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Student Performance, Academic Mindsets, and the Transition to Middle School in a Large Urban School District


Description: The analysis of early indicators of failure and student progress through school is a foundational aspect of REL West's efforts to support the Clark County School District (CCSD). While 9th grade off-track indicators are commonly used, previous research suggests that the end of the 9th grade may be too late for most students who are off track for high school graduation to recover and complete high school on time. Therefore, this study focuses on identifying the factors that predict school disengagement and course failure as students make the transition to middle school. The results will inform efforts to identify and support students who may be at risk of falling behind or disengaging from school.

Research Questions:

  1. What percentage of Clark County School District grade 6 students in 2016/17 failed at least one course? Among the grade 6 students in the Clark County School District in 2016/17 who failed at least one course, what were the most commonly failed courses? How do the rates vary by race/ethnicity and by English learner status?
  2. To what extent do grade 5 achievement tests in mathematics or English language arts accurately predict whether or not a student fails at least one course in grade 6?
  3. To what extent do students' grade 5 self-reports of academic mindsets and behaviors predict whether or not they fail a course in grade 6?
  4. When controlling for prior academic achievement (as measured by grade 5 test scores), to what extent do student self-reports of academic mindsets and behaviors predict differences in grade 6 course failure?
  5. Do the relationships between prior achievement (as measured by grade 5 test scores) and the likelihood that student will fail a course vary depending on students' self-reported academic mindsets and/or behaviors?

Study Design: Using student records data and student surveys collected by CCSD, REL West will use attendance, grade, and achievement data, along with self-reports of academic mindsets (e.g., growth mindset) and behaviors (e.g., studying and paying attention in class) from 5th grade students in 2015/16 school year to predict whether or not students fail one or more courses in the 6th grade. The analysis will also examine the extent to which the relationship between 5th grade academic achievement and 6th grade course failure varies depending on students self-reported academic mindsets and behaviors.

Projected Release Data: Fall 2020

Research Alliance: Clark County Professional Learning Partnership

Study Related Products: Making Connections Report

Principal Investigators & Affiliation:
Jason Snipes, WestEd