Term of Award

Fall 2016

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse


Creative Attribution 4.0 International (CC-BY 4.0) license


Department of Leadership, Technology, and Human Development

Committee Chair

Yasar Bodur

Committee Member 1

Michelle Reidel

Committee Member 2

Jason LaFrance


The purpose of this study was to investigate the possible effects of middle school teacher-student relationships on students’ future academic decisions after dropping out of high school. With a national dropout rate of 30% and in some urban areas of 50%, among poor black minority youths, it is crucial that educators strongly consider the possibility that teacher-student relationships may play a vital role in the future decision-making or planning of middle school students (Kafele, 2012). Middle school research suggests that indicators of student disengagement can be traced back as early as elementary school when student reading and math scores begin to decline and disruptive classroom behavior begins to rise (Kafele, 2012; Kunjufu, 2005). The primary focus of this paper was student disengagement and dropout at the middle school level. Do positive teacher-student relationships, at the middle school level, have any impact on students’ future decisions to graduate from high school or return to school, such as a technical college after dropping out of high school. Five African American males between the ages of 23 and 46 were asked to share their personal experiences with their teachers in middle school, whether positive or negative. The participants were asked to give their own personal definitions of characteristics of positive and negative teacher-student relationships, and to disclose whether or not those relationships had any influence on their decisions to enroll into the local technical college. None of these males was influenced to enroll in school by a relationship with a teacher, but they shared information that is invaluable to all educators today as it relates to improving student engagement and increasing the graduation rates – Rules without relationships equal rebellion.

Research Data and Supplementary Material