Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education

First Advisor

Edith King, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Martin Tombari

Third Advisor

P. Bruce Uhrmacher


At-risk students, Freshman academy, High school transition, Ninth grade, School engagement


Numerous freshman transition programs are conducted throughout the nation to address the middle school to high school transition issue. The current study focuses on a high school transition model, the Freshman Academy, to improve ninth-grade attendance, academic achievement, and school engagement for at-risk students. School engagement encompasses three interrelated components: emotion, behavior, and cognition.

The current study used a quasi-experimental pre- and posttest comparison design with no random assignment to measure the impact of the Freshman Academy on attendance, academic achievement, and school engagement. Student interviews were conducted to see what aspects of the Freshman Academy promote school engagement and what improvements could be made to the Freshman Academy program. The target population was the ninth-grade students who had been identified as at risk at a high school outside Denver, Colorado. The research was conducted using their Freshman Academy students and a comparison group.

An independent t-test was used to test for differences in the three areas of school engagement for the Freshman Academy and comparison group. A paired sample t-test was used to compare the eighth-grade and ninth-grade unexcused absences and GPA. The results from the Student Survey on School Engagement showed that for behavioral engagement the comparison group had higher levels of engagement at the end than the Freshman Academy. For cognitive and emotional engagement there were no differences. Pre- and post-GPAs for the Freshman Academy showed no change. For unexcused absences, the averages were significantly different from eighth to ninth grade. Truancies, measured by unexcused absences, were reduced by two-thirds.

Qualitative findings were quite different from those results from the school engagement survey, attendance data, and GPA data. From the student interviews, the students commonly reported that the Freshman Academy was like a family. The respondents felt like the teachers cared about them, showed the relevance of what they were teaching, and used a variety of instructional strategies to maintain the interest of their students. According to the students, the improvements that could be made to the Freshman Academy program included aspects of the environment, teacher-student relationship, and curriculum and instruction.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Tracy Srofe


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

142 p.


Curriculum development, Secondary education