Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Stacy Wahl


Majority of English as second language (ESL) students attending primary and secondary schools in the United States are not considered college ready despite mandated educational strategies aimed at improving language acquisition and academic performance. ESL students are more likely to drop out within the first 2 years of college than their English-speaking peers. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore educators' perspectives regarding high postsecondary attrition rates of ESL students in Middle Tennessee. Tinto's retention theory provided the framework for the study. Data collection included semistructured interviews with 6 Middle Tennessee public high school teachers and 6 Middle Tennessee college professors from 2- and 4-year public colleges. Interview data were coded and analyzed using the thematic analysis method. Findings revealed 4 major themes: language acquisition, barriers to college graduation, adverse circumstances, and academic achievement. Participants reported a desire for alignment between primary, secondary, and postsecondary education. Findings were used to develop a professional development training curriculum for secondary and postsecondary educators. The project included effective strategies to use in the classroom to increase ESL students' college readiness and college graduation rates. If implemented correctly, this project will positively impact ESL students' language acquisition and academic achievement, but it will also develop a significant professional partnership between K-12 public schools and colleges.