When a

small student-teacher ratio was present, the teacher was able to provide more support and

ongoing attention if necessary. Socially, in smaller schools students were able to develop more

meaningful relationships which led to a greater sense of belonging and cohesiveness. Students

were able to participate in activities without feeling intimidated by others. Attendance in small

schools tended to be better possibly due to the fact that the students were held accountable for

making a habit of attending school on a regular basis. Teachers were aware of when students

were absent as they do not get lost in the shuffle due to large class sizes. The amount of

discipline infractions was typically less due in part to an increased amount of parent participation

and communication with school faculty and administrators. Finally, smaller schools graduated

more of the students on time which helped financially because money was not spent repeatedly

on the same student (McAndrews & Anderson, 2002).

       In 1995, the Canton City School District in Ohio implemented a Freshman Academy.

The reason was because the school district realized that the ninth grade students struggled to

succeed academically, socially, and behaviorally. The goal of forming the Freshman Academy

was to increase attendance, to decrease discipline infractions, and to improve passing test scores

on the state proficiency exams (Macala, 2002). The Philadelphia school district decided to

implement the Freshman Academy initiative into all 54 high schools. By doing so, the school

district hoped that each student was fully prepared and able to succeed in high school. In

addition, Chattanooga Central High School began a ninth grade academy because school

officials wanted the ninth grade students to feel less peer pressure from the older students. Also,

teachers were able to develop closer relationships with the students and to identify the need for
                                                                Impact of Freshman Academy 29

additional support in various academic areas (Chmelynski, 2004).

     Since the concept of small learning communities has become more prevalent, some things

needed to have been taken into consideration before implementation. In order for the process to

be successful, the following elements needed to be present (Heath, 2005):

          Separate space in the school: Students and faculty should had classrooms and/or

           space in a separate building or apart from the remainder of the school.

          Interdisciplinary teams: Teams of students and teachers addressed various teaching


          Teacher collaboration: Teachers worked together and met regularly to discuss

           curriculum and to address specific areas of concerns.

          Curricula focus: The focus was on a specific curricula.

          Flexibility and Autonomy: The small learning community had the flexibility to

           create schedules, to incorporate professional development, and to modify the

           instructional level to the students’ needs.

       As long as these components existed, the small learning community had the potential for

being successful at easing the transition from middle school to high school. Even with all of the

essential elements in place, Freshman Academies still had problems or difficulties. However, the

implementation of Freshman Academies had great benefit.


       Research showed that schools which implemented Freshman Academy had increased

achievement, decreased discipline infractions, and improved student attendance. Freshman

Academy enabled students to be on-track for graduation. With Freshman Academy, the ninth

grade transition was not as stressful for students because they felt less competition with older

students. Therefore, anxiety brought about by typical high school expectations was lessened.
                                                               Impact of Freshman Academy 30

       Small learning communities provided more individualized attention for students. The

small learning communities had more structure, and guidelines were more consistent than

traditional high schools. Small learning communities provided stronger teacher-student

relationships so instruction could be personalized to address student needs. Due to these

relationships, students tended to experience more nurturing and conducive learning


       School reforms were hard to implement and difficult to sustain. Reform models required

much time and money. This meant that schools in poverty stricken districts were probably

unable to invoke school reform unless federal assistance was received.

       Since most of the reform models were relatively new, more research was needed. Most

of the available research studies regarding the reform models used a random sampling so results

did not embody valid research.
                                                               Impact of Freshman Academy 31

                                             Chapter III


Brief Description of Procedures

       The administration and staff of one East Tennessee school system wanted to conduct

research on the effectiveness of Small Learning Community or Freshman Academy. As part of

the research, the research team observed two individual schools to gain a better understanding of

how Freshman Academy operated. The research group wanted to determine how the Freshman

Academy impacted graduation rates and dropout rates.

       A causal-comparative research procedure was implemented in this study to measure the

effects of Freshman Academy. The research group compared statistics as related to graduation

rates and dropout rates in East Tennessee public high schools with and without Freshman

Academy. To gather data from East Tennessee public high schools, the researchers mailed a

data collection form to each school’s administrator or guidance department on February 2, 2007.

