Running head: CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 1
Hope as Strategy:
Initial Actions in Reforming a District’s Course of Study to Clarify Pathway.
An Action Research Special Interest Group Paper
America Educational Research Association Annual Meeting 2018
Shawn Thomas Loescher
ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 2
There is a growing body of literature on the application of Hope Theory (HT; Snyder,
2002) to advance student achievement in schools. The purpose of this multi-cycle, mixed-
methods, action research study was to continue exploratory investigations on positive goal
formation and examine a district-wide innovation to reduce pathway complexity. Qualitative
methods included document analysis and interviews of district officials and a school site
principal (n = 4). Quantitative methods were utilized to examine the district Course of Study.
Results included four qualitative themes and a reduction in systems complexity. Scientific
significance included how practitioners can utilize action research and theoretical frameworks at
the district level as means of organizational improvement in the pursuit of educational excellence
for all students.
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 3
Objectives and Purpose
Action research (AR) is a reflexive and cyclical process (Branbury, 2015; Mertler, 2014).
This study built upon my previous cycles of AR and studied the introduction of my first district
level innovation to clarify pathway as an aspect of Hope Theory (HT; Snyder, 2002). In my
reconnaissance cycle, I conducted document analysis of district and state documents and found
that course offerings and policies may not meet the intent of the district strategic plan. In Cycle
0, I continued my document analysis and conducted interviews to identify problems of practice
for future cycles of AR. In this cycle, my study had four primary objectives: (a) to extend my
exploratory critical inquiry; (b) to introduce Participatory Action Research (PAR) as a
communication strategy for change; (c) to utilize quantitative techniques to support a reduction
in systems complexity; and (d) to inform future cycles of my AR.
Purpose and positionality. The purpose of my Cycle 1 was to address a practical
problem of practice while extending my exploratory critical inquiry. The problem of practice was
that systems complexity at the district level may have been obscuring a clear pathway to post-
secondary success and preparation for college and career. I found that the Course of Study
(CoS) had not been updated in over a decade (USD CoS, 2015) and therefore had information
that may have been obscuring the HT concept of pathway. In California, the CoS is a legal
document containing all course offerings and sequencing of the district (CA EDC § 51040,
2016). Outdated information may lead to systems complexity resulting in scheduling and
reporting errors with in the student information systems. In this study, I was a district executive
overseeing educational innovations and reported directly to the superintendent (USD Report
Chart, 2016). In meeting with the superintendent, it was agreed that the CoS would be the focus
of an innovation for this research cycle.
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 4
The innovation. The introduction of an innovation has been described as a
communications process (Hall & Hord, 2015; Rogers 2003). To reform the secondary school
CoS, I established a Curriculum Advisory Committee (CAC; n = 10) under my direction. My
CAC was a governance structure that was charged with overseeing all aspects of the CoS. I
utilized a PAR format with the CAC to increase communication structures. This innovation was
implemented to clarify elements of pathway (Snyder, 2002). The CAC conducted an audit and
review of the CoS to recommend initial and follow-up actions.
Research Questions. I developed two research questions for my study. The first question
was in support of my ongoing critical inquiry and the second was developed to examine the
actions of the CAC.
RQ 1: What were the perceptions of post-secondary student preparedness as
expressed through graduation requirements?
RQ 2: How, and to what extent, might the CoS be a barrier to establishing
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 5
Theoretical Perspective and Framework
Theories may be mental models that guide our assumptions and influence our data
collection, analysis, and interpretation. A theoretical perspective is a philosophical disposition
that guides the logic and assumption of the researcher (Crotty, 1998). The theoretical perspective
should align with the methodology, methods, and research questions (Koro-Ljungberg, Yendol-
Hoppey, Smith, & Hayes, 2009; Crotty, 1998). I have summarized my theoretical alignment
guiding my study in Table 1 (see Appendix A).
