Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Educational Leadership, Evaluation and Organizational Development

Degree Program

Curriculum and Instruction, PhD

Committee Chair

Tretter, Tom

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Bay-Williams, Jenny

Committee Member

Bay-Williams, Jenny

Committee Member

Gross, Jacob

Committee Member

McGatha, Maggie

Author's Keywords

college readiness; institutional rigor; GEAR UP; education innovation


This dissertation is an examination of approaches Kentucky high schools have taken in an effort to prepare their graduates to be college and career ready. This dissertation consists of three separate articles. The first explores Kentucky college readiness reform efforts at the secondary school level since the passing of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. The need for an educated population is critical to a strong economy and citizenship. Creating that educated population has been a focus for centuries but in the recent history the United States has taken a different approach. Since 2002, No Child Left Behind has directed how and on what schools have focused through high stakes accountability. As the United States moves into the next version of high-stakes accountabilities there are opportunities for schools in the state to learn from previous successes and mistakes. Kentucky has a history of reform since the 1990’s and has been working to improve the level of education for its citizens. Beginning in 1990 with the Kentucky Education Reform Act and all the way through the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act, Kentucky has striven for a well-educated workforce. The progress has been slow and often times short sighted. The first article of this dissertation will explore the changes that have been adopted in the education system of Kentucky and look to illustrate the impacts these decisions have had on teaching and learning in the state, with specific focus on high schools’ efforts to support their students’ being college and career ready. The second article in this dissertation will examine a walk through process implemented in twenty-one high poverty Kentucky high schools that were part of the GEAR UP Kentucky project. The process was designed to provide feedback to schools on how they were doing in preparing their students for postsecondary as well as building a stronger college-going culture. The process contained two parts the walkthrough itself and a self-analysis all schools did to reflect on practices and policies that support rigorous instruction and expectations for all students. The results of the study indicated that school rigorous instruction ratings developed from the process correlated moderately with measures of college readiness and college success, indicating that rigor may be able to be measured in a manner feasible within the complex everyday tasks of school administrators. The last article explores the opportunities that Kentucky schools have beginning in 2018 as the new Every Student Succeeds Act accountability system is implemented. The new policies at the federal level provide more flexibility for states define college and career readiness. Kentucky’s response has been approved and provides schools and districts opportunity to create experiences for students to allow them to show what they know and are able to do, rather than just how well they do on standardized assessments. This article focuses on suggested policy recommendations for districts to consider based on the results from article 2.