The requested return date was February 23, 2007. Once, the data collection forms were received,

the data was analyzed. Then, current data, retrieved after the implementation of the Academy

was the basis for comparing the impact of the program. Researchers interviewed teachers and

administrators in two high schools in the East Tennessee region. To get impressions about

Freshman Academy, the researchers questioned staffs who were associated with it. The

researchers looked at actions which were taken to make a change within the schools.

Brief Description of Methodology

       A self-developed data collection form was used to collect data from East Tennessee

public high schools. The data collection form covered data for the past five years. The data

collection form is included in Appendix A.

       The data collection form was mailed to guidance counselors or administrators of East
                                                               Impact of Freshman Academy 32

Tennessee public high schools. Samples of questions included: total school population,

numbers of students in ninth grade, graduation rates, and dropout rates. Data was also collected

from the school report card, regarding population and socio-economic status of the participating

school systems and counties.

       Upon receiving the completed data collection forms, the researchers assessed the data of

each school for availability of the program, and for the comparison between dropout rates and

graduation rates of the students who participated in Freshman Academy with students who did

not participate in a Freshman Academy.

Assumptions, Limitations, Delimitations

       It was the assumption of the researchers that the guidance counselor or administrator who

contributed the high school’s data, completed the data collection form as accurately as possible.

       A limitation of this study was that few high schools in East Tennessee had Freshman

Academies or that the Freshman Academies in some high school had not been implemented long

enough to provide results of their graduating population. Another limitation of the study was

that the schools involved in the research are not demographically similar.

       A delimitation of this study was that the data would only be collected from public high

schools in the East Tennessee region.
                                                               Impact of Freshman Academy 33

                                           Chapter IV



       This causal-comparative study was conducted to investigate whether schools with

Freshman Academies positively or negatively impacted the graduation rate and the dropout rate

in East Tennessee high schools. In order to complete the study, the investigation relied on

various school data such as total school population, ninth grade enrollment, graduation rates, and

dropout rates which was retrieved from counselors or administrative staff at the high schools.

The results of the study may be of benefit to high schools considering the implementation of

Freshman Academies into their high school curriculum in order to determine if the program

would be worth the time and additional resources.

Response to the Survey

       A survey was sent to 110 high schools serving grades 9-12 in East Tennessee. Of the 110

surveys mailed to the schools, 23% (25) responded, however 26% (6) of those returned contained

incomplete data. The surveys containing incomplete data were not useable for this study.

Therefore, 17% (19) of the surveys were able to be used to complete the study.

Analysis of the Data

       The beginning of the survey contained three questions designed to gain information

regarding the school demographics and description of the survey population. The first question

asked the respondents to note the grade levels included in their high school. The purpose of this

question was to gain a better understanding of the school demographics.

       The second and third questions on the survey were designed to address if the high schools

incorporated small learning communities, such as Freshman Academies, into their curriculum. If

the schools had Freshman Academies, they were asked to identify the length of time the program
                                                                                  Impact of Freshman Academy 34

had been implemented into the high school.

                           Question 4 of the survey was designed to retrieve information regarding school data

pertaining to total school enrollment, the number of freshman students, the graduation rate, and

the dropout rate. Participants were asked to collect their school’s data for the past five school


                           Question 1 of the survey revealed that 89% (17) of the 19 respondents indicated their

high schools served students in grades 9-12. 10% (2) of the respondents indicated their high

school served students in grades 8–12.

                           Question 2 of the survey revealed that 47% (9) of the high schools did have a small

learning community, such as Freshman Academy, implemented in their high school. Fifty-three

percent (10) indicated their high school did not have a Freshman Academy (see Figure 1).



  Number of Schools









                                     With Freshman Academy                     Without Freshman Academy
                                                            Freshman Academy

Figure 1. Does your high school have a small learning community such as Freshman Academy?


                           Question 3 of the survey revealed that of the 47% (9) of the high schools that have small

learning communities such as Freshman Academies that 26% (8) have had the program for two
                                                                                                         Impact of Freshman Academy 35

years or less and .05% (1) of the schools has had the program implemented for eight years.

                                Question 4 required the participants to complete school data regarding the total

enrollment, the number of ninth grade students, the graduation rate, and the dropout rate for the

past five years. Respondents were asked to indicate this data by giving either percentages or

numbers for the specific data. The study focused on the information indicated for the 2005-2006

school year since it contained the most recent data. During the 2005-2006 school year, the total

school population of the participants ranged from 306 students to 2579 students (see Figure 2).

