Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Kerry Burner


The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act created new accountability for educational institutions where schools must demonstrate adequate yearly progress (AYP) by regularly increasing student achievement. Many school districts across the nation failed AYP, searched for effective teaching strategies, and used new instructional models to help, yet they continued to fail. Thousands of educational institutions turned to the learning-focused schools (LFS) model of instruction, but increases in student achievement were sporadic. The rationale for this project stemmed from inconsistent student achievement results at a local middle school while using LFS from the inception of NCLB. This project study reviewed the teaching strategy of activating students' prior knowledge at a low-socioeconomic status (SES) middle school. Theoretical foundations guiding this study included learning theory, constructivist learning, the effects of low-SES environments, instructional strategies, and the role of prior knowledge in learning. Using archival data, this ex post facto study found a statistically significant difference using an ANCOVA, F(1, 863) = 35.398, p < .000, for the research question investigating the effect on student achievement when teachers specifically activate students' prior knowledge before using the LFS model of instruction. The project is an instructional lesson plan design that activates students' prior knowledge; recommendations include implementing the project countywide. Positive social change implications include providing policy makers data on the effectiveness of activating students' prior knowledge, the long-term effectiveness of LFS, and recommendations for increasing student achievement consistently.