Improving Academic Achievement for Students in Poverty:  A Case Study Analysis of a Rural Elementary School


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Virginia Tech


The present study investigated the processes and factors which led to increased student achievement at a rural, high poverty, elementary school in 2014-2019. Student academic achievement was measured through the pass rates of students in third, fourth, and fifth grades on the Virginia SOL assessments in English and mathematics. In English, student pass rates increased by 22 percentage points from 2015-2019, and in mathematics, they increased 16 points for the same time period. Due to this growth, the school was recognized as one of the National Distinguished Title I Schools in 2019. Utilizing a case study methodology, interviews were conducted with building level and division level school personnel for a total of 11 participants. Other data were also analyzed such as school improvement plans, student progress monitoring data, and personnel changes at the school. Participants indicated high quality leadership, the creation and cultivation of positive relationships among faculty, staff, and students, and the implementation of the Responsive Classroom program as factors contributing to increased student academic achievement. Furthermore, 50% teacher turnover and subsequent hiring of new teachers or the transferring in of teachers new to the school was identified as a change within the school during the five years being studied.



elementary education, elementary student achievement, low-income students, social and emotional learning, teacher turnover