Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education


adolescents, case study, counseling program, conversion high school, English language learners, personalization, principals, professional development, qualitative, reorganization, school administration, southern California, teachers, teacher certification


One of the most notable ways in which large, comprehensive high schools are working to meet the needs of the increasing numbers of English Language Learners (ELLs), and other students who may be struggling with academics, is by subdividing into smaller schools. One of the most appealing features of small schools is their emphasis on personalized instruction for students. While it takes many forms, personalizing education means knowing all students well and designing curriculum that meets their individual needs. Personalized learning environments hold enormous potential for improving the educational experiences, and even very lives, of English learners. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to examine the extent to which English Learners at a small conversion high school received personalized instruction, and the extent to which this personalization contributed to meeting students’ psychosocial and academic needs. The study focused on one small conversion high school in a large city in southern California. Of the total school enrollment of approximately 500 students, 74% are (ELLs). Data were gathered through five months of classroom observations, student and school staff interviews, and review of school records. Data analysis identified several themes, including: differing expectations about personalization on the part of teachers, the principal and students; the way in which the school structure contributes to a personalized environment, instructional strategies related to personalization and meeting the needs of ELLs in the content area classroom; an ethic of care on the part of the teacher, and professional development. Recommendations that emerged from the study focus on the need to re-evaluate teacher certification requirements, the reorganization of the school structure, the development of a counseling program designed for ELLs, and the need for relevant, ongoing professional development. This study can contribute to the limited s research available on the potential of small schools to successfully educate English Learners. The findings of this study also provide fertile territory for further exploration of many areas related to small schools, personalization, and English Learners. Potential research could contribute to what is known about teacher motivation, effective content-area instruction for ELLs, teacher training and hiring, and school organization, all within the environment of the small school.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access