*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Specifically, this study examines whether engagement in contexts outside of the classroom – family, peer, athletic, religious, neighborhood, and cultural – is protective against declines in school engagement and performance across the transition to middle school for youth at particular risk of declining attendance and academic achievement. In answering this, this study will inform policy work through the introduction of additional mechanisms and potential policy levers through which to improve student outcomes across this transition.
Data for this study come from the Adolescents Pathway Project (APP) early adolescent cohort (Seidman, 1991), a four-wave longitudinal study of low-income, urban youth living in Baltimore (4%), Washington D.C. (20%), and New York City (76%). Students were recruited (n = 863) from the grade preceding the transition to middle school or junior high and were 54% female, 30% black, 19% white, 41% Latino, and 10% other. The majority of participants lived in areas of high or concentrated poverty: 39% in census tracts with 20-40% of residents below the poverty line and 20% in tracts with over 40% of residents below the poverty line. This study utilizes student surveys from waves 1-3 documenting involvement and performance in family, peer, athletic, religious, neighborhood, and cultural contexts in the year prior to transitioning to middle school (5th or 6th grade) and the two years after the transition (6th and 7th or 7th and 8th grades).
Analysis will proceed in two steps. First, preliminary confirmatory factor analysis will be used to operationalize students’ engagement in each context in the year preceding entry into middle school. Next, mixture growth modeling will be used to both track trajectories of school engagement and performance across the transition and examine whether engagement in contexts outside of school, either individually or collectively, predicts trajectories of school engagement and school performance. The key findings will be discussed in the context of implications for effective and innovative education and social policy targeting this high risk population as they transition from elementary to middle school.