Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Mackett, Muriel

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Leadership in Educational and Sport Organizations


Elementary school teachers--Illinois--Chicago--Anecdotes; Children with social disabilities--Education (Elementary)--Illinois--Chicago


Eighteen “exemplary” Chicago Public School elementary-school teachers' stories of helping at-risk students learn are described. Participating teachers were from three schools that progressed off academic probation during school year 1998–1999 and serve racially integrated and diverse student populations, respectively African-American, Hispanic, or Caucasian students. The overarching goal of the study was to provide grounded information to assist educational leaders to better address the challenges of effective education for at-risk students. Study goals were addressed through four research questions concerned with participating teachers' volunteered stories of teaching success with at-risk students in their school, with different groups of at-risk students, and with general-education students (not at-risk) as well as their recommendations for cultivating successful teaching with at-risk students. Two researcher-developed protocols were used for data collection: a participant profile form and a structured, open-ended interview guide. The four interview questions were aligned to the four research questions. Audiotapes of each interview were transcribed for interpretive data analysis. Participating teachers' perspectives of successful teaching with at-risk students were examined in terms of 11 literature-based themes: sensitivity, high expectations, individual needs, student interest, cultural awareness, supportive and nurturing systems, alternative teaching strategies, learning environment, awareness of at-risk factors and stressors, teacher dedication, and home support. Participating teachers' stories of their success in helping at-risk students learn supported the 11 literature-based themes. Implications of the study for teachers and educational leaders suggest that these “exemplary” teacher stories can be useful in determining best leadership practices and teaching strategies for helping at-risk students learn. The educational needs of the at-risk student are best served: (1) in a supportive learning environment that has the respect and support of the unit and district administration; (2) when parents are welcomed and included as vital stakeholders for their child's educational planning; and (3) when educational leaders accept responsibility to provide appropriate and effective staff development that prepares teachers to best meet the unique and diversified needs of the at-risk learner.


Includes bibliographical references (pages 159-189)


ix, 203 pages




Northern Illinois University

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