To examine the complexity of the systems we are subjected to, I adopted
Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory (EST; 1994; 1977) for this study. As a model of
child and human development, EST has been widely used in studying learning environments
(Burns, Warmbold, & Zaslofsky, 2015; Wicks & Warren, 2013; Brendtro, 2006). In EST, there
are five nested systems that are situated in proximal processes to the individual (Bronfenbrenner,
1994; 1977). From innermost to outermost these are microsystems, mesosystems, exosystems,
macrosystems, and chronosystems (Appendix B).
Hope has been described as an ontological requirement for educators working in
communities of poverty (Freire, 2014; 2011). There is a growing body of research that suggests
that hope is an important factor in student academic achievement (McCoy & Bowen, 2015;
Lopez, 2013; Webb, 2013; Bullough & Hall-Kenyon, 2012; Lopez& Calderon, 2011; Duncan-
Andrade, 2009). However, hope on its own does not provide a mechanism for praxis (Freire,
2011; 1970). Hope Theory (HT, Snyder, Rand, & Sigmon 2005) is the operationalization of hope.
HT has three interacting elements: (a) goal setting, (b) pathway thinking, and (c) agency thinking
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 6
My theoretical model of how HT may interact with EST is summarized in Table 2 (see
Appendix D). I argue that HT holds promise in navigating EST to break cycles of oppression
that are nested and institutionalized within our society. In my model, goal formation may occur
and interact with each of the ecological systems. However, sub-goals manifest themselves in
different ways in the other system levels. Pathway and agency thinking may also span across
EST. From broadly based belief system at the lowest levels of proximal process, to those
involved in setting daily goals at the highest levels of proximal process in the classroom, each of
the environmental systems have a process for pathway and agency thinking.
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 7
Methods and Data Sources
This study was a concurrent multi-strand mixed-methods AR design (Ivankova, 2015). A
planning table guided my work (Appendix E). The quantitative portion of this study was
conducted on data retrieved from the SIS. Comprehensive high school principals (n = 3) were
the focus of new interview requests in one participating. For my analysis I added the new
interview to those of senior district administrators (n = 3) from my cycle 0 study which utilized
the same interview questions.
Context, setting, and participants. The Unified School District (USD) of this study was
in a metropolitan area in Southern California. It was comprised of 23 schools serving
approximately 19,500 students and 2,000 employees (USD Staffing Report, 2015). The district
served a student body that was 78% Hispanic/Latina/o, 11% White, 5% Asian, and 4% African
American. For the 2015-2016 school year, 81% of students were considered high needs
(Dataquest, 2015). American Community Survey (2012) data indicated that 22.5% of the local
adult population did not completed high school.
The settings of this AR were the offices and conference of the participants. Participants in
the qualitative study (n = 4) had high school principal experience. Appendix F outlines the
composition of the CAC (n = 10). This was a district approved AR study (Appendix G) and
participants were paid employees that participated during work hours.
Data sources. Data gathered in an AR study should address a local phenomenon
(Creswell, 2015) and be used to initiate change (Miller, 2011). In a concurrent multi-strand
mixed methods study, data analysis is conducted separately and then combed to create meta-
inferences (Ivankova, 2015). Data collection and analysis was conducted throughout the study.
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 8
Validity of findings was increased using member checks, triangulation, and critical friends
Qualitative data collection consisted of interviews that utilized six questions (Appendix
H). I transcribed all interviews (n = 4). Data analysis was conducted using a constructivist
grounded theory approach (Saldaña, 2016; Charmaz, 2014). I used HyperRESEARCH during
initial coding in support of developing analytics memos and axial categories. From these
categories I developed themes.
Quantitative data collection to guide the actions of the CAC was extracted from the SIS.
This extraction was comprised of 25 variable fields from the 1,750 course numbers within the
SIS. Data analysis to guide the actions of the CAC included sorting, duplicate cases reviews, and
descriptive statistics (Green & Salkind, 2014). For this study, the CAC used Excel and I used
SPSS to validate information.
