First Advisor

Karen Noordhoff

Term of Graduation

Spring 2007

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership: Curriculum and Instruction






Middle school students -- Oregon -- Beaverton, High school students -- Oregon -- Beaverton, Middle school education -- Oregon -- Beaverton, Secondary Education -- Oregon -- Beaverton, High school dropouts -- Oregon -- Beaverton



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, vii, 208 pages)


The purpose of this qualitative and quantitative study was to understand the perspectives of so-called at-risk middle school students who participated in an alternative mid-level program and the support that program might have provided in their transition into high school. The study gives voice to such students and sheds light on the type of programs and practices that reduce their risk for dropping out of school. Dynarski and Gleason (2002) reported that early adolescence is a period of both enormous opportunity and enormous risk for dropping out of school.

Participants were former students in the Swingshift Options School (SOS) program at Five Oaks Middle School in Beaverton, Oregon. Several methods of inquiry were used: interviews, surveys, and archival records. Together, these methods provided layers of meaning and were used to address the central question of the research: How did participation in the Five Oaks Swingshift Options School impact selected at-risk students' transition to and success in high school?

This study looked at the history of middle schools and the research surrounding developmentally responsive middle schools. Additionally, the study situates the development of alternative programs relative to a critique of the concept of “at-riskness.”

The findings indicate that the students in this study experienced difficulty in transitioning to high school, and the transition from middle to high school needs to be seamless for students at-risk for dropping out of school.

The relationship with their teachers, counselors, and peers was very important to SOS students, and they valued smaller classes that helped them form positive relationships with their teachers. Flexible scheduling that allowed for access to service learning opportunities was also identified as a positive for the students while they were in middle school.


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