Term of Award

Fall 2015

Degree Name

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

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Leadership, Technology, and Human Development

Committee Chair

Daniel Calhoun

Committee Member 1

Teri Melton

Committee Member 2

Jason LaFrance


Despite the efforts of traditional high schools to educate all students, at-risk populations tend to lag behind their White and more affluent counterparts in educational achievement, high school graduation rates, and college attendance rates. Early College High Schools (ECHSs) were designed to attract and retain at-risk students through rigorous academic practices, strong support systems, and by providing free access to college credits while students are still in high school.

With the case study approach as a guide, this research used an open-ended interview protocol to collect data from a sample of 16 students who attended one ECHS in Georgia between 2006 and 2013. The research explored their experiences as ECHS students and their perceptions of the effectiveness of the early college model using the five core principles as a conceptual framework. Interviews were the primary method of data collection. Findings were reported by theme using participant vignettes to highlight key components of the data in relation to the four research questions.

The results indicated that participants believed ECHS prepared them academically for post-secondary education. Students cited strong academic support systems and meaningful relationships with the ECHS faculty as major reasons for their preparation. Participants, however, unanimously believed that the early college high school did not prepare them socially for post-secondary education. They cited an absence of opportunities for social interaction at the high school, a lack of personal qualities paramount to success, and a lack of supervision on the college campus that resulted in destructive behaviors as major reasons for their lack of preparation.