A case study of education in Virginia: the Roanoke County public school system, 1870-1920

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Virginia Tech


The prevailing purpose of this dissertation is the preparation of an historical account of public schools in Roanoke County from 1870 to 1920. The primary focus rests with the cultural, economic, political, and geographic factors that affected the evolvement of public schools in Virginia relative to Roanoke County Public Schools, a system in southwest Virginia. Within this framework the system is described as part of a valley-wide setting, where citizens, educators, events, funding, curriculum, and other components played an integral part in the shaping of the current system.

The methodology employed in this study is qualitative in approach and utilizes recognized historical and ethnographic techniques. The Guba model, which allows for periods of discovery followed by refinement and verification, is suited to the nature of this study. The researcher initially conducts inquiry designed to discover data and generate ideas. After the initial inquiry period, the researcher refines and corroborates data. The cycle of broad inquiry followed by more critical analyses of specific occurrences can repeat itself several times. Verification is accomplished through the validation of sources based on triangulation, a method of cross-checking in which three or more sources are used to corroborate findings. Data is collected in an eclectic fashion, using the nature of the research questions to determine appropriate techniques. Primary sources are used when available, supplemented by secondary sources. Outcomes have not been predetermined but evolved as the research progressed. General interview guidelines have been used, but remained felxible enough to allow for probing and expansion of relevant topics.

It is anticipated that the history of Roanoke County Public School from 1870- 1920 will

-provide an accounting of historical developments within this time frame; -enrich the legacy it leaves to future generations; -develop an appreciation for the obstacles and trials that people overcame; -create as accurate an interpretation as possible from available data; -develop a sense of the past as a precursor to the present; -provide an avenue for practical use of this knowledge in developing a better future plan; -provide an historical account of public school education in Roanoke County that has heretofore been meager; -contribute to a broader body of historical information on Roanoke County