Paper Type

Doctoral Dissertation


College of Education and Human Services

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


Leadership, School Counseling & Sport Management

NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Leadership, School Counseling & Sports Management

First Advisor

Dr. Francis E. Godwyll

Second Advisor

Dr. Warren A. Hodge

Third Advisor

Dr. Christopher A. Janson

Fourth Advisor

Dr. JeffriAnne Wilder

Department Chair

Dr. Francis E. Godwyll

College Dean

Dr. Marsha Lupi


Secondary Education reform efforts have focused on perpetual achievement gaps for more than a decade, highlighting the essence of state level standardized test scores in reading and math, among diverse student groups in relation to their white peers. The reauthorization of ESEA (2013), is a reform effort described as the Student Success Act, whereby the expectation of student success is described in terms of all students graduating from high school, both college and career ready. The concept of no child left behind remains at the base of the law, which designates federal funds for education programs designed to ensure equal access to educational opportunities for all students regardless of their demographics. In the 21st century, a major challenge of secondary school reform efforts is to guarantee equal access while supporting overall student success in accelerated learning environments.

The major purpose of this study was to explore the perceptions of African American high school students’ on their experiences of success in accelerated learning programs, including Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE), Advanced Program (AP), and International Baccalaureate (IB). Other key interest areas of influence on their perceptions of success included academic efficacy, ethnic identity awareness, and future aspirations.

The theoretical frameworks of Bandura’s social cognitive theory (1986), Erikson’s (1968) identity development theory, McClelland’s (1961) human motivation theory, Benard’s (1993) resiliency theory, and Phinney’s ethnic identity development model (1992) framed this research study. Using a qualitative design, in-depth interviews were conducted to obtain thick, rich, detailed materials to gain a deep understanding of the self-concepts, beliefs, and views of how African American high school students think about key influences on their success in accelerated learning programs.

Data analysis applying a thematic approach through an inductive and interactive systematic process of data coding and analysis generated themes regarding knowledge strengths, academic and cultural diversity, resource systems, stereotypical expectations, future focused, commitment to give back to the community, and networking for progress. Implications for secondary education policy makers include the need for a more comprehensive resource system, to address opportunity gaps in accelerated learning programs, and expectations gaps in the preparedness of diverse students for college and careers. Understanding African American high school students’ experiences of success may assist in fostering an environment of wholeness and inclusion, in turn possibly leading to a full health approach to student success, including the physical, psychological, mental, and spiritual/inspirational aspects of human development for optimal learning and increased academic and overall life success among African American high school students and all diverse student groups.