Date of Award

Fall 2007

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Curriculum, Instruction, and Leadership

First Advisor

Lawrence Leonard


The purposes of this study were to explore three rural Louisiana PK-12 schools with high percentages of minority and high poverty populations and to examine how activities, conditions, events, policies, and procedures in these schools might be associated with their consistent growth in School Performance Scores across the period 2001-2005. Qualitative data were collected from individual interviews, researcher observations, focus groups, and analyses of school documents. Constant comparison theory was used to triangulate data across the three schools and to identify emerging themes and patterns common to all schools. The study was one of mixed methods; most of the data were collected using qualitative methods but quantitative data were used to describe teacher quality.

Several themes emerged that appeared to have had a positive effect on student achievement in the three schools including (a) a focus on testing and test preparation, (b) strong informal communication between parents and schools in all three schools, (c) culturally responsive teaching in two schools, and (d) highly qualified and home-grown teachers in all schools. Alternatively, other themes emerged that contradicted the effective schools research and are generally not considered to be positive characteristics of successful schools, such as the following: (a) a lack of culturally responsive teaching in one school, (b) inadequate formal communications between parents and school in all schools, and (c) professional development opportunities not aligned with school needs assessment in all schools.

Findings of the study indicated that the three rural schools experienced many of the same problems as do their urban school counterparts with high minority and low socioeconomic status (SES) populations, as addressed in other research studies (DeYoung, 1989; Diamond & Spillane, 2004). However, factors such as school culture, community relations, and interactions among parents, students, and teachers appeared to have ameliorated at least some of the negative influences associated with these types of schools. These findings have implications for future research, particularly in terms of the effect of school culture and informal communications among stakeholders on student achievement in rural schools with high-minority and low socioeconomic student populations.