Author(s)

Mari Celi Sanchez

Date Approved

10-17-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ed.D. Educational Leadership

Department

Educational Leadership

College

College of Education

First Advisor

Coaxum, James III

Subject(s)

High school freshmen;Performing arts high schools

Disciplines

Elementary and Middle and Secondary Education Administration

Abstract

The potential problem with a student's high school experience may begin as soon as he/she enters the high school. Freshmen students experience increased changes in school environment, as well as new friends, teachers, rules and regulations, and challenging courses. They need to maneuver all of these experiences with complex social-emotional and physiological upheavals associated with adolescence. For some students, this transition to high school has negative consequences that lead to achievement loss and dropping out of school. Because of this, effective transitional programs that assist new ninth grade students into high school are needed. Freshmen require procedural, social, and academic supports before they enter high school and during their first year in the new school. Personalization and social advocacy by caring adults, academic rigor, and curriculum relevancy are important aspects for student success. The purpose of this action research study was to examine the effectiveness of a ninth grade transitional program in a new high school arts academy. An additional purpose of this study was to integrate the freshman faculty into the decision-making process of this program. The research study used both qualitative and quantitative data of the academy's transitional programs. This included a bridge program for ninth graders called Success Seminar in the first year of the academy. This seminar class offered organizational, study, and social-emotional skills for the new high school student. Because the school failed to offer an arts class for ninth graders when it opened, a Seminarts (seminar plus arts) blocked transitional program began the following year. It incorporated both the seminar skills and an arts component as a ninth grade program. The effectiveness of both programs, and the comparisons between them became the basis of this study. Data were retrieved through teacher and student surveys and focus groups, teacher interviews, class observations, committee teamwork, and an analysis of student achievement documents. Descriptive statistics of study findings indicated that freshmen can articulate clearly what they expect from their arts academy and what they need to be successful. They described caring, experienced teachers, project-based cooperative learning, and increased school arts experiences as aspects that will help them succeed. Freshmen saw the value of the seminar skills, but did not always see the validity or importance of the seminar activities. They did clarify their desire for an arts program as soon as they entered the high school. Teachers also expressed what was needed for freshmen to prosper in high school. They spoke passionately about their educational and personal values and how they wanted the best for their students. Teachers expressed their values in the classroom setting, in lesson plans, in interviews, and focus groups. Yet there was a disconnect between the low-level tasks students were performing and the rigorous objectives expected of them. Teachers followed the seminar curriculum but watered down the challenging aspects of the assignments, or modified the pace of the lessons. Even with improvements in the second year of the academy, student achievement was not reflective of lasting learning where students used higher thinking skills of analysis, synthesis, or evaluation. In committee work, team members planned and coordinated a variety of programs to anchor the freshmen into their school. Teachers gave many innovative ideas on how to provide artistic experiences to students, develop a vision for the school, and establish initiatives to reach out to the middle schools. Through all of the various data findings, the staff targeted issues of scheduling, curriculum, professional development, and communication issues, within the school and to the feeder schools, as aspects for the success of Seminarts. Armed with this knowledge, the action research study enabled a core group of arts teachers to continue to plan for an effective ninth grade transitional program in the high school arts academy.

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