Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Education



First Advisor

David Brell


This study examined the emergence of student voice in the school reform and intervention process, and documented what happened when a systematic effort was made by school leadership to cultivate student voice, and to engage students in a cooperative effort to change a pressing problem of educational practice, specifically the difficulties students face in their ninth-grade year. This used use Participatory Action Research (PAR) methods to merge scholarship and praxis to effect educational change, supplemented by an established pre/post quantitative survey to confirm the results of the intervention. The intent was to broaden the scope of school leadership, public scholarship, and student advocacy by engaging students in a democratic dialogue about the difficulties students experience in the ninth grade, which evidence strongly suggests is the most crucial year in K-12 schooling. Previous research has suggested that the voices of students may provide the tipping point to shift the culture and practices of high schools to be more effective for students (Cook-Sather, 2006). Therefore, a systematic attempt was made to assess and develop student voice throughout the school year. A small group of ninth grade students worked in concert with school leadership to develop a ninth-grade improvement plan. The plan was then presented to district educational policy makers for negotiation and implementation. This study documented the dialogue about the freshman experience between school personnel in positions of power and the students they are trying to serve. As mentioned, this qualitative component was supplemented by a pre/post quantitative survey, in the interest of an additional triangulation.



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