Voices of Four Small Rural High Schools That Have Successfully Reduced the Gap in Academic Achievement of Economically Disadvantaged Students
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This qualitative study explored the voices of four small, rural high schools in Texas that had successfully minimized the gap in academic achievement of economically disadvantaged students in the 2006-2007 school year. The purpose of this study was to identify the inherent qualities of each identified school through the voice of the local school community. A pool of potential high schools to examine was initially created based upon several factors: a) being rated Recognized under the Texas Academic Excellence Indicator System, b) classified as being rural by the guidelines of the National Center for Education Statistics, c) having a significant enrollment of socioeconomically disadvantaged (SED) students as reported by the Texas Education Agency, d) having an enrollment between 200-900 students, e) being a traditional four year high school, and f) having a significant reduction in the achievement gap between SED students and all other students. From this pool of high schools, a panel of experts composed of the dissertation committee members chose Foothill, Legg, Robinson, and Winkler high schools to be studied. Each school’s informal structured interviews were reviewed, a coding scheme was developed, and significant patterns both identified and described through the voices of interviewees. All four high school visits were then cross-analyzed for similarities. All four high schools repeatedly attributed their academic success to both relationships and expectations. More specifically, all four schools expressed that relationships with students, relationships with the community, and expectations of the school were the primary reasons for academic success.