Document Type



Doctor of Education


Educational Practice

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Phyllis Balcerzak


Matthew Davis

Thomasina Hassler


Collective Abstract

This collective dissertation contains the efforts of two practitioners in the field of education who possess a shared vision for designing student experiences with the mission of preparing all students for success in secondary and post-secondary education. The researchers believed that by creating structural supports for students in underserved populations, these same students will increase their educational attainment and access to long-term career opportunities. With successful completion of postsecondary education and with increased career opportunities, students can improve their lives, their families’ lives and the lives of members of their community.

Many students struggled on their educational journeys from elementary, middle, high school, and throughout college. Those most affected were derived from communities that were traditionally marginalized by the American education system, including many African-American students living in poverty and first-generation college students. The researchers believed that attention should be given to building supports that address the social, academic, and financial needs of students which are necessary for students to achieve academic mastery and post-secondary educational attainment. Without strategies to support students in building new skills, nurturing their talents, and maneuvering life’s challenges, many were unable to reach these goals.

The researchers sought to find solutions to inequities experienced by underrepresented groups in the educational system by investigating the impact of interventions at two key, transition times in students’ educational experiences. The first study examined the transition to middle school with a focus on mathematics, and the second study addressed the transition to a four-year university, with attention paid to technology and efforts of increasing community cohesion. The proposed studies will explore barriers faced by students from low-income backgrounds within educational settings. The studies are uniquely connected because they will examine barriers faced by marginalized groups in education and will offer solutions to remove these barriers. This co-authored dissertation offered a unifying framework in which academic and social support practices were closely associated with an increase in academic achievement and educational attainment. Although each study within the dissertation was anchored in its own axiom of the continuum, that was the continuum of educational equity in the kindergarten through high school sector. Though the points of interest represented a diverse cluster of perspectives, experiences, and communities, a single thread connected both studies: Each study investigates the impact of Structural Supports on the Success of Students of Color in the K-16 Educational System.

By implementing and examining targeted Structural Supports, the researchers found these efforts to have a significant, positive impact on outcomes at both the middle school and post-secondary level. Through the studies, researchers saw an increase in sense of agency, self-efficacy, advocacy, and grit amongst marginalized students.