Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Cheryl Magill


Abstract THE MIDDLE SCHOOL TRANSITION IN PRIVATE SCHOOLS: STUDENT PERCEPTIONS By Eileen Irby Atkinson, Ph.D. A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Virginia Commonwealth University. Virginia Commonwealth University, 2010 Director: Cheryl Magill, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Leadership Students transitioning into the middle school often experience difficulty adjusting to their new environment. During this transition, declines in academic motivation, academic achievement, and connectedness have been noted. Most research on this transition has taken place in public school settings. This research investigated the impact of the middle school transition in a private school setting. This study examined students’ perceptions of the middle school transition as it related to the connectedness students perceived to their new school, those individuals whom students perceived as most helpful during their transition, academic motivation and achievement following the transition, and perceived helpfulness of transition activities conducted by the school. In addition, the study examined significant differences of the transition experience based on gender and race. Five hundred and two private middle school students in 35 private schools in Virginia completed a paper and pencil survey in which they responded to 47 questions regarding their transition into middle school. It was found that students generally felt connected to middle school, and the number of extracurricular activities in which a student participated did not appear to correlate significantly with connectedness. Most new middle school students did not perceive their transition experience as difficult. Middle school teachers, parents and friends appeared to be the most helpful to students during their transition. As compared to elementary school, newly transitioned middle school students were more academically motivated, and academic achievement showed a slight improvement in middle school. Students reported that visits made to the middle school as an elementary student were most helpful to their transition, and that the summer orientation and tour were also found to be helpful. Males perceived parents, middle school teachers and elementary school counselors as more helpful to their transition than did females, who considered friends most helpful. Parents were perceived as most helpful to the transition by Asian students. Caucasians reported higher academic achievement in middle school than African American students, and African American students perceived their academic achievement as higher than that of Hispanic students. African American students, more than any of the other groups represented, believed that the information given to the middle school by the elementary school was very helpful to their transition. Native American students, and students identifying their race as “Other” felt that the assignment of an older middle school buddy was more helpful to the transition than did Caucasian or Hispanic students. In terms of the relative contribution of the variables to the prediction of ease of transition, the number of transition activities has the greatest influence, followed by level of support from others, perception of connectedness to middle school, and middle school academic performance.


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Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2010

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