The number of ninth grade students ranged from 86 students to 612 students (see Figure 3). The

results revealed from this question indicated that the graduation rates during the 2005-2006

school year ranged from a graduation rate of 76.9% to a rate 98.7% (see Figure 4) and the

dropout rates ranged from .08% to 19.5% (see Figure 5).

  Total Enrollment 2005-2006


                                                                                           1387   1345                 1424
                                                  1015                                         1055
                                                                     869                              825            856
                                                                                         748                                  731
                                      551                      587
                                            454          430                                                   306

                                      Lo r Cit

                                      We r Va Hig
                                      Ch High
                                      Co noo
                                      Co Co Sch
                                      Ga Hig Hig Arts
                                      Gr burg
                                      He evill tman
                                      Ka ge H igh gh
                                      Le Hig

                                      Ma n H igh
                                      Re ille H
                                      Rh ank
                                      Ru Cou h
                                      Sc ge H High
                                      Se ce H
                                      Wa Cou

                                        nio h


                                        tlin h
                                        sb unt ool


                                        ion h Hi
                                         ryv igh



                                            oy l Hig


                                             Gr ey H














                                                                                     High School

Figure 2. Please enter your school’s total enrollment. (N=19)
                                                                                                                   Impact of Freshman Academy 36

  Number of Ninth Grade Students

                                                                                                 395         388                                374
                                                   305                               315               316
                                                                                           220                     227                    226         235
                                                         144 160
                                         109 111



















                                             i en



















































                                                                                     High School

Figure 3. Please enter your school’s number of freshman/ninth grade students. (N=19)

                                                                                                                         Heritage High
                                                                                                                         Red Bank High
                                                                                                                         Lenoir City High
                                                                                                                         Karns High
                                                                                                                         Sequoyah High
                                                                                                                         Gatlinburg Pittman
                                                                                                                         High 96.8%
                                                                                                                         Maryville High
                                                                                                                         Chattanooga School
                                                                                                                         Science Hill High
                                                                                                                         Rhea County High
                                                                                                                         Walker Valley High
                                                                                                                         Greeneville High
                                                                                                                         Loudon High 87.7%
                                                                                                                         Chatt High
                                                                                                                         West Greene High
                                                                                                                         Rutledge High
                                                                                                                         Union County High
                                                                                                                         Cosby High School
                                                                                                                         Cocke County High

Figure 4. Please enter your school’s graduation rate for 2005-2006 (N=19)
                                                                 Impact of Freshman Academy 37

                                                                    Heritage High
                                                                    Red Bank High
                                                                    Lenoir City High
                                                                    Karns High 5.5%
                                                                    Sequoyah High
                                                                    Gatlinburg Pittman
                                                                    High 1.4%
                                                                    Maryville High 4.6%
                                                                    Chattanooga School
                                                                    Arts 0%
                                                                    Science Hill High
                                                                    Rhea County High
                                                                    Walker Valley High
                                                                    Greeneville High
                                                                    Loudon High 5.0%
                                                                    Chatt High 7.2%
                                                                    West Greene High
                                                                    Rutledge High 2.7%
                                                                    Union County High
                                                                    Cosby High School
                                                                    Cocke County High

Figure 5. Please enter your school’s dropout rate for 2005-2006. (N=19)

       Data analysis was conducted using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS),

which is a statistical software program. The name of the high school, whether the school had a

Freshman Academy, the total enrollment, the number of ninth grade students, the graduation

rates, and the dropout rates for the past five years were input into the statistical program. In

addition, ethnicity and economic status noted by students receiving free or reduced lunch was

analyzed. However, in order to examine the impact of Freshman Academy on graduation and

dropout rates, only the most recent school data was individually analyzed.

       Results indicated that high schools with Freshman Academies during the 2005-2006

school year had a graduation rate with a mean of 85.7% and a dropout rate with a mean of 7.8%.

