Date of Conferral
Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
In a small but diverse suburban school district, the gap in mathematics performance between economically disadvantaged and economically nondisadvantaged students was slowly widening as evidenced by state test scores. The purpose and key research questions of this instrumental case study were designed to (a) identify what Grades 6, 7 and 8 mathematics teachers perceive the role socioeconomic status plays in ability to learn mathematics and to (b) understand what teachers believe affects their perceptions of students' ability to learn mathematics. The conceptual framework guiding this study was social reproduction theory. The nine participants were middle school (i.e., Grades 6, 7 and 8) mathematics teachers from a small, diverse, suburban school district. Data were gathered through semistructured interviews; publicly available aggregated demographic data; and a reflective journal used to assist in identifying themes, patterns, and any questions that were encountered during data analysis. The identified themes of academic performance, communication, expected student characteristics, personal experiences and influences on perceptions, preparation to teach low SES students, and student support were used to better understand how teacher perceptions affect mathematics instruction and student success. A position paper outlining a course of action intended to increase teachers' understanding of the needs of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, and how to meet those needs, was created for presentation to the district leadership. The project study findings positively affect social change by identifying areas where professional development and focused instruction in teacher preparation programs on the unique needs of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds are needed in the local district.