Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




JoeAnn Hinrichs



In an attempt to address persistent dropout rates and low-test scores, a high school with nearly 1,700 students in the southeastern region of the United States restructured itself into small learning communities (SLCs) in 2006 resulting in higher student achievement as based on College and Career Ready Performance Index scores. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to determine the perspectives of teachers as they experienced the SLC transformation. Guided by Piaget and Dewey's theories of constructivism, the perspectives of teachers as they experienced a successful transformation within the context of the school were investigated. The participants' prior knowledge of school reform and accountability created a purpose and meaning to the SLC implementation. The 13 participants in this study taught core academic subjects in this school before, during, and after the inception of SLCs. The collected data were coded to identify patterns and relationships from which four themes emerged: building relationships, rigorous/relevant curriculum, professional learning and interdisciplinary teaming. Findings showed that SLCs both helped improve student outcomes and faculty morale by allowing teachers to have a more active role in decision making in scheduling and deciding professional development opportunities. District or school-level administrators could use this research for positive social change by implementing SLCs to improve high school graduation rates, which could give students more postsecondary and workforce opportunities.