Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Hare, R. Dwight

Committee Member

Davis, James E.

Committee Member

Perkins, T. Fred

Committee Member

Poss, Randle O.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Elementary, Middle, and Secondary Education Administration

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education


Department of Leadership and Foundations


When a school experiences a sudden change in demographics the impact can be difficult to comprehend. Effective professional development is essential in order for teachers to comprehend the changes and facilitate school improvement. This research explores the perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors of middle class teachers in a town which experienced a dramatic shift in the demographics of students; many middle class students left the school and many students who qualified for free and reduced lunch moved in. The teachers who experienced this demographic shift struggled to understand the changes developing in their school. In order to develop knowledge of the frameworks of poverty, the teachers participated in a two-year professional development process known as professional learning communities (PLC). The first year of PLC training concentrated on the frameworks of poverty and the second year of the research study concentrated on improving instruction. Throughout the two-year case study, a triangulation approach of consisting of interviews, observations, and document analysis was utilized to determine what changes occurred in the perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors of teachers. The findings of the research study determined that while the perception of poverty was relatively quick to change, developing a change in the attitudes and behaviors of teachers took much longer. Changes in teacher attitude and behavior to poverty were evident in the second year of the PLC process. The findings of the research study also determined that the PLC process provided a sustained format of professional development that allowed experienced teachers the opportunity to share experiences and learn from each other. Based on the findings of this study, a recommendation was made that the PLC process be considered as a viable professional development tool to train teachers on the impact and frameworks of poverty due to the detrimental impact poverty has on student achievement. Through a sustained effort in training, the perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors of teachers can be changed to identify and meet the needs of students. It is the recommendation of this study that the PLC process be used to change how teachers teach students of poverty.



poverty||professional learning community||middle class teachers