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 9
Analysis of information from the SIS provided insights to guide the actions of the CAC.
Sorting the information began with identifying active and inactive courses which I have
summarized in Table 4 (see Appendix I). All courses that were found to be inactivate were voted
for removal from the CoS. Next, data was analyzed of the remaining courses (n = 987) to look at
course numbers that students had not been enrolled in in the last five years which I have
summarized in Table 5 (Appendix J). These courses were examined by a CAC sub-committee
and were recommended for removal from the CoS.
Our opening actions recommended the removed a total of 1,124 course numbers, a
reduction of 64.8%. The remaining enrolled active courses (n = 615) were analyzed in SPSS for
duplicative course names (n = 78) and sorted into courses within the grade span 9-12 (n = 427).
These courses were sorted for college preparatory status (n = 196) and then sent for future
review by curriculum specialist. The remaining non-college preparatory course numbers (n =
231) were to be reviewed by the CAC in a future cycle.
Qualitative data analysis of the interviews (n = 4) generated 84 initial gerund codes
(Charmaz, 2017). Analytic memos supported the development of six axial codes (Appendix K).
Using the constant comparative method (Charmaz, 2014) I developed three themes: (a) current
graduation requirements neither align to the intent of the strategic plan of the district nor do
they systematically support student post-secondary success; (b) district systems and policies can
support raising adult school site expectations, but are not a requirement for doing so; and (c) the
knowledge and beliefs of adults working at schools are critical to setting expectations and
guiding students to meet their fullest potential (Appendix L).
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 10
I met my four objectives by: (a) developing three qualitative themes to extend my
exploratory critical inquiry; (b) introducing PAR as a communication and change strategy; (c)
providing quantitative findings to guide actions; and (d) collecting data to inform future areas for
AR. My study suggests three areas for future cycles of AR: (1) the introduction of an innovation
to address positive goal setting; (2) an exploratory phase of research to examine agency thinking;
and (3) making continued revisions to the CoS to further clarify pathway. Here I argue that this
study has three primary areas of scholarly significance: (a) the use of AR and PAR at the district
level to implement and guide innovations; (b) practitioner use of theoretical models; and (c) the
importance of an aligned theoretical perspective.
In educational setting AR has been represented by scholars as being a means of
instructional improvement at the classroom level (Ivankova, 2015; Mertler, 2014; Mills, 2011).
This study used AR and PAR as systematic means for organization development at the district
level and to communicate changes to stakeholders. The act of initiating a change process may
raise the concern levels (Hall & Hord, 2015) within the system. The innovation of the CAC had
unanimous agreement for the reduction over 68% of the CoS and provided direction for the
In my study, I proposed a theoretical model whereby HT was utilized as a ground level
change theory to span the system theory of EST. In a review of the literature and through
theoretical modeling, I created a system that provided an ongoing mechanism to support my AR
and guide my actions. The focus of this cycle of action was based upon the HT concept of
pathway while my exploratory aspects of AR looked at goal formation and agency thinking. This
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 11
created a systematic approach to deconstruct and examine district level barriers to student
Finally, in this study I have presented an aligned theoretical perspective as recommended
by scholars (Koro-Ljungberg et al., 2009; Crotty, 1998). This philosophical framework aligned
with my systems theory of EST, change theory of HT, and my educational philosophy of
Reconstructivism (Gutek, 2004). This framework provided me with a clear and grounded thought
process that focused on the creation of systems that would emphasize a “re-solving” process
(Rittel & Webber, 1973, p. 160) while using AR as my method for praxis. In this way, AR
provided an apparatus that bridged the two definitions of ontology, whereby we can accept our
current state as one of being (Crotty, 1998) while we engage in praxis (Freire, 2014; 2011) that
focuses on becoming (Gray, 2013).
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 12
American Community Survey (2012). Three-year Estimates. Information retrieved on June 30,
2014 from www.factfinder2.census.gov.
