Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Joan Gipe


An achievement gap exists between students of low socioeconomic status (SES) and their peers, particularly in language arts despite intervention and legislation aimed at closing the gap. As a result, annual yearly progress is affected for schools that have a large population of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. The purpose of this study was to determine what secondary language arts teachers in a school district know about supporting students from low socioeconomic backgrounds in instruction. Research questions were designed to explore teachers' knowledge about supporting the socio-emotional and academic needs of students from low SES backgrounds and to identify the effective school practices in the secondary language arts classroom to address these needs. The conceptual framework was based on the work of Coley and Baker regarding understanding the connection between poverty and education. This qualitative bounded case study was conducted in the secondary language arts department of a suburban southern school district. The 5 participants were selected using purposeful sampling based on teaching experience and participated in interviews and classroom observations. Data were coded and thematic analysis was used to reveal teachers' knowledge about students' socio-emotional needs and how to incorporate the needs to address students' skill deficits in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Findings suggested a professional development project for teachers including working with parents to support students' education at home and developing professional learning communities and networks to support secondary language arts teachers. This study has implications for positive social change for educators, parents, and community member stakeholders as they work toward supporting learning and cultural needs of students of low SES.