Of the 9 schools reportedly having a Freshman Academy, only 5 schools were able to report

graduation rates. According to the state report card for each of these schools, the graduation rate

was not available due to being under revision (see Figure 6).
                                                                         Impact of Freshman Academy 38

                                 Schools with Freshman Academy

                                             Descriptive Statistics

                                    N          Minimum      Maximum        Mean      Std. Deviation
           Enrollment 06                                                 1172.4444
                                        9        306.000     2030.000                  508.390379
           Freshman 06                  9         86.000      575.000    332.44444     137.326355
           Graduation rate
           06                           5            .769         .940      .85720         .065059

           Dropout rate 06              9            .008         .195      .07844         .067348
           Caucasian 06                 8            .741         .965      .89163         .067619
           Free/Reduced 06              8            .081         .501      .32538         .133473
           Valid N (listwise)           4

Figure 6. Data for schools with Freshman Academy. (N=9)

       The results for high schools that did not have a Freshman Academy during the 2005-2006

school year revealed a graduation rate with a mean of 89.2% and a dropout rate with a mean of

3.0%. Eight of the 10 schools failed to report a graduation rate due to being under revision at the

time of the study (see Figure 7).

                                Schools without Freshman Academy

                                             Descriptive Statistics

                                    N          Minimum      Maximum        Mean      Std. Deviation
           Enrollment 06                10      430.000      2579.000    941.50000     643.594118
           Freshman 06                  10       109.000      612.000    252.40000     154.525942
           Graduation rate
           06                           8            .825         .987      .89288         .061545

           Dropout rate 06              10           .000         .072      .03060         .021324
           Caucasian 06                 10           .584         .989      .87970         .155878
           Free/Reduced 06              9            .163         .638      .42667         .173748
           Valid N (listwise)           7

Figure 7. Data for schools without Freshman Academy. (N=10)
                                                                Impact of Freshman Academy 39

                                             Chapter V


       The purpose of this study was to investigate whether Freshman Academy in East

Tennessee public high schools positively or negatively impacted graduation rates and the dropout

rates. A survey was sent to 110 East Tennessee high schools serving grades 9-12. The survey

consisted of three questions regarding school demographics and student population. A fourth

question sought information about the student enrollment, graduation rate, and dropout rate for

the past five years. The data from 25 surveys was used to complete this study.

Major Findings

       After reviewing the data gathered from the surveys, it was determined that 47% (9) of the

high schools implemented a Freshman Academy to address the needs of ninth grade students.

However, the length of time the program had been in existence varied. In 26% (8) of the

schools, Freshman Academy had been incorporated into their school curriculum for two years or

less. Only 0.05% (1) of the schools reported having Freshman Academy for eight years. This

data supported the notion that some Freshman Academies had not been implemented long

enough to provide adequate results.

       The study was guided by the following research question: Will students who participate

in Freshman Academy have higher graduation rates and lower dropout rates than students who

are not enrolled in Freshman Academy? Based on the results of this study, schools with

Freshman Academy had a graduation rate with a mean of 85.7%, yet schools without Freshman

Academy had a graduation rate with a mean of 89.2%. These results indicated that high schools

which had implemented Freshman Academy into the school curriculum did not have higher

graduation rates than schools without Freshman Academy. The discrepancy in graduation rates

could be a result of the inability to retrieve graduation rates of some high schools because this
                                                               Impact of Freshman Academy 40

data was under revision by the Tennessee State Department of Education.

       In reference to dropout rates, schools with Freshman Academy had a dropout rate with a

mean of 7.8%. On the other hand, schools without Freshman Academy had a dropout rate with a

mean of 3.0%. According to these results, implementing Freshman Academy did not produce a

decrease in high school dropout rates. These results showed a large variance in the dropout rates.

These results produced great difficulty in determining if the decrease in graduation rates was due

to implementation of Freshman Academy.

       A limitation of this study was that few high schools in East Tennessee have implemented

Freshman Academies into the school. This had an impact on the data because the majority of the

schools did not have Freshman Academies long enough to provide adequate results. The schools

that had Freshman Academies for two years or less had yet to have ninth grade students complete

four years of high school. Therefore, the study could not determine whether the implementation

of Freshman Academies had any impact on those students. Another limitation of this study was

the survey size. Although 110 schools were sent surveys, only 25 schools returned them as

directed. All of those returned were not able to be used because of incomplete or nonexistent

data. Different results could have been achieved if more of the surveys had been completed.

Additional schools could have reported the existence of Freshman Academies for longer periods

of time. Research was limited because schools were in the beginning phase of Freshman

Academy implementation.

