Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Robert C. Flanders


English languages learners (ELLs) are the fastest-growing student population in the United States. Federal mandates, including the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015, provide guidance and resources to states and local school districts to remove barriers for ELL students. Despite guidelines from one northeastern state to increase professional development, improve metrics to assess proficiency growth, and provide family outreach to support ELLs, school leaders have not achieved this goal of raising graduation rates for ELLs so they are comparable with their non-ELL peers. This project study uses a transformational leadership framework to explore perceptions of principals, assistant principals, and district-level ELL supervisors to improve high school graduation rates for ELLs. This basic qualitative study uses semi-structured interviews to examine challenges and perceptions of eight experienced school leaders working in the three largest school communities in one northeastern state to improve graduation rates of this population. This qualitative project study involved using descriptive and thematic coding to identify 12 themes, including case management, culture and climate, community engagement, instructional strategies, language acquisition, parent engagement professional development, student motivation, and teacher self-efficacy. Study results have implications for identifying culturally responsive teaching practices to improve student learning for all students, including ELLs. Results of this qualitative study were used to recommend policies to the state ELL advisory committee to improve support for high school leaders who work with large ELL student populations throughout the state.