Middle and High School Graduation Coaches' Perspectives on Georgia's Graduation Coach Program

Deshundria L. Fortson, Walden University


The overall research problem addressed by this study was Georgia's low high school graduation rate. Prior to the implementation of Georgia's Graduation Coach Program, Georgia's high school graduation rate was 63.3%, and the number of high school dropouts was 24,810. The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experiences of middle and high school graduation coaches about the effectiveness of Georgia's Graduation Coach Program and its relation to student success using a phenomenological design. The theoretical framework for this study was self-determination theory, in alignment with the goals of Georgia's graduation coaches to help spark students' motivation to stay in school and become successful and responsible adults. Twenty-two former coaches were invited to participate via email. Ultimately, 15 participants took part in the interviews and 4 participated in each focus group. Data were collected through interviews and focus groups and analyzed using the ATLAS software program in conjunction with Moustakas' modification of the Stevick–Colaizzi–Keen method of analysis of phenomenological data analysis. Coaches shared that they had smaller caseloads than traditional counselors, could provide individual guidance, placed at-risk students in specific groups to target their needs, obtained parental support, and were caring adults for each student. This study promotes positive social change by offering information to school districts, policy makers, and other stakeholders on the way a dropout prevention program supports at-risk students by encouraging more students to remain in school. Having a greater number of students graduating from school will benefit society and allow students greater opportunities to be productive citizens.