Stakeholders Perspectives of Factors that Facilitate and Hinder Student Success in High Achieving, High Poverty, High Minority Rural High Schools in Alabama
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology
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This study investigated high performing, high poverty, and high minority rural high schools in Alabama. Three types of schools, fringe, distant and remote formed the sample. The study examined key stakeholders’ perceptions of the elements these schools face in fostering student success, the reasons these schools were successful and what differences, if any, existed in the perspectives of the stakeholders of these factors in the three types of rural schools. This study differs from most studies on the topic of overcoming the achievement gap in that the focus was on the perceptions of key stakeholders and not the programs, policies, curriculum, and leadership styles. It also investigated rural high schools, a group largely under-examined in the literature. An exploratory qualitative multi-case study methodology was used for this study. The exploratory case format was used because the intention was to provide a better understanding of the challenges facing rural schools, but not to develop any conclusions or definitive solutions (Lewis, Thornhill, & Saunders, 2007). Data were analyzed in an iterative process, or what Creswell (2013) calls the data analysis spiral, of collecting, reviewing, analyzing, reflecting, and sense-making on the data collected. The reduction, simplification, and transformation of the data were accomplished in a multi-step process. This study identified three major recurring themes of the challenges facing the participant schools: Student-Centered Issues, School Level Challenges, and Limited Community Support. There were eight subthemes within these broad themes. There were four (4) recurring themes of why participant schools have been successful in improving student learning and achievement. These included: Student Focused Educators Curriculum Delivery, School-Based Strategies, and Administrative Leadership. There were 11 sub-themes within these larger themes. Finally, there were several areas were there as noticeable differences in the stakeholder perceptions between the types of rural schools. These differences in perceptions ranged from the programs and processes within the schools to a lack of stability within the students’ home life and to difference in leadership approaches.