Connecting public middle school education to community problem solving: Using latent growth curve analysis to evaluate impact on academic performance over time
Sheppard, Sandra M.
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This study examined the problem of middle school students in urban public schools who act and feel like their education is meaningless by evaluating an intervention that engaged the grade-level expertise of these students with real-life community problem solving. The study hypothesized that student outcomes on measures of absence, disciplinary referrals and marks (GPA) would improve as the result of participating in problem-focused groups which taught students how to apply grade-level expertise to solving real problems in the immediate community. Guided by the theoretical assumptions of experiential learning, and place-based learning, this quasi-experimental study examined the latent growth trajectories of absence, disciplinary referrals and marks for 230 middle school students over the course of one school year, collecting data at five points in time. Findings from the study revealed one significant effect on absence for students participating in the groups, and multiple significant associations between study variables for all students, which raise a plethora of study questions for future educational and social work practice, policy and research regarding the influence of community participation on academic performance as a means of engaging middle school education with real community problems.