Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Cathryn White


This study examined an urban school district in the southern United States that continued to experience student achievement gaps despite the implementation of initiatives as the African American Success Initiative. The school leadership needed a deeper understanding regarding what strategies were successful with closing the achievement gap. Using Gay's theory of cultural responsive pedagogy, the purpose of this study was to identify inward attributes, outward strategies, and professional development perceptions of teachers with no achievement gap among ethnically diverse students. Employing an instrumental case study design, 8 middle school reading teachers who closed the reading achievement gap were interviewed; these narratives were supplemented with classroom observations and archival data of district-administered students' surveys for the teachers, professional development plans, and teacher lesson plans. Data were analyzed using comparative and inductive analysis and were thematically coded. Findings indicated that teachers who closed the achievement gap shared culturally responsive characteristics and behaviors, including a caring attitude, high expectations, content relevance, and a belief that their existing Professional Development (PD) was not specific to the needs of teachers working in high-minority, low-socioeconomic urban school environments. A 3-day PD was designed to produce positive social change by reframing the beliefs, responses, and approaches to teaching minority students, allowing teachers to develop stronger teacher-student relationships, tolerance, and strategies, to ultimately increase student motivation and achievement.