       In conclusion, the results from this study did not prove that students who participated in

Freshman Academies had higher graduation rates and lower dropout rates than those students

who did not participate in Freshman Academies. The sample size did not provide many high

schools that had Freshman Academies for a significant amount of time. If this study was

conducted again in two years, the majority of the schools would have cycled through a group of
                                                              Impact of Freshman Academy 41

ninth grade students. Therefore, graduation rates and dropout rates could be re-examined.
                                                              Impact of Freshman Academy 42


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       67(1), 12-18.

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                                                                Impact of Freshman Academy 43

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                                                               Impact of Freshman Academy 44

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                                                              Impact of Freshman Academy 47


       A researcher-developed data collection form was used to gather data from East Tennessee

public high schools. This data collection form, entitled Freshman Academy Data Collection

Form followed as Appendix A. The Protection of Human Subjects Form which sought

exemption is included as Appendix B. Appendix C contained the list of East Tennessee public

high schools which were mailed the data collection form and the Certificate of

Authorship/Acceptance is located in Appendix D.
                                                               Impact of Freshman Academy 48

                                           Appendix A

                          Freshman Academy Data Collection Form

Name: _____________________________ Job Title: ____________________________

School: ___________________________________________________________________

1. What grades are included in your high school? (Check all that apply.)

     □8                  □9                  □ 10                    □11           □12
2. Does your high school have a small learning community such as freshman academy or ninth
   grade academy?

     □ Yes               □ No
3. If so, how many years has freshman academy/ninth grade academy been implemented into
   your high school?

   ______________ years

4. Please enter your school’s data for the following school years.

                     2005-2006       2004-2005        2003-2004        2002-2003   2001-2002


  Number of


                                                                                                        Impact of Freshman Academy 49

                                                                           Appendix B

                                                                      OMB No. 0925-0418

                                                    Protection of Human Subjects
                                           Assurance Identification/Certification/Declaration
                                                                  (Common Federal Rule)
  Policy: Research activities involving human subjects may not be               Institutions with an assurance of compliance that covers the research to be
  conducted or supported by the Departments and Agencies adopting the           conducted on file with the Department, Agency, or the Department of
                            2. June 18, 1991) unless
1.Common Rule (56FR28003,Type of mechanism the activities are
    Request Type                                                                                    Services of Federal Department or Agency of IRB
                                                                                Health and Human3. Name (HHS) should submit certification and, if
  exempt from or approved in accordance with the common rule. See                                      known, application proposal unless otherwise
                                                                                review and approval with eachApplication or Proposal Identification No.
                                   for exemptions. Institutions submitting
  section 101(b) the common rule GRANT
     ORIGINAL                                        CONTRACT                   advised by the Department or Agency. Institutions which do not have
  applications or proposals for support must submit certification or            such an assurance must submit an assurance and certification of IRB
                                   Board (IRB) review and approval to the
  appropriate Institutional Review COOPERATIVE AGREEMENT
     FOLLOWUP                                                                   review and approval within 30 days of a written request from the
  Department or Agency in accordance with the common rule.                      Department or Agency.
X EXEMPTION                        OTHER ________________________________
4. Title of Application or Activity                                                   5. Name of Principal Investigator, Program Di4rector, Fellow, or Other

6. Assurance Status of this Project (Respond to one of the following)

    This Assurance, on file with Department of Health and Human Services, covers this activity:
    Assurance identification no. M-________ IRB identification no. _________________

    This Assurance, on file with (agency/dept) ___________________________________________________________ covers this activity.
    Assurance identification no. ___________ IRB identification no. __________________ (if applicable)

    No assurance has been filed for this project. This institution declares that it will provide an Assurance and Certification of IRB review
    and approval upon request.
X Exemption Status: Human subjects are involved, but this activity qualifies for exemption under Section 101(b), paragraph __________.

7. Certification of IRB Review (Respond to one of the following IF you have an Assurance on file)

    This activity has been reviewed and approved by the IRB in accordance with the common rule and any other governing regulations or
    subparts on    (date) _______________________ by:                Full IRB Review of           Expedited Review
    This activity contains multiple projects, some of which have not been reviewed. The IRB has granted approval on condition that all
    projects covered by the common rule will be reviewed and approved before they are initiated and that appropriate further certification
    will be submitted.


