Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Nicolae Nistor


Black middle school students in the United States perform poorly on standardized reading achievement tests in comparison to other racial and ethnic groups. The purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of a vocabulary-focused test preparation program for underachieving Black middle school students. Thorndike's concept of test-wiseness, a test-taking capacity, provided the theoretical foundation for the study. Research questions investigated the difference in reading test scores on the Discovery Education Assessment of underachieving Black middle school students who participated in a key vocabulary test preparation program and those who did not. An intact-group comparison was used in which the research site, a large urban middle school in Tennessee, was matched with a similar middle school. Teachers at the research site were trained on a test preparation strategy meant to familiarize students with key vocabulary terms related to test items. Participants were Black students in Grades 6, 7, and 8, who were enrolled in Title 1 supplementary reading instruction and scored below proficiency, with 405 students in the treatment group and 249 students in the control group. The post-intervention reading test scores on the Discovery Education Assessment were compared between the groups, with a baseline test score used as the covariate. The adjusted mean scores for both 6th and 7th grade students were significantly greater for the intervention group (p = .018 and p = .062 respectively), whereas there was no significant difference in test scores for 8th grade students (p = .246). Implications for positive social change include providing research-based findings to the study site that support the vocabulary-focused test preparation program to improve the reading achievement of Black middle school students.