Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Genevieve Siegel-Hawley

Second Advisor

Dr. Kimberly Bridges

Third Advisor

Dr. Laura Kuti

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Kurt Stemhagen


The present study seeks to address achievement and opportunity gaps for Multilingual Learners (MLs) by studying secondary schools who have established a school culture that prioritizes ML support and success. It draws on existing literature in the fields of ML best practices, educational leadership, and school culture research to study case schools in order to distill from their lived experiences recommendation for practitioners. The author used a multiple case study methodology to delve into four case schools identified as exemplars of cultures for ML success. The author used in-depth qualitative interviews to find out if leaders in any secondary schools in Virginia report elements of a school culture that centers ML success, what they report characterizes their schools, and what transpired in those schools as that culture emerged and solidified. According to the diverse and knowledgeable participants, there are secondary schools with a school culture that centers ML support and success in Virginia. They are characterized by common elements such as a welcoming environment, frequent interactions between MLs and their peers, teamwork, strong leadership, high expectations and collective ownership of MLs education from the whole school. Additional elements that seem to be a factor are the use of scheduling for inclusion and creative pathways for MLs, a family-like school feel, innovative programming, community outreaching and an emphasis on fun and laughter in this serious work. Participants point to leadership--particularly transformational, distributed, and flexible leadership--as a factor in how these school cultures emerged, but also that it happened via a process where proximity to MLs and experience led to confidence and success. Future research should expand from this exploratory study by expanding the scope, adding quantitative methods or development grounded theory based on the findings from this work.


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