Term of Award

Spring 2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Education Administration (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

Linda M. Arthur

Committee Member 1

Sonya Shepherd

Committee Member 2

Sidney Brown


As educational systems are constantly challenged with public demands to decrease dropout rates and increase student achievement, school reform models are spreading as a form of school improvement across America. Educational reform moves in cycles, and the change has moved to smaller learning communities in an effort to improve education. Smaller Learning Communities (SLC's) have attracted currency in the world of education, and many school districts have adopted this transformational model as a means to support students' academic success. Smaller learning communities alter the internal structure of a traditional high school to small schools within a school. One specific model of a smaller learning community, known as career academies, has populated many suburban school districts. School leaders are primary sources for implementing such school reform models. The purpose of this study was to examine the perceptions of school leaders who have experienced the implementation process of career academies. To produce the written research, data were collected, organized, transcribed, and analyzed into emerging themes and patterns through phenomenological interviews using open-ended questions with ten suburban school district leaders. This study yielded factors and barriers experienced by school leaders as they implemented the school reform model: career academies. The results from this study indicated that school leaders experienced many factors and structures towards the change process and several barriers that were challenges during the implementation process of career academies. With implementing the career academy initiative in this study, it is evident that barriers outweighed the factors. School leaders in a suburban school district in Georgia are faced with many challenges as they attempt to implement and sustain career academies. They endure scheduling, financial resources, building structure, changes in leadership, lack of support from superintendent and board members, teacher buy-in, communication, cultural changes, and the district integrating too many initiatives at the same time as issues they face while implementing career academies. As a result, effort to meet the challenges and demands our nation faces in education in the next decade, more emphasis must be placed on a plan to assist and support school leaders and their efforts to practice leadership roles for implementing or transforming schools into SLC models.

Research Data and Supplementary Material