Navigating the freshman transition : a collective case study understanding the experience of students as they transition from 8th to 9th grade at a private, single-sex school in Texas.


At The Hockaday School, a private, single-sex school in Texas, many students struggle as they make the transition from eighth to ninth grade. Students feed into the ninth grade from within the school, or from other public and private schools, and come from either boarding or day-school backgrounds. Students may be local, domestic, or international, and have varying experiences regarding academic rigor and college preparatory structure. Out of about 130 students, nearly 40 are new to the school each year, and the transitional experience looks different for each student, depending on their educational background. Some students can smoothly transition, while others find particular obstacles to be difficult to overcome. The focus of this study was to identify the greatest areas of struggle new ninth graders experience and detect whether or not there are predictors for these difficulties. It also investigated what assumptions exist that influence the expectations placed on students by teachers, administrators, and parents, and what support measures exist or are missing in transitional programming. The study used Harris and Barnett’s Thriving Transition Cycle (2013), a repeating cycle of transition and adjustment, as a framework for measuring students’ ability to successfully transition from middle to high school. Existing literature suggests that intentional programming, both in advance of the school year and throughout ninth grade, helps freshmen gain necessary academic and self-efficacy skills. The following is a collective case study that gathered data from participants regarding their transition into ninth grade and identified where additional support was needed. A group of students from various educational backgrounds was asked to provide evidence from their experiences that pointed to the greatest areas of struggle experienced by students overall. The results of the study provided a foundation for the creation of new transitional programming to prepare students for the obstacles they encounter.



Freshmen. High school. Single-sex schools. Transitional programming.