9. The official signing below certifies that the information provided               10. Name and Address of Institution
above is correct and that, as required, future reviews will be performed
and certification will be provided.                                                       Lincoln Memorial University
                                                                                          Department of Graduate Studies
11. Phone No. (with area code)        12. Fax No. (with area code)                        6965 Cumberland Gap Parkway
                                                                                          Harrogate, TN 37752
   1-800-325-0900 ext. 6374
13. Name of Official      Dr. Patricia Murphree                                     14. Title     Graduate Studies Instructor

15. Signature                                                                                                           16. Date

Authorized for Local Reproduction                         OPTIONAL FORM 310 (Rev. 1-98                             Sponsored by HHS/NIH
                                                        Impact of Freshman Academy 50

                                      Appendix C

                       List of East Tennessee Public High Schools

  *Data collection form returned      + Data collection returned with incomplete data

     District                          School                               City     State
Anderson County    Anderson County High School                      Clinton          TN
Anderson County    Clinton High School                              Clinton          TN
Bledsoe County     Bledsoe County High School                       Pikeville        TN
Blount County      Heritage High School *                           Maryville        TN
Blount County      William Blount High                              Maryville        TN
Bradley County     Bradley Central High School *                    Cleveland        TN
Bradley County     Walker Valley High School                        Cleveland        TN
Campbell County    Campbell County Comprehensive High School        Jacksboro        TN
Campbell County    Jellico High School                              Jellico          TN
Carter County      Hampton High School                              Hampton          TN
Carter County      Happy Valley High School                         Elizabethton     TN
Carter County      Cloudland High School                            Roan Mountain    TN
Carter County      Unaka High School                                Elizabethton     TN
Claiborne County   Cumberland Gap High School                       Cumberland Gap   TN
Cocke County       Cocke County High School *                       Newport          TN
Cocke County       Cosby High School *                              Cosby            TN
County             Cumberland County High School                    Crossville       TN
County             Stone Memorial High School                       Crossville       TN
Grainger County    Rutledge High School *                           Rutledge         TN
Grainger County    Washburn School                                  Washburn         TN
Greene County      West Greene High School *                        Mosheim          TN
Greene County      South Greene High School                         Greeneville      TN
Greene County      North Greene High School                         Greeneville      TN
Greene County      Chuckey Doak High School                         Afton            TN
Hamblen County     Morristown East High School                      Morristown       TN
Hamblen County     Morristown West High School                      Morristown       TN
Hamilton County    21st Century Academy                             Chattanooga      TN
Hamilton County    Brainerd High School                             Chattanooga      TN
Hamilton County    Howard School of Academics and Technology        Chattanooga      TN
Hamilton County    Central High School                              Harrison         TN
Hamilton County    Lookout Valley Middle/High School                Chattanooga      TN
Hamilton County    Ooltewah High School                             Ooltewah         TN
Hamilton County    Center for Creative Arts *                       Chattanooga      TN
                                                          Impact of Freshman Academy 51

Hamilton County    Red Bank High School *                           Chattanooga       TN
Hamilton County    Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences *   Chattanooga       TN
Hamilton County    Sale Creek Middle/High School                    Sale Creek        TN
Hamilton County    Sequoyah High School                             Soddy-Daisy       TN
Hamilton County    East Ridge High School                           Chattanooga       TN
Hamilton County    Sequoyah High School                             Soddy-Daisy       TN
Hamilton County    Soddy-Daisy High School +                        Soddy-Daisy       TN
Hamilton County    Hamilton County High School                      Ooltewah          TN
Hamilton County    Tyner Academy                                    Chattanooga       TN
                   Hamilton County Middle College High School
Hamilton County    at Chattanooga State                             Chattanooga       TN
Hamilton County    Hixson High School                               Hixson            TN
Hamilton County    Washington School                                Chattanooga       TN
Hancock County     Hancock County High School                       Sneedville        TN
Hawkins County     Volunteer High School                            Church Hill       TN
Hawkins County     Cherokee High School                             Rogersville       TN
Hawkins County     Clinch School                                    Eidson            TN
Jefferson County   Jefferson County High School                     Dandridge         TN
Johnson County     Johnson County High School                       Mountain City     TN
Knox County        Fulton High School                               Knoxville         TN
Knox County        Farragut High School                             Knoxville         TN
Knox County        Gibbs High School                                Corryton          TN
Knox County        Bearden High School                              Knoxville         TN
Knox County        Carter High School                               Plains            TN
Knox County        Austin-East Magnet High School                   Knoxville         TN
Knox County        Central High School                              Knoxville         TN
Knox County        Halls High School                                Knoxville         TN
Knox County        Karns High School *                              Knoxville         TN
Knox County        Powell High School                               Powell            TN
Knox County        South Doyle High School                          Knoxville         TN
Knox County        West High School                                 Knoxville         TN
Loudon County      Loudon County High School *                      Loudon            TN
Marion County      Marion County High School                        Jasper            TN
Marion County      South Pittsburg High School                      South Pittsburg   TN
Marion County      Whitwell High School                             Whitwell          TN
McMinn County      McMinn Central High School                       Englewood         TN
McMinn County      McMinn County High School                        Athens            TN
Monroe County      Sweetwater High School                           Sweetwater        TN
Monroe County      Sequoyah High School *                           Madisonville      TN
                                                      Impact of Freshman Academy 52

