Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Barbara Hunter


This qualitative case study addressed a suburban school district's placement of academically at-risk English language arts (ELA) 9th graders as the district transitions from the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJASK) to use of the unfamiliar and controversial Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Based on the theoretical frameworks of the zone of proximal development, cognitive apprenticeship, and Bandura's model of self-efficacy, the purpose was to understand the characteristics of struggling (labeled 'academic') ELA students, placement practices and perceptions of these practices, and placement improvements. A purposeful sample was recruited of 7 staff members involved with placement and instruction of academic ELA students in Grades 7-10 for individual interviews. Using thematic data analysis, 4 themes emerged pertaining to the characteristics of academic students, placement practices, the efficacy of assessments used for placement, and improvements. Additionally, content analysis of data on academic students' standardized test scores and grades, collected from district reports, and research on reading assessments were conducted. Findings indicated consensus on the students' characteristics, but no standard procedure for placing academic ELA freshmen. A multiple measure placement matrix was created and incorporated in a white paper for the district's stakeholders, including administrators, teachers, guidance counselors, and child study team members. The implications for positive social change include a better understanding of academic students, their placement, and the benefits of communication, uniform policy, and the use of multiple measures to improve future placement practices.