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The SAGE Handbook of action Research (3ed) (pp. 1-9). London, UK: SAGE
Publications, Ltd. doi: 10.4135/9781473921290
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Reclaiming Children and Youth, 15(3), 162-166.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1977). Toward an experimental ecology of human development. American
Psychologist, 32(7), 513-531.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1994). Ecological models of human development. Readings on the
Development of Children, 2, 37-43.
Bullough Jr., R. V., & Hall-Kenyon, K. M. (2012). On Teacher Hope, Sense of Calling, and
Commitment to Teaching. Teacher Education Quarterly, 39(2), 7-27.
Burns, M. K., Warmbold-Brann, K., & Zaslofsky, A. F. (2015). Ecological Systems Theory in
School Psychology Review. School Psychology Review, 44(3), 249-261.
CA EDC § 51040, 2016. Retrieved on November 29, 2016 from http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/
Charmaz, C. (2014). Constructing Grounded Theory (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE
Charmaz, K. C. (2017). The power of Constructivist Grounded Theory for critical inquiry.
Qualitative Inquiry, 23(1), 34-45. doi: 10.1177/1077800416657105Creswell, J. W.
(2015). Educational research: Planning, conducting and evaluating quantitative and
qualitative research (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 13
Creswell, J. W. (2015). Educational research: Planning, conducting and evaluating quantitative
and qualitative research (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
Crotty, M. (1998). The foundations of social research: Meaning and perspective in the research
process. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Ltd.
Dataquest. (2015). California Department of Education. Information retrieved on November 28,
2015 from http://dq.cde.ca.gov/dataquest/
Duncan-Andrade, J. M. R. (2009). Note to educators: Hope required when growing roses in
concrete. Harvard Educational Review, 79(2), 181-194.
Freire, P. (1970). Cultural action and conscientization. Harvard Education Review 40(3), 452-
Freire, P. (2014). Pedagogy of hope: Reliving pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY:
Freire, P. (2011). Pedagogy of the oppressed (30th anniversary edition). New York, NY:
Gray, D. E. (2013). Doing research in the real world. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications,
Green, S. B., & Salkind, N. J. (2010). Using SPSS for Windows and Macintosh: Analyzing and
understanding data (7th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.
Gutek, G. L. (2004). Philosophical and ideological voices in education. New York, NY:
Hall, G. E., & Hord, S. M. (2015). Implementing change: Patterns, principles, and potholes (4th
ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 14
Ivankova, N. V. (2015). Mixed methods applications in action research: From methods to
community action. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Ltd.
Koro-Ljungberg, M., Yendol-Hoppey, D., Smith, J., & Hayes, S. (2009). (E)pistemological
awareness, instantiation of methods, and uninformed methodological ambiguity in
qualitative research projects. Educational Researcher, 38(9), 687-699. doi: I0.3102/00
Lopez, S. J. (2013). Making hope happen in the classroom. The Phi Delta Kappan, 95(2), 19-22.
Lopez, S. J., & Calderon, V. (2011). Gallup Student Poll: Measuring and promoting, what is
right with students, in S. I. Donaldson, M. Csikszentmihalyi, & J. Nakamura (eds.)
Applied positive psychology: Improving everyday life, schools, work, health, and society,
pp. 117-134. New York, NY: Routledge.
McCoy, H., & Bowen, E. A. (2015). Hope in the social environment: Factors affecting future
aspirations and school self-efficacy for youth in urban environments. Child and
Adolescent Social Work Journal, 32(2), 131-141. doi: 10.1007/s10560-014-0343-7.
Mertler, C. A. (2014). Action research: Improving schools and empowering educators (4th ed.).
Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Ltd.
Mills, G. E. (2011). Action research: A guide for the teacher researcher (4th ed.). Boston, MA:
Rittel, H. W., & Webber, M. M. (1973). Dilemmas in a general theory of planning. Policy
Sciences, 4(2), 155-169.
Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.). New York, NY: The Free Press.
