A High Achieving Middle School Band at a High Poverty School in Georgia: A Case Study
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
Curriculum and Teaching
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This case study examined the pedagogical and organizational practices of successful middle school band directors teaching at a high-poverty school in Georgia through the lens of Self-determination theory. Inequity within American school systems is evident from the positive correlation between socioeconomic status (SES) and student academic achievement (Pinquart & Ebeling, 2020; Sirin, 2005; White, 1982). With advantages like funding, increased parental support, and additional resources, students from wealthier communities score higher on standardized tests than low-income communities (Pinquart & Ebeling, 2020; Sirin, 2005; White, 1982). This relationship also appears consistent with music students (Bailey, 2018; Dame, 2010; Fitzpatrick, 2006; McCarthy, 1980; McGonigal, 2020; Perrine, 2016; Schmidt et al., 2006; Speer, 2012). However, there is little research investigating the phenomenon of high-achieving band programs in high-poverty schools. Too often, the image of high-achieving band programs is one of suburban, predominantly white students even though high-achieving band programs in low-income neighborhoods exist. The research questions were: (a) what are the instructional and organizational practices of the participating band directors, and (b) how do the emergent themes relate to Self-determination theory? This qualitative inquiry used a case study methodology for exploring this unique phenomenon through the lived experiences of high-achieving band directors at a middle school in the Southeastern United States. The study also focused on the accomplishments of a band program that thrives despite its economic barriers. The band program in this case study had a history of superior ratings. While not the sole measure of success, these superior ratings mark the highest level of accomplishment a middle school band can receive at the Georgia Music Educators’ Association Large Group Performance Evaluation. The participant band program in this study received these high marks despite being at a school that meets the high-poverty threshold defined by the National Center for Education Statistics (2022). A constructivist approach to the emergent design guided the data analysis. Three emergent themes corresponded with Self-determination Theory: (a) competency, (b) autonomy, and (c) relatedness. Findings revealed five key observations. These observations were: (a) a positive classroom environment, (b) an effort to establish student autonomy, (c) a long band director tenure, (d) local school and district support, and (e) an effort to understand and accommodate the local community. Implications discussed include suggestions for future research, band director professional development, and school funding.