Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Jerita W. Whaley


Attempts to restructure public high schools by establishing separate school-within-a-school (SWS) models have not endured beyond 3 to 5 years. This qualitative case study examined a SWS that has thrived for more than 12 years. The study investigated how teachers at the school explained the success of the SWS, their experience of working at the SWS, and their resilience in addressing the challenges that led to the lack of success of other SWS schools. The theories and models of educational change developed by Fullan, Hargreaves, and Giles and Hord provided a conceptual framework for the study. Data were collected through open-ended questions in individual interviews with 8 teacher participants who each had more than 5 years of experience at the SWS. According to study results, teachers experienced the challenges that led to the closing of other SWS high schools. However, at the inception of the SWS, the leadership established a commitment to the vision of the SWS, a tradition of collaboration among the SWS teachers, and a positive reputation among parents and alumni. The faculty of the SWS maintained its commitment through multiple leadership changes, changes in school/district policies, challenges to the vision, and changes to SWS teachers' workloads and classroom assignments. Sustaining educational change depends on the strength of implementation of the change: strong leadership, stakeholder commitment to the vision, and establishment of a collaborative professional community of teachers. These results provide guidance for educational leaders attempting to implement and sustain educational change, such as the implementation of a SWS.