Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ed. D.


Educational Leadership, Evaluation and Organizational Development

Degree Program

Educational Leadership and Organizational Development, EDD

Committee Chair

Brydon-Miller, Mary

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Ingle, Kyle

Committee Member

Ingle, Kyle

Committee Member

Buecker, Harrie

Committee Member

Hitchings, Sarah

Author's Keywords

career academies; small learning communities; policy implementation; leadership


Rooted in an antiquated curriculum, the traditional model of schooling remains a persisting factor in student disengagement at all levels, but especially in high school (Labaree, 2008). At a time when college and career readiness is vital to a school’s accountability, principals must rethink ways to educate a diverse student population. Given the need to provide both academic and vocational aspects, career academies create career-themed small learning communities in an effort to increase student engagement, belonging, and post-secondary success. This study uses a multiple case study design to explore the much-needed perspective of high school principals as they collectively implemented career academies in their schools through the 2017 Academies of Louisville initiative. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven high school principals during their first year of implementation. Triangulation of the data was completed through readily available document analysis, member checks, and an interview with the program’s district director. Both inductive and deductive coding using the conceptual framework of Crafting Coherence helped to structure the findings within a thematic narrative (Honig & Hatch, 2004). The study shows that successful implementation of career academies is heavily dependent upon principals and districts to “bridge and buffer” needs through regular systems checks (Honig & Hatch, 2004, p. 26). This entails principals selling the vision to teachers and students, assessing facility needs, and implementing the model with fidelity, but also entails districts ensuring that it is a priority at the top level by guaranteeing fiscal support, appropriate training, qualified candidates for hire, and program equity.