Date of Award

Fall October 2015

Access Restriction


Degree Name

Doctorate in Education



School or College

School of Education

First Advisor

Shane P. Martin

Second Advisor

Ernesto Colín

Third Advisor

Karen K. Huchting


For low-income minority and marginalized communities, American democracy’s educational mission remains unfulfilled. Student voices have provided insight into ways that schools disserve and serve students and how schools can improve in promoting academic achievement; however, academically successful low-income students’ voices—particularly those at the elementary school level—are largely excluded from the literature. Providing a platform for student voices, this qualitative, intrinsic critical case study explored six high achieving low-income students’ views of their academic success and how that success was achieved. Participants were six fifthgrade students, their parents, and teacher, in a school-wide Title I urban public school. Data were collected over a 12-week period through individual interviews, observation, participation, and semiformal conversations. Using an immersive pattern analysis, four main categories emerged from the student interview data: student beliefs about their role; classroom structures; teacher practices; and family support. The study found four principal success factors: a dynamic effort-driven view of success and intelligence; a rigorous dialogic classroom that prioritized student voice, critical thinking, collaboration, and social imagination; an accountable classroom culture of high expectations and mastery learning; and the richly diverse experiences and teachings of parents and families as valuable funds of knowledge. Implications and recommendations are included for policy, practice, and future research.