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Defying the Odds: A Case Study of a High Minority-High Poverty Elementary School Open Access

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The importance of the public education system in educating all students especially students historically disenfranchised is critical to the belief that America is the land of opportunity for all. As minority populations continue to grow, preparation through the public school system with equitable education opportunities is critical as the mechanism to increase future economic success and national security interests (Rice & Klein, 2012). This single case study examined how a public elementary school engaged in efforts to increase student achievement for African American students in poverty in the accountability era. The use of critical race theory for the theoretical framework and Bronfenbrenner ecological model for the conceptual framework provided the structure for analysis of an elementary public school and the school actors that serve within it. The theoretical framework presented the lens for the review of literature, research question development, boundaries of the study, and data analysis of the research questions.Findings showed academic and nonacademic structures were needed leading to a two part process to improve academic outcomes for African American students in poverty. Academic structures aligned to prior research on school improvement strategies necessary for student academic success. Interview respondents embraced the idea of racism as ordinary and a part of society if they had experienced it directly. Those who had not experienced it directly did not believe it was relevant at this point in time and if it did exist it was somewhere else and not at this school or in their environment. Even in the best schools providing a quality education to African American students in poverty, barriers exist to their academic and personal success institutionalized by the perceptions of the educators within them. Schools that are able to put measures in place to first recognize that barriers exist based on race and economic status then have intentional ways to overcome these barriers have more success. A successful school for African American students in poverty must include academic and nonacademic structures to improve and sustain student outcomes meeting and exceeding state standards.

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