Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Judith Beauford


Michael Risku


David Moffett


Dorothy Ettling


This mixed methods, sequential explanatory research study evaluated the effectiveness of a comprehensive school reform program titled High Schools That Work (HSTW). High schools were tasked with having students meet passing standards on high-stakes assessments or face sanctions. This study was necessary because, as Herman et al. (2008) said, “unfortunately, the research base on effective strategies for quickly turning around low-performing schools is sparse” (p. 4). Quantitative and qualitative data were collected to determine if schools improved after the HSTW program was implemented. First, Academic Excellence Indicator System reports on Texas HSTW program schools were downloaded from the Texas Education Agency’s website. At least 3 consecutive years of data from 2005–2012 was needed. Demographic and performance data were used to determine which schools to include. Second, administrator and teacher surveys were distributed online to participants. Third, a basic interpretive and descriptive qualitative study was conducted in which 5 administrators were interviewed regarding HSTW experiences. Data from all 3 sources were linked and conclusions were drawn about HSTW implementation and its impact on students’ academic performance. Results from the study yielded positive results for the HSTW program. On average, 10th grade students’ academic performance improved in the areas of English language arts (ELA) and mathematics for all students and for subpopulations in Year 5 after implementation. Limited English proficient and economically disadvantaged subpopulations’ scores improved, but the special education subpopulation demonstrated the greatest increase. 6 of 10 HSTW key components assessed from surveying administrators and teachers included guidance, keeping score, teachers working together, academic studies, program of study, work-based learning, and students actively engaged. Administrators, teachers, and parents were committed to implementing HSTW. High levels of collaboration with peers and tri-level support (school administrators, district administrators, and HSTW staff) resulted in increased buy-in. 5 administrators were interviewed and the following themes emerged: implementation, support for implementation, change culture, structure and preplanning, monitoring and feedback, and data gathering. 4 of 5 administrators had positive experiences with implementing HSTW. Responses from interviews were similar to survey responses indicating that a high level of support and collaboration was instrumental in program effectiveness. Connecting themes revealed convergent patterns that emerged from collecting multiple forms of data. Results suggested that HSTW was an effective comprehensive school reform when implemented with fidelity. HSTW was most successful in closing achievement gaps between special education students’ average assessment scores and all students’ scores. Administrators and teachers collaborated and received tri-level support creating experiences that led to commitment to the program. Relationships fostered buy-in to implementing the program, inevitably leading to program success. Replicating the current study is feasible for evaluating the effectiveness of other Comprehensive School Reform programs.