Poverty is on the rise, especially among our youngest citizens. In 2005, the U.S. Census Bureau reported 37 million people living in poverty in the U.S. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2005). Out of 37 million people living in poverty in the United States, 13 million of those individuals were children under the age of 18. This represents an increase of 11% from 2000 to 2005 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2005).
Researchers who have studied the impact of poverty on children have noted that at some point children in poverty may experience one of the following hardships: (1) harsh parenting; (2) emotional stress; (3) health issues; (4) inadequate supply of food, clothing, shelter, and transportation; (5) mental health problems; and (6) academic performance deficiencies (Duncan, 2005 & Payne, 2001). Each of these hardships impacts the child's interaction with the school environment.
In response to the increase in the number of poor school-age children in the US, state and district policy makers are looking closely at how schools with high concentrations of poverty are successfully meeting the academic needs of poor students. Although recent research documents the critical role effective teachers play in impacting student achievement, there is still much to be discovered about the role effective teachers play in the lives of poor students (Ingersoll, 2004; Marzano, 2003; Ladson-Billings, 1997, Sanders, 1994).
This study, then, emerges from the premise that there is a need for educators, policy makers, district leaders, principals, and teacher trainers to explore the stories of teachers identified as "effective" in meeting the academic needs of poor children. This study explores how effective teachers working in one high-performing, high-poverty middle school describe their own effectiveness with accelerating the achievement of students they serve.
I attempted to understand the complexities associated with successfully serving students who are faced with the harsh realities of living in poverty. Therefore, this qualitative research illustrates how effective teachers serving poor middle school students describe and understand their successes.