Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education

First Advisor

Nicholas Cutforth, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