Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Academic Discipline

Community College Leadership


The majority of the nation’s first-year college students are not prepared to assume postsecondary level studies. Many are diverted to developmental education programs and most never attain postsecondary credentials. Educational reform is on the national agenda and challenges community colleges to address the growing lack of postsecondary achievement. The purpose of this instrumental multi-case study was to explore and analyze reformative strategies that effectively address college-readiness and achievement of underprepared community college students.

A qualitative methodology was employed in analyzing strategies implemented at community colleges to improve college-readiness. A criterion-based selection process identified six community colleges recognized by the Achieving the Dream organization as Leader Colleges in improving student success and located within systems with statewide educational policy reform. In addition, purposeful sampling was used to design a focus group of field experts to examine effective strategies and best practice criteria.

Data were collected via semi-structured interviews with Core Team Leaders who led implementation of reformative strategies at the six colleges. Collected demographic survey-data offered context and pertinent document reviews and focus group data contributed to the triangulation of evidence.

The interviews yielded insight into 18 strategies designed to improve college-readiness. Findings include descriptions, evidence of impact, factors that supported effectiveness, perceived potential for wide-scale implementation, and recommended best practices. Cross-case analyses offered aggregated comparative analysis and a disaggregated examination of ten common strategies.

Composite analyses revealed seven themes that underscore common purposes of the strategies and factors that improve effective implementation. Three common core purposes among the effective strategies include instructional reform, student engagement, and transition to college. Four thematic elements that support effective implementation of strategies include college culture, evidence of effectiveness, integrated systems, and committed leadership. A Relational Paradigm is offered that describes the multidimensional interplay between the core purposes of the strategies and the contextual factors that influence effective implementation. The Paradigm can be used to guide adaptation of strategies to fit unique college cultures. Implications for community colleges to improve college-readiness include the need for strong leadership with system-wide collaborations to create new instructional and organizational models that support student transition, engagement, and learning.