Alternative Title

Produce and achieve: a case study of inner-city education


Daryl A. Tate


Despite efforts at narrowing the achievement gap, ethnicity-based disparities in achievement are an enduring and pervasive issue in American education. Holy Angels, a high achieving, African American, urban, elementary school in Chicago, Illinois offers a model for successful education of ethnic minority children. Despite coming from predominantly welfare supported, single-mother homes, located in crime ridden inner-city Chicago, during the period bounded by this study, Holy Angels’ students produced test scores among the highest in the nation. Previous research indicates that characteristics of schools that support academic achievement particularly among ethnic minority students are high teacher expectations, academic emphasis, and culturally responsive pedagogy. This qualitative single-case study uses ecological systems theory as a framework to examine (a) the salient features of Holy Angels School during the period of 1969-1979 (including actions, events, beliefs, attitudes, social structure, and processes), and (b) how these various features interacted to result in high achievement at Holy Angels School during the period of 1969-1979. The results of semi-structured interviews of administrators, teachers, and former students and archival document analysis suggest that 3 major elements: a high expectation-high help environment, emphasis on life preparation, and iconic leadership – uniquely interwoven, were distinguishing features of Holy Angels School. This study advances our understanding of characteristics of an institution that trains high performing African American students. It is recommend that schools purposefully individualize instruction, strive to incorporate extracurricular and life-enrichment activities that create pathways for students and build meaningful connections with and between the faculty, family and community. Implications and areas for future research are discussed. It is concluded that the phenomenon of Holy Angels School circa 1969-1979 is replicable and that ecological systems theory is a powerful and nuanced framework for examining socio-historical phenomena.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Learning technologies; Middle school education -- Case studies; African American students -- Case studies; Academic achievement -- Case studies

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Davis, Kay D.;