Date of Award

Fall 12-1-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

EdD Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


David B. Reid, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Richard Blissett, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jamil Maroun, Ed.D.


Small Learning Communities, Career Academies, Student Engagement, School within a School


The purpose of this study is to examine the effectiveness of high school career academies in comparison to the traditional, comprehensive high school educational program with respect to student academic achievement and student engagement in one large urban high school in Central New Jersey. It is the intent of this researcher to determine if either of the educational structures and approaches significantly impacts the achievement and engagement levels of students in the high school under investigation.

Student math and ELA state test scores and student engagement scores were analyzed using quantitative methods. To ascertain the degree of effectiveness this reform initiative has had on specific student outcomes, this study relied primarily on researched numerical data. The data for this study was obtained as secondary data provided by school administration from administrative records.

Data compared for student achievement outcomes included 9th grade ELA PARCC scores, 10th grade ELA NJSLA scores, 9th grade Math PARCC scores and 10th grade Math NJSLA scores. Student engagement levels were derived from the Student Engagement Instrument (SEI), a research-based questionnaire developed by the University of Michigan. The school administration administered the SEI to students one year before and after entering the Career Academy or the Comprehensive high school. The data utilized for this study represents two groups of students (10th grade Career Academy and 10th grade Non-Career Academy). Students’ 9th grade ELA, Math and Engagement levels were utilized as the baseline data for both groups under investigation.

The statistical analysis employed in this study (independent samples t-test and multiple regression analyses), indicates that the impact of the career academy model on student achievement is positive as compared to their non-academy counterparts. Further, the analysis revealed that Free or Reduced Lunch eligibility was the only demographic variable with a moderating effect on the impact of the Career Academy. Students eligible for free or reduced lunch experienced the greatest benefit in their math performance. However, the analysis did not show any significant differences in student engagement levels between both groups when previous performance and engagement levels were accounted for. The study determined that there is evidence to suggest that a measurable gain in achievement exists for students who participate in a career academy. Due to this analysis, it is this researcher’s contention that the career academy model has had a positive effect on student academic performance but no impact on student engagement levels within the prescribed urban high school.