Impact of Freshman Academy 1
Running Head: THE IMPACT OF FRESHMAN ACADEMY IN EAST TENNESSEE HIGH
A Study of the Effects of Freshman Academy on East Tennessee High School Students’
Graduation and Dropout Rates
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
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
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
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
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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
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
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
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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
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
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
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
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
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:
Impact of Freshman Academy 24
“supportive staff members”;
“parental and community involvement”;
“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
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).
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
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
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
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
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
869 825 856
454 430 306
Lo r Cit
We r Va Hig
Co Co Sch
Ga Hig Hig Arts
He evill tman
Ka ge H igh gh
Ma n H igh
Re ille H
Ru Cou h
Sc ge H High
Se ce H
sb unt ool
ion h Hi
oy l Hig
Gr ey H
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
Figure 3. Please enter your school’s number of freshman/ninth grade students. (N=19)
Red Bank High
Lenoir City High
Science Hill High
Rhea County High
Walker Valley High
Loudon High 87.7%
West Greene 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
Red Bank High
Lenoir City High
Karns High 5.5%
Maryville High 4.6%
Science Hill High
Rhea County High
Walker Valley 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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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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Impact of Freshman Academy 45
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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
Freshman Academy Data Collection Form
Name: _____________________________ Job Title: ____________________________
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
□ Yes □ No
3. If so, how many years has freshman academy/ninth grade academy been implemented into
your high school?
4. Please enter your school’s data for the following school years.
2005-2006 2004-2005 2003-2004 2002-2003 2001-2002
Impact of Freshman Academy 49
OMB No. 0925-0418
Protection of Human Subjects
(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
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
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.
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: __________________________________________________