Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education


at-risk students, Genre studies, Leadership studies, literacy, secondary schools, reading achievement, southern California, standardized testing, tracking


For the last fifty years, raising the achievement levels of students thought to be “at-risk” has proven to be one of the most difficult and vexing problems facing educators. Although many different strategies have been tried with varying levels of success, no single at-risk solution has emerged that both promotes significant achievement gains and helps to narrow the achievement gap between people of color and whites. This study examined the effectiveness of a particular district-wide literacy strategy in its first year that focused on literacy to educate students identified as “at-risk”. Specifically, this study used data gathered from two measures of reading achievement, the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT9) and the Stanford Diagnostic Reading Test (SDRT), to determine the impact that a special literacy block of classes, known as Genre Studies, had on the reading scores of 102 at risk children enrolled in a southern California secondary school. In addition to measuring the absolute success of these students, their relative success was also measured by comparing them with a matched sample of non-Genre Studies students from the previous year. Multiple regression analysis was also used to explain why some of the Genre Studies students gained more through the intervention than others. Results suggest that only a small percentage of the Genre Studies students (9%) became eligible for regular English classes as a result of the two-hour literacy block intervention. In fact, attendance, course credits, and students' need for modified curriculum all had a negative affect on the change in Genre Studies students' SDRT reading scores, whereas grade point average and Hispanic ethnicity had a positive affect on the change in the SDRT reading score. In addition, Hispanic students, and white females gained at least a year's growth in reading as a result of the intervention; Asian females gained almost a year's growth, African American females, Asian males, and white males showed a decline in their reading scores, and African American males showed no growth at all for the year. The analysis also revealed that students who took a regular, one-hour English class for a year did no worse than the Genre Studies students who participated in the two-hour literacy block class for a year. Thus, this study concludes that in at least one secondary school in southern California, the stratification of Genre Studies students into a homogeneous group was in essence, a de facto form of tracking.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access