Following different pathways: effects of social relationships and social opportunity on students' academic trajectory after school transitions
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This study investigates student school transitions during adolescence, and how the maintenance and disruption of social ties during this school change affects students' academic trajectory through high school. School transitions are a compulsory part of the American system of education and are characterized as the movement of students between schools. Students follow these institutional pathways when they change schools, and which pathway followed plays a role in how they adjust to the new school. Some transitions are normative and are a part of the organization of schools, such as the transition from middle to high school. Some involve deviation from the traditional path, such as transferring during high school. In either case, transitions interrupt students' academic trajectory through school and involve a transformation of school-based social relationships that affect academic success. Effects of transitions have been underconceptualized in current empirical research, particularly with regard to the nonacademic realm of schools. This dissertation extends research on school transitions by broadening our understanding of how student movement between institutions affects their academic trajectory and how this is linked to three crucial aspects of student transitions: institutional pathway, social relationships made in schools and the opportunity for new social ties at the receiving school. Results reinforce that both affective attachment and extracurricular involvement are related to students overall academic trajectory. This is the case even after those ties are disrupted and reconfigured by changing schools. Results also suggest that social opportunity at the receiving institution is protective against low academic outcomes in the transition to high school, particularly among students who are socially and academically disengaged in middle school. Finally, results point to similarities among students who follow divergent institutional pathways, either in the transition to high school or for those who transfer during high school. Specifically, these students fare better after a school change by the end of high school, net of where they started academically, if they are disengaged from the sending school.