Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Secondary Student Achievement; Instructional Core (Elmore, 2000)

Major Advisor

Dr. Casey Cobb

Associate Advisor

Dr. Robert Villanova

Associate Advisor

Dr. Sarah Woulfin

Field of Study

Educational Leadership (Ed.D.)


Doctor of Education

Open Access

Open Access


Stagnation of Secondary Student Achievement: An examination of the Instructional Core

Joseph P. Macary

University of Connecticut, 2016

This study explored the stagnation of secondary student achievement through the examination of the instructional core. The problem of practice this study addresses is the stagnation of student achievement (as measured by CAPT - Connecticut Academic Performance Tests) at the secondary level in one comprehensive Connecticut high school. The problem of practice is rooted in the black box theory (Black & William, 1998) and explored through the instructional core (Elmore, 2000). The instructional core is comprised of the interactions among student, teacher and content. This study explored the problem of practice using four theoretical frames of adult learning, leadership, policy and social justice as outlined in the University of Connecticut doctoral program. This study's research question was "what are the educator perceptions of the barriers between the instructional core and student outcomes." The methods represent an exploratory case study that triangulates multiple sources of evidence (Yin, 2004) and uses program theory (Rodgers et al., 2000) as an analytic technique to examine the components of the instructional core. The findings determined that three barriers affected the instructional core that stagnated student achievement at the secondary level. The barriers were 1) beliefs about intelligence (teacher-student); 2) academic tasks (student-content); and 3) instructional practices (teacher-content). The implications of the four analytic frames determined issues for each: adult learning- performance; leadership- accountability; policy- resistance; and social justice- inequality. The recommendations were to formally identify the barriers within the instructional core and to create an action plan to remove those barriers within the relationships between student, teacher and content.