Transition from Fifth Grade to Sixth Grade and its Impact on Discipline Referrals



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This study investigated the effects of students transitioning from fifth grade elementary to sixth grade middle school on office discipline referrals. When students transition to the next grade, they may face challenges surrounding change, such as anxiety related to bullying or harassing behaviors by older students, stolen items, conflict, and discipline with teachers. The study was drawn from the population of two school campuses within a large southwestern suburban school district in the state of Texas. The sample consisted of 153 students during their fifth grade year in elementary school and the same group of students during their sixth grade year in middle school. Comparisons were made to determine if the transition from elementary to middle school affected students’ discipline data. Archival discipline data measured changes between grade levels. Class schedules were compared from both elementary and middle school documenting the differences in the academic structures. Class schedules were analyzed using qualitative analysis frameworks. The analysis of the data included descriptive statistics regarding the student discipline data by frequency, location and description of incident, and action taken by administration. The analysis of descriptive data determined that discipline referrals increased for the same cohort of 153 students in fifth grade elementary to sixth grade middle school from 28.3 percent to 71.7 percent. Class schedules comparisons revealed that students in fifth grade versus sixth grade have fewer teachers, longer class periods, less transition, and stayed with the same peers all day. In addition, middle school students are allotted five minutes between classes for transition. While elementary students do not have transition times scheduled within their school day, they are given 30 minutes of recess time every day. Implications of this study suggest that further study is needed to address the association between elementary versus middle school discipline referrals and scheduling, and to test ways to mediate the psychological and organizational transitions from elementary to middle school.



Transition to Middle School