Date of Award

2009

Access Restriction

Campus Access only dissertations

Degree Name

Doctorate in Education

Department

Education

School or College

School of Education

First Advisor

Thomas M. Batsis, O.Carm., Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Cecilia Duenas, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Mary K. McCulllough, Ph.D.

Abstract

Historically marginalized students (HMS), defined for the purposes of this study as Latino, African American, and English Language Learners, in low-performing and low-socioeconomic schools (those usually with a high percentage students receiving free or reduced-price lunch) have received significant attention and research over the years. However, little attention has been paid to minority students at otherwise high-performing (mostly Caucasian) schools. Research suggests an achievement gap between HMS and Caucasian and Asian students. This case study sought to identify strategies to remedy this academic achievement gap.

The focus of this study was the academic performance of HMS in a suburban setting. To better understand how a high-performing school affects academic performance by HMS, the researcher examined the classroom environment, teacher instructional strategies, leadership practices, and school support services of one such school. This study used a case study format to examine a suburban elementary charter school within an urban school district. The study specifically investigated the language arts instruction of two fourth- and two fifth-grade classrooms. These grade levels were selected due to evidence that the achievement gap begins to widen at this point in HMS school careers and continues through the 12th grade. Three data collection methods were used: (a) a document review of current fourth- and fifth-grade language arts curricula, (b) classroom observations conducted to identify teacher instructional strategies that support HMS, and (c) interviews with four teachers and two administrators after the observations.

Known strategies that have positively influenced the achievement of historically marginalized students include equitable classroom instruction, positive teacher-student relationships, culturally relevant practices, a nurturing school culture, directed teacher professional development, and strong school leadership. The study sought to identify differentiated positive classroom environments, current use of teacher instructional strategies, elements of strong leadership practices, and implementation of school support services that foster academic achievement by HMS.

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