Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Janet Tassell (Director), Dr. Fred Carter, Dr. Jerald Thomas

Degree Program

Educational Leadership Doctoral Program

Degree Type

Doctor of Education


Secondary education in the United States has been evolving from the early days of Latin grammar schools to the present broad spectrum of high school structures. This study focuses on one of the latest types of high school models – specialized secondary schools. In particular, the intent of this study was to assess whether high ability students in one such program, the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science, demonstrate between-group differences from their high ability peers in traditional high schools in the areas of academic achievement, college readiness, and perceptions on the high school experience.

To determine whether these differences exist, data were collected from 41 students in the Gatton Academy and 267 students from 4 local high schools. The data included PLAN and ACT scores, grade point averages, responses on the Student Strengths Inventory, and the Student Perception Survey. Three phases of analysis were conducted utilizing descriptive statistics and independent t-tests that revealed some statistically significant results: differences in social comfort, relationships with peers and teachers, and perception of meaningfulness of classes. These results indicate some social and emotional issues that might need to be addressed institutionally to provide a balanced and healthy academic environment.

This study was limited by the size of the sample and its geographic narrowness. Additionally, an issue regarding the disparity of how grade point average is calculated complicated the assessment of academic achievement. Due to these limitations, further research is warranted to address these limitations by expanding the study nationally and utilizing unweighted grade point averages. Likewise, additional longitudinal research would be beneficial to see if differences occur between these two types of programs concerning college and career pathways.


Education | Educational Administration and Supervision | Gifted Education | Other Educational Administration and Supervision | Secondary Education and Teaching