Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 11-7-2018


The ninth grade is a transition year from middle school to high school where many students struggle to successfully navigate a new environment, new teachers and peers, new academic and behavioral expectations, and the concept of graduation requirements. This qualitative study examined the effects of academic track placement, and student levels of skill and will, on successful ninth-grade completion in one New Mexico Title I high school. It also provided insight into their perceptions of the success factors and challenges that they felt impacted their ability to successfully promote to the tenth-grade, and thus, remain on-track for graduation.

This study was a single instrumental case study that focused on one issue (successful ninth-grade completion), at one Title I high school, with one cohort of ninth graders, in the timeframe of one school year. The research paradigms used to frame this study were constructivist and transformative. This particular high school was the focus of this study, because its students continue to persist at a higher rate than other Title I high schools, and not drop out, regardless of their lower levels of academic skill and the situations of poverty that plague their community. The sample included 235 of the 340 ninth-grade students in the cohort. The data sources for this study included reports on cumulative grade-point-average, interim reading and mathematics assessment data, and academic credit data; results from the American Institutes for Research Self-Determination scale questionnaire; results from a questionnaire on factors that influence ninth-grade success; and semi-structured face-to-face interviews with 16 students.


ninth-grade, dropout, high school, academic tracking, skill, determination, New Mexico

Document Type




Degree Name

Educational Leadership

Level of Degree


Department Name

Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy

First Committee Member (Chair)

Arlie Woodrum

Second Committee Member

Allison M. Borden

Third Committee Member

Viola E. Florez

Fourth Committee Member

Gabriella Duran-Blakey