Saldaña, J. (2016). The coding manual for qualitative researchers (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA:
SAGE Publications, Ltd.
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 15
Snyder, C. R., Rand K. L., & Sigmon (2005). Hope Theory: A member of the positive
psychology family. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.) The Handbook of Positive
Psychology (pp. 257-276). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Snyder, C. R. (2002). Hope Theory: Rainbows in the mind. Psychological Inquiry, 13(4), 249–
USD Course of Study. (2015). Retrieved on November 3, 2015 from district records. Public
USD Report Chart (2016). Retrieved online on September 15, 2016. Public Record.
USD Staffing Comparisons. (2015). Email Attachment: AUSD management staffing
comparisons.pptx. Unified School District email archives. Retrieved on September 15,
2016 from district records. Public Record.
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An ecological systems approach. American Behavioral Scientist, 58(6), 738-754.
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 16
THEORETICAL ALIGNMENT OF RESEARCH
Theoretical Alignment of my Research
Notes. CoS = Course of Study.
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 17
ECOLOGICAL SYSTEMS THEORY REPRESENTATION
Figure 1. Nested diagram of the five EST environmental systems
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 18
HOPE THEORY REPRESENTATION
Figure 2. The interactions of Goal, Pathway, and Agency in HT.
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 19
THEORETICAL MODEL OF HOPE THEORY
TO SPAN ECOLOGICAL SYSTEMS THEORY
My Theoretical EST and HT Model
High School Graduation
Graduating Knowing What Is Next,
Belief in a Better Future
College and/or Career
Knowing the Difference,
Commitment to Positive Goal
Course of Study,
Grade Point Average
Commitment to School Work
High Scores for Assignments
Skills to Complete Assignments,
Motivation to Do Well
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 20
ACTION RESEARCH CYCLE/WEEKLY PLAN TABLE
Action research plan for Cycle 1.
Action in Course of Study
• Conduct policy analysis, document
analysis, and what
• Issue recruitment and retention letters
(n = 4), generation of initial themes
• First review of the Student
• Continue interviews
• Action to be taken by Course of
Study (CoS) review team
• Issue recruitment and retention letters
(n = 4)
• Selection of team to review
targeted areas of the CoS
• Conduct first series of interviews
• Transcribe interviews (n = 4)
• Disseminate meeting materials
• Conduct second series of interview
• Transcribe interview
• First committee review of Course
• Conduct final series of interview
• Transcribe interview
• Second Committee review of
Course of Study
• Committee forms first action
• Code transcriptions
• Develop memos
• Make formal recommendations to
• Develop themes
• Review new artifact data and
compare to previous artifact data
on the COS
• Develop next actions to be taken
7 - 8
• Reflections and formal write up
• Reflections and formal write up
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 21
CURRICULUM ADVISOR COMMITTEE CHARTER
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 22
UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT APPROVAL OF STUDY
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 23
1. To what extent do you believe that current district graduation requirements are
philosophically aligned with the strategic plan? Please explain.
2. What role do you believe graduation requirements may play in setting expectations for what
it means to fostering hope for a better life after graduating from school? Can you give a
specific example from your experience?
3. Do you believe that there are disconnects between the coursework provided to students and
what they need to be a success after graduating from high school? Please explain.
4. What barriers prevent students from meeting graduation and/or UC “a-g” requirements?
5. What current school-based factors do you believe help students stay on track for graduation
and/or to meet UC “a-g” requirements? What new school-based factors do you believe could
further help students stay on track?
6. Is there anything that you would like to add about your observations about district graduation
requirements, student preparedness, and student expectations?
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 24
COURSE FREQUENCY REPORT ACTIVE VERSUS INACTIVE
Course number frequency analysis: Active versus inactive.
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 25
COURSE FREQUENCY REPORT FOR ENROLLMENT
Course number frequency analysis: Courses not enrolled in for the last five years.