Monroe County      Tellico Plains High School                Tellico Plains    TN
Morgan County      Wartburg Central High School              Wartburg          TN
Morgan County      Coalfield School                          Coalfield         TN
Morgan County      Oakdale School                            Oakdale           TN
Morgan County      Sunbright School                          Sunbright         TN
Polk County        Copper Basin High School                  Copperhill        TN
Rhea County        Rhea County High School *                 Evensville        TN
Roane County       Harriman High School                      Harriman          TN
Roane County       Midway High School +                      Kingston          TN
Roane County       Oliver Springs High School                Oliver Springs    TN
Roane County       Roane County High School                  Kingston          TN
Roane County       Rockwood High School                      Rockwood          TN
Scott County       Scott High School                         Huntsville        TN
Sevier County      Gatlinburg Pittman High School *          Gatlinburg        TN
Sevier County      Pigeon Forge High School                  Pigeon Forge      TN
Sevier County      Sevier County High School                 Sevierville       TN
Sevier County      Seymour High School                       Seymour           TN
Sullivan County    Sullivan Central High School              Blountville       TN
Sullivan County    Sullivan North High School                Kingsport         TN
Sullivan County    Sullivan South High School                Kingsport         TN
Sullivan County    Sullivan East High School +               Bluff City        TN
Unicoi County      Uncoi County High School                  Erwin             TN
Union County       Union County High School *                Maynardville      TN
County             Daniel Boone High School                  Gray              TN
County             David Crockett High School +              Jonesborough      TN
Alcoa              Alcoa High School                         Alcoa             TN
Bristol            Tennessee High School                     Briston           TN
Elizabethton       Elizabethton High School                  Elizabethton      TN
Greeneville        Greeneville High School *                 Greeneville       TN
Johnson City       Science-Hill High School *                Johnson City      TN
Kingsport          Dobyns-Bennett High School                Kingsport         TN
Lenior City        Lenior City High School *                 Lenior City       TN
Maryville          Maryville High School *                   Maryville         TN
Oak Ridge          Oak Ridge High School                     Oak Ridge         TN
Oneida             Oneida High School                        Oneida            TN
Cleveland          Cleveland High School                     Cleveland         TN
Richard City       R Hardy Memorial High School              South Pittsburg   TN
Polk County        Polk County High School                   Benton            TN
Claiborne County   Claiborne County High School              New Tazewell      TN
                                                                  Impact of Freshman Academy 53

                                            Appendix D

                                Certificate of Authorship / Acceptance

I certify that I (along with members of my research group) am the author of this paper titled A

Study of the Effects of Freshman Academy on East Tennessee High School Students’ Graduation

and Dropout Rates and that any assistance I received in its preparation is fully acknowledged

and disclosed in the paper. I have also cited any sources from which I used data, ideas, or words,

either quoted directly or paraphrased. I also certify that this paper was prepared by me

specifically for this course.

       I understand that falsification of information will affect my status as a graduate student.

This document is not confidential. Its use as a sample in future classes is / is not restricted.
                                                                          (Circle one)

Student’s Signature                                                   Date

______________________________________________                            July 21, 2007

______________________________________________                            July 21, 2007

______________________________________________                        _____________________
                                                                          July 21, 2007

______________________________________________                        _____________________
                                                                          July 21, 2007

  This is to certify that the research project named above has been accepted by the graduate

  faculty of Lincoln Memorial University.

  Chairperson’s Signature: __________________________________________________

                       Date: _________________________________________________

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