The effects of student engagement in the transition to high school

Christopher Charles Weiss, University of Pennsylvania


A growing body of research in sociology and education shows that students' feelings of connection to school are an important influence on academic and behavioral outcomes. Using data from the Philadelphia Education Longitudinal Study, this dissertation examines the influence of engagement at a time of high student vulnerability: the transition to high school. To do so, this analysis examines four measures of student engagement, corresponding to four distinct areas of student life in schools: academic work, teachers, friends and peers, and the formal social world of the school. These measures of engagement are then shown to be important determinants not only of ninth grade outcomes but changes in outcomes across the transition to high school. Outcomes examined include including grades, absences, suspensions, skipping class, and leaving school for two weeks or more. The influence of schools and the larger educational system upon engagement and outcomes is examined, with results showing multiple ways in which the environment and organization of high schools influence both engagement and outcomes. This dissertation shows the extent to which most students experience difficulty in making the transition to high school, with academic and behavioral outcomes declining substantially between eighth and ninth grade. School environment and quality are shown to greatly influence students, as is the system of stratification in the district. Finally, the findings of this dissertation highlight the importance of student engagement—particularly with academic work and with teachers—in successful ninth grade outcomes.

Subject Area

Educational sociology|Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

Weiss, Christopher Charles, "The effects of student engagement in the transition to high school" (1999). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9926214.