Jason Viloria


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to determine the common programs and practices that Beating the Odds (BTO) high schools in California are using to achieve high graduation rates. More specifically, this study identifies specific programs and practices that the high schools are using to address at-risk student behaviors as well as what the principals perceive as the most effective program or practice that has helped the schools achieve their respective high graduation rate. This qualitative nonexperimental study collected interview data from 9 high school principals who were identified as BTO school leaders by the American Institute of Research (AIR). The AIR study investigated the types of transition programs being utilized by BTO schools and their feeder middle schools while this study investigated specific programs and practices used at the high schools to address at-risk students. The 9 high school principals were interviewed using a semistructured protocol that included questions related to this study as well as the AIR study. This study identified 7 practices and programs that helped BTO schools achieve their graduation rates. These included (a) the use of data, (b) strong remediation programs, (c) strong academic supports, (d) a strong counseling model, (e) strong connections to school, (f) high expectations for all students, and (g) the development of a strong professional learning community. The findings of this study concluded that the 3 most important programs and practices for schools designated BTO were the effective use of data, the development of credit remediation programs, and the development of academic support programs. Furthermore, it was determined that the practice that was identified as the single most important practice was the connection and engagement of students in the school, either through specific activities or a strong counseling program. Lastly, it was concluded that current budgetary constraints are creating substantial challenges for schools that are working to beat the odds and the future is bleak in California with regard to school funding.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Educational leadership, administration, and policy; Education, Secondary -- Curricula -- California; School improvement programs -- California; Educational change -- California; Teenagers with social disabilities -- Education

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Purrington, Linda;