School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


James A. Swezey


Middle School Configuration, Sixth Grade Academy, Small Learning Community, Transitioning program


Curriculum and Instruction | Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Education | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to examine and evaluate teachers’ perceptions of the effectiveness of a sixth grade academy program, at a rural middle school in North Georgia, in helping students transition into sixth grade. The transition from fifth grade to sixth grade is a critical year in a student’s educational career. Over the past two decades, transitioning programs have grown as an effort to meet students’ distinct needs. There is very little research documenting teachers’ voices on this matter. The research conducted in this study sought to add the teacher’s perception in identifying the significant features of an effective sixth grade academy program that provide an easier transition into middle school. Sources of data included ten teachers who were interviewed about their work at a sixth grade academy. These teachers also responded to an open-ended questionnaire, as well as participated in a focus group interview, describing their experiences with the program. Transcriptions of the interviews and responses to the survey questions were analyzed using coding. A snapshot of the participant’s voices and lived experiences are included as a contribution to the findings of the study. Themes derived from the data uncovered during the study were organized to provide insight on the research questions. The themes identified during data analysis included structural design (academy versus conglomerate), isolation (teachers and students), intentional transitioning programming, elements related to middle school transition (parental involvement, lockers, other), and teacher’s perceptions of the student’s experience. Each theme is discussed in detail in the results section of chapter four.