Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Elsie Szecsy


In a rural elementary school, characterized by high poverty levels in Appalachian Ohio, school personnel were concerned that student literacy and math proficiency levels remained low during 2005-2015 and teachers had not been able to close the achievement gap between economically disadvantaged students and non-economically disadvantaged students despite a focus on literacy and math professional development (PD) provided by the district. Administrators were concerned that teachers' perceptions, and beliefs about students of poverty might contribute to students' underachievement. The purpose of this study was to understand teachers' perceptions of students living in poverty. Guided by Gorski's equity literacy theory, research questions focused on discovering teachers' dispositions of teaching students of poverty, PD experiences and strategies used to teach the target student population. The purposeful sample included 9 elementary teachers at the target site and data were collected through semi-structured interviews. Data analysis consisted of an inductive phenomenological process to identify codes and sub-codes of the interview data to derive themes. Themes supporting the findings indicated perceptions that aligned with Gorski's stereotyped socially identified norms including; education is of low priority, poor people are lazy, poor people abuse drugs or alcohol and poor people are ineffective parents. The findings indicated the development of PD focused on equity literacy to support change in teacher perceptions and the use of equity literacy informed pedagogy. The project will promote social change by increasing teachers' capacity to challenge students educationally, resulting in improved academic outcomes by their students living in poverty.