Date of Conferral

1-1-2009

Degree

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

School

Education

Advisor

Ella Benson

Abstract

Research indicates school culture impacts student achievement. At Teach Them All Middle School (TTA), an achievement gap exists between African American and White students. The purpose of the current study was to examine the perceptions of African American students concerning the school culture at TTA. The research questions explored the perceptions of these students regarding the role of school leaders in shaping a school culture that is academically supportive, as well as their perceptions of the actual academic support, academic rigor, and encouragement they received from administrators and faculty. A sequential exploratory mixed methods strategy was used to quantify and describe the perceptions of 8th-grade African American students at TTA. Participants (36 students) completed a school culture survey and individual in-depth interviews. Descriptive statistical analysis of survey results revealed students have an overall positive perception of the school culture at TTA. Triangulation of results showed a strong view by students of the school administrators' influence in establishing the school culture present at TTA. Constant comparison analysis of coded interview data revealed two themes: (a) the willingness and availability of teachers to help students even after school, and (b) the students' belief that problems can be brought to the attention of administrators and/or teachers for resolution. The study's key recommendation is for TTA to ensure its school culture exhibits high academic expectations for every student, especially African American males. The study contributes to positive social change by giving voice to a stakeholder group, African American students, who research shows have had a limited one in school improvement efforts. The study also guides schools in utilizing insight from these stakeholders to establish school cultures with high quality teaching and learning.