An investigation of an accelerated multi-age program for at-risk middle school students

Date of Completion

January 2000


Education, Administration|Education, Curriculum and Instruction




Concern with excessive high-school dropout rates has grown. For example, social problems, including criminal behavior, welfare dependency, and unemployment are often linked to the high-school dropout rate. The problem is especially acute in the inner cities, where it is accepted that approximately one half of students fail to graduate from high school. ^ The desirability of socially promoting students who fail academically lost ground in the 1970s and 1980s. As a result the practice of retaining students in the same grade for a second year has increased. However, students who are retained are more likely to drop out of school. In the urban district studied more than one third of sixth graders were overage due to prior retentions. These overage middle-school students were at-risk of further retentions, and, ultimately, of becoming dropouts. ^ This study investigated a multi-age group of middle school students enrolled in the Program for Adolescent Students Seeking Age-Grade Equivalent Status (PASSAGES). The program consists of a two-teacher, multi-age team at a middle school, in a medium-sized urban school district in New England. By utilizing accelerated learning techniques, the expectation is that most of the 30 to 40 at-risk, previously retained students enrolled in PASSAGES will take two years instead of three to pass through middle school. ^ Using both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, PASSAGES students were shown to exhibit greater self-esteem, greater self-efficacy, and a more positive attitude toward school than similar at-risk students enrolled in a regular middle school program. This finding was corroborated by data relating to attendance, grades, and discipline. ^