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 26
GERUND CODES AND AXIAL CATEGORIES
Acknowledged Disconnections group
Acknowledging organizational goals code Acknowledged Disconnections
Acknowledging disconnections code Acknowledged Disconnections
Adding requirements code Acknowledged Disconnections
Asking for clarification code Acknowledged Disconnections
Changing of the guard code Acknowledged Disconnections
Expressing nostalgia code Acknowledged Disconnections
Fostering low expectations code Acknowledged Disconnections
Getting confused code Acknowledged Disconnections
Relinquishing ownership code Acknowledged Disconnections
Belief Systems group
Addressing higher order change code Belief Systems
Caring matters code Belief Systems
Changing belief systems code Belief Systems
Developing mindset code Belief Systems
Educating parents code Belief Systems
Fostering hope code Belief Systems
Including stakeholders code Belief Systems
Involving parents code Belief Systems
Raising awareness code Belief Systems
Raising expectations code Belief Systems
Understanding equity code Belief Systems
Becoming college ready code Coursework
Developing literacy code Coursework
Grading on opinions code Coursework
Grading practices code Coursework
Developing soft skills code Coursework
Developing units’ code Coursework
Dishonoring non-university pathway code Coursework
Including certificate programs code Coursework
Lacking standards code Coursework
Limiting curriculum code Coursework
Not meeting rigor code Coursework
Not preparing students code Coursework
Preparing students for the past code Coursework
Providing relevant connections code Coursework
Struggling with career readiness code Coursework
Known Issues group
Identifying expectation gaps code Known Issues
Identifying impacts to status quo code Known Issues
Identifying inequities code Known Issues
Identifying known issues code Known Issues
Identifying pathway code Known Issues
Identifying set-backs code Known Issues
Identifying social capital code Known Issues
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 27
Identifying social barriers code Known Issues
Identifying solutions code Known Issues
Labeling students code Known Issues
Lacking knowledge code Known Issues
Lacking systems code Known Issues
Maintaining the status quo code Known Issues
Messaging low expectations code Known Issues
Remediating courses code Known Issues
Policy and Operations group
Bridging policy to reality code Policy and Operations
Misaligning with mission/vision code Policy and Operations
Monitoring for grades code Policy and Operations
Providing equitable opportunities code Policy and Operations
Resourcing restrictions code Policy and Operations
Using graduation requirements code Policy and Operations
School Site Culture group
Becoming inclusive code School Site Culture
Championing students code School Site Culture
Connecting resources code School Site Culture
Connecting with school code School Site Culture
Counseling code School Site Culture
Developing competitiveness code School Site Culture
Developing culture code School Site Culture
Developing positive goals code School Site Culture
Developing programs code School Site Culture
Developing relationships code School Site Culture
Facilitating learning code School Site Culture
Finding success code School Site Culture
Learning communities code School Site Culture
Maintaining focus code School Site Culture
Making connections code School Site Culture
Mentoring of student’s code School Site Culture
Motivating students code School Site Culture
Providing interventions code School Site Culture
Providing planning time code School Site Culture
Reviewing a-g requirements code School Site Culture
Scaffolding for student’s code School Site Culture
Setting expectations code School Site Culture
Supervising students code School Site Culture
Supporting friends code School Site Culture
Teaching matters code School Site Culture
Tracking students code School Site Culture
Training teachers code School Site Culture
Weeding out students code School Site Culture
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 28
AN OVERVIEW OF THEME DEVELOPMENT
Current graduation requirements neither align to the intent of the strategic intent of
the district nor do they systemically support student post-secondary success. This finding
was supported in answers given to questions one, two, and three. Responses fell within the
categories of acknowledging disconnections and known issues. For example, Interviewee 2
stated the “knowledge and beliefs of adults working at schools are critical to setting expectations
and guiding students to meet their fullest potential.” Interviewee 4 commented that in the
development of the strategic plan that he/she did not know “to what degree they looked at
graduation requirements” and went on to explain that if there was any alignment it would have
been by “chance.” Interviewee 1 stated that “the current district graduation requirements are not
well aligned with the current values, mission, vision, and district strategies.” All four
interviewees noted that this misalignment was likely due to process gap in the development of
the strategic plan. However, one interviewee stated that this part of a strategic process with the
development of new graduation requirements represented a “second order change” to be
addressed in the future.
Several of the interviewees felt that the graduation requirements were representative of
different philosophical positions and a different era. All four interviewees generated a gerund
code of “changing of the guard” representing the change of administrative direction and
expectations of current administrations. There was an agreement that there were several areas
that were represented in the categories of known issues that lead to students not being positioned
for post-secondary success. Interviewee 4 stated that there should be attention focused on
“service components” and systemic implementation of the district “10-year plan.” Interviewee 2
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 29
acknowledged the coursework category in stating that “there is a paradigm shift in what is
happening in what needs to be successful in career” and supported this statement by saying “the
coursework is the biggest indicator that we struggle because we are stuck perhaps, often times, in
coursework that was successful for us and our generation that has since left us.” Interviewee 1
stated that “things have changed so dramatically in the past 15 or 20 years” and felt that the
district graduation requirements needed to be updated. Interviewee 3 felt that the graduation
requirements were low and stated that “the expectations are not as high as they should be.”
District system and policies can support raising adult school site expectations but
are not a requirement for doing so. Questions two, three, and four were used in developing this
theme. The categories of school site culture, policy and operations, and known issues were
represented in the development. This was supported in Interviewee 1 stating that “I think that
even with our graduation requirements not being as rigorous and strong as I think they should be,
I don’t know that really has limited any of the kids from being successful, in terms of their own
personal expectation.” Interviewee 4 felt that the school site should develop systems for
supporting higher expectations and expressed that students “in a pathway or academy” would
“have the best chance to stay on track for graduation and meet” college entrance requirements.
Interviewee 2 felt “I think that beyond the graduation requirements setting the expectations for
success, it is the people that we are there championing causes for our students.” Interviewee 3
said, “I think there is a disconnect between the students and the expectation of graduating
because the curriculum is not meeting the rigor as they graduate from high school.”
Each of these statements was in support of systems and policies that could be conducted
at the district level but were fully within the capacity of the schools to control. For example,
while the district has recommended curriculum, it does not have mandated curriculum with
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 30
schools free to choose from approved coursework. Pathway and academy development is the
prerogative of the school site to develop. Graduation requirements represent baseline standards
and schools are free to establish higher expectation levels. Interviewee 1 shared from his/her
time as a principal that often there are unintended messages of low expectations that are sent to
students in what a school offers. She/He stated:
None of that had anything to do with graduation requirements, what that had to do with
was the message that our school was sending to the kids that we expected less of them so
therefore we did not need to offer more AP courses because clearly, we probably didn’t
have any kids that would do well in them.
The knowledge and beliefs of adults working at schools are critical to setting
expectations and guiding students to meet their fullest potential. This theme was supported
by answers given to questions three, four, five, and six. The answers fell within the categories of
school site culture, coursework, and belief systems. Interviewee 4 shared his/her own personal
story of belief system break through:
it wasn't until I truly realized that it is much better for you to be exposed to that rigor and
be exposed to those expectations, and then us put scaffolding in place to help you to stay
"a-g" eligible . . . you are going to do better in college and you’re going to stay in that "a-
g" track. And so, it was a huge big kind of aha, big awakening for me because under that
old belief, that "oh no," that elitist kind of belief.
Interviewee 2 stated “I think that students will be as prepared as we prepare them” and
shared that in her/his educational journey it was school counseling that had made the difference.
There was also an acknowledgement that knowledge of what is required to be a success outside
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 31
of school needed to be addressed. Interviewee 3 stated “I think that is a fair assumption when
you talk with any teacher I don’t think they can tell you what it takes to graduate.”
CLARIFYING PATHWAY TO FACILITATE HOPE THEORY 32
IRB APPROVAL OF STUDY