Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Cynthia Reyes



The acquisition and operationalization of literacy are of critical importance to all learners. The use of literacy and language abilities including reading and writing as well as critical thinking and communication are essential to accessing one’s human and civil rights (Goodwin & Jiménez, 2019). Because the acquisition of these skills and abilities does not always happen with automaticity or in the same way for all students, public schools are asked to provide layers of comprehensive support for students in their literacy learning. Since the reinstatement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 2004, state and federal educational policies have asserted the implementation of tiered support systems, such as the Multitiered Systems of Supports (MTSS), to promote academic and behavioral success as well as equitable access to education. Despite the promise of MTSS in service of literacy learning, many education stakeholders struggle to effectively implement MTSS in secondary settings. In addition, the empirical literature regarding MTSS implementation in service of literacy learning at the secondary level is limited. This implementation challenge is exacerbated by the growing presence of foundational literacy struggles carried by some adolescents that often compound and tangle as students mature into their middle and high school years. While both elementary and secondary school settings rely on clear policy framing, competent leadership, and collective efficacy for literacy success within a MTSS systems design, these settings often differ in their structure, pedagogy, and practice (King et al., 2012). Confusion around MTSS has a dire impact on students’ abilities to access literacy education, allowing for the pervasive intellectual oppression of future generations with notably disproportionate effects on learners marginalized by race, ethnicity, poverty, and ability (Fein et al., 2020; Morningstar et al., 2018). Through sociocultural and Critical Race Theory (CRT) paradigms, the experiences and perspectives of teachers and leaders who work in predominantly white settings are examined through a multi case qualitative study to reveal strengths, barriers and opportunities regarding equitable secondary literacy learning in an MTSS framework. This study operationalizes a multimethod approach through a systematic review of the literature along with both multiple and critical case studies. The systematic review portion explores empirical literature from across the nation and the case study analyses examine perceptions and experiences of educators from a rural New England state with a predominantly white population and diverse economic demographics. Findings from this study indicate that a highly functioning, sociocultural and CRT lensed MTSS system is essential to the cultivation of a liberatory education environment that promotes the development of comprehensive literacy learning for all students.



Number of Pages

304 p.

Available for download on Wednesday, April 19, 2023