Education Doctorate

Year Approved


First Advisor

Reimer, Tracy


Spanish speaking English Language Learners (ELLs) represent a large and rapidly growing student population. Although many Hispanic/Latino ELL students are at risk for academic failure, Hispanic/Latino students who attend Catholic schools are more likely than their public school peers to graduate from both high school and college. The purpose of this study was to investigate the potential role that student validation plays within the academic, cultural, and spiritual practices that lead to Hispanic/Latino ELL student academic achievement in Catholic high schools. The researcher performed on-site observations, document analysis, as well as interviews and focus groups at a culturally diverse, high performing, urban Catholic high school. Nineteen faculty and staff members from the school participated in the study. Focus groups and interviews were transcribed, coded, and analyzed for themes. One overarching theme was identified as the main reason for this schools’ consistent success with on-time graduation and college acceptance among their Hispanic/Latino ELL students. That overarching theme was identified as care for the whole student. This overarching theme was upheld by two secondary themes which included practical support structures and relationship building. Five subcategories that uphold the overarching theme and its secondary themes were identified as academic supports, cultural practices, spiritual supports, student validation, and college and career readiness support. Additional research that examines the “whole student” approach at more Catholic high schools and public schools is recommended. In addition, Catholic high school educators and administrators are encouraged to review the care for the whole student practices that St. Benedict Catholic High School performs (as identified in this study) and consider implementing appropriate practices within their own schools.

Degree Name

Education Doctorate

Document Type

Doctoral dissertation