The focus of this research is bridging the achievement gap for students living in poverty through quality education. Such a study is important because the percentage of students affected by poverty is increasing and the persistent gap in achievement evidences that the right to quality education for students in poverty is not being met. This is mixed-methods study of three high-poverty elementary schools in Idaho. Both quantitative (achievement test scores) and qualitative data (interviews of seventeen teachers and principals) are compared and contrasted. The findings provide evidence that quality education for students in poverty requires relatable curriculum, teachers who are knowledgeable and caring, and a school environment where social-emotional needs are addressed. Quality teachers deliver instruction and provide interventions for student based on individual needs. Loving, caring, and consistent teachers and administrators are a determining factor for success by providing a safe and stable environment for students and staff. Other findings show families have great influence on children and their ability to succeed. Participants felt that supporting families will, in turn, support student achievement. This dissertation recommends the following: (a) a stronger emphasis on teacher quality including competency in content, pedagogy, and dispositions of a caring, quality teacher; (b) a focus on social-emotional needs of student in poverty; (c) the establishment of consistent staff and leadership in schools with high rates of poverty, and (d) a concentration towards building relationships between school staff and families in order to support families in poverty as they strive for their children's academic achievement.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Educational Leadership and Foundations



Date Submitted


Document Type





educational methods, teacher attitudes, educational environment, poverty, family influence, elementary education, family influence, small group instruction, emotional needs, teacher caring, educational policy, teacher competencies, civil rights, social justice, academic achievement, access to education, student rights