Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

Rema Reynolds, PhD,

Committee Member

Teresa Saunders, PhD

Committee Member

David Anderson, PhD

Committee Member

Celeste Hawkins, PhD


Educational equity is the most imperative civil rights issue we face today. While the demands and interjections of social movements have strengthened many practices, structures, and laws related to educational equity, the ultimate shift in the tide has yet to be fully realized. Quality education is still not fully accessible to marginalized populations, specifically Black students who are also considered low socioeconomic status. The educational system in the United States has historically imposed segregation, discrimination, and other various forms of oppression as a means to limit educational access for people of color. The results of such depravities are evidenced by the achievement gap, which is merely a symptom of a more substantial issue, the opportunity gap. The opportunity gap results in further issues that affect communities of color, specifically related to quality of life and overall level of educational attainment. Education, or the lack thereof, has major implications on communities and society as a whole. Such implications include generational poverty; increases in criminalization and incarceration rates; and a lack of opportunities for community development, business growth, and sustainable commerce. The “same old” approach to education has not, and does not, work for Black, as well as other racially and ethnically marginalized, children because the system was never designed for them to succeed. A new approach to educating our children is needed; one that is effective, equitable, and culturally relevant. This analysis will identify and define the cultural norms and values, instructional best practices, and success factors used in institutions that are successfully educating marginalized students in order to inform educators and educational pedagogues how to be successful with these students. The purpose of this study was to analyze effective practices and strategies, from a whole-school perspective, that would inform educational leaders and teachers on successfully educating African American students that are low-socioeconomic status. The data collected from 11 interviews, a focus group including three parents, and over 15 hours of participant observations, led to the development of a new theory, the E3 Strategy: Engagement, Experience, and Exposure. This strategy provides guidance and direction for district and building leaders alike.