Date Awarded

Spring 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Dorothy E. Finnegan

Committee Member

Michael F. DiPaola

Committee Member

Carol L. Tieso


The foundation of the United States’ educational system is that all students will be educated equally by offering access to knowledge, opportunities, and services resulting in the creation of positive societal contributors. However, this task is complex and challenging. Heterogeneous student populations due to increased culturally diversity, do not match the stable teacher population. Therefore, a disconnection occurs between student and teacher populations and corresponding cultural views. Adopting cultural theories from anthropology, business, and education, this quasi-ethnographic study, within one elementary school, examined the relationship between the created culture and understandings of various sociocultural student identities by three first grade teachers and how, if at all, their classroom practices afforded any student academic advantages or disadvantages. Presented are teachers’ personal interpretations about various cultures and how these constructs formed beliefs, attitudes, and values about student capital, teaching, educational practices, judgments, and accurate allocation of resources (entitlements) for their students. Study findings indicate an acute participant awareness of cultural differences between themselves and their students when allocating appropriate academic opportunities and services. A shift in the teaching profession from one that imparts knowledge toward a focus on meeting physical and emotional needs of students, aligned with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory. The emphasis on standardized assessments and their effect on classroom teaching methods and strategies, has created a cultural lag between classrooms and school district and state mandates. Addressing these challenges portends teachers become transformative learners and engage in culturally responsive teaching practices.



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