Higher Education Ph.D. Dissertations


A Case Study Exploring Urban African-Centered Charter School Personnel's Development and Support of a College-Going Ethos

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Higher Education Administration

First Advisor

Ellen Broido

Second Advisor

Patricia Kubow (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Christina Lunceford (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Sherona Garrett-Ruffin (Committee Member)


Developing college access in high schools for students from marginalized backgrounds (i.e., low socioeconomic, people of color, and first generation) is important because these students enroll in postsecondary education at lower rates than White, wealthier, and non-first-generation students. This qualitative case study examined how an African-centered charter high school 's personnel developed students ' college-going aspirations and how the school 's organization, governance, practice, mission, and curriculum transmitted and supported a college-going ethos. This study used a social constructivist paradigm to understand and interpret how African-centered personnel developed college-going aspirations within their students. The selected site was an urban public African-centered coeducational charter high school with a postsecondary education focus located in Northeastern United States. The school has excelled academically both in terms of graduation rates and postsecondary enrollment. The school 's first graduating class in 2000 reported 92.6% successfully graduated and 77% of the graduates progressed to a postsecondary destination. From 2002 to 2010, this school had 100% graduation rates and from 2004-2010, 100% of the graduates progressed to a postsecondary destination.

This study relied on active inquiry that encompassed 13 semi-structured interviews with school personnel, document analysis, and observations of professional development workshops and African-centered practices. The participants revealed that a college-going ethos was a result of all school constituents investing in the school 's educational philosophy. This site exemplified the African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child, " in its academic environment. The majority of school constituents, families, community, personnel, and alumni had a common sense of purpose: preparing their students for postsecondary education. The school 's collaborative college-going approach entailed the following: the school 's mission and vision was exemplified in all school literature, school personnel were active agents in the school 's college-going culture, and students had access to the school 's college preparation resources.

The school operated under two types of cultures: 1) the college-going culture that the personnel transmitted and supported, and 2) an African-centered culture that exposed students to the rich history, culture, and traditions of the motherland Africa. In describing a college-going culture within an African-centered environment, participants expressed the need for personnel to support students ' college-going aspirations due to the potential impact of advancing not only the individual but also the African American community as a whole. Personnel did not want students to view their racial or ethnic background as a deficit or disadvantage, but as a catalyst for academic success.

This study contributes to the scholarly community by addressing cultural dynamics within higher education and highlighting culturally relevant educational approaches. The findings provide insight into ways school personnel can adapt or revise the school 's policies and practices to ensure that the school develops and supports students ' college-going aspirations.