Date Approved


Embargo Period


Document Type


Degree Name

Ed.D. Educational Leadership


Educational Leadership


College of Education

First Advisor

Meredith, Corine


Professional learning communities;Urban schools;Student activities


Elementary and Middle and Secondary Education Administration


The purpose of this action research study is to examine the use of extra-curricular activities and professional learning communities to create a school culture ready for academic change. This unique approach to implementing change, in a historically failing urban middle school, utilizes a two pronged approach focusing on personalizing strategies specific to the school based on student and staff expressed needs. The study takes place at Sonia Middle School located in the United States' fifth most dangerous and impoverished city, Bartlett, New Jersey. Numerous academic reform models have failed to improve teaching and learning. The researcher hypothesizes these programs failed because they were not designed to meet the specific needs of the Sonia community. The school community is rift with stakeholder disengagement and apathy. This is reflected in high rates of student and staff absenteeism, an increase in behavior referrals, violence, high student transfer rate, and lack of parent/guardian support. The anticipated outcome of this action research study is identification of strategies that will support and advance a cultural change designed to close the achievement gap within the Sonia's eighth grade student body. The findings may be useful to school leaders looking for approaches to personalizing school change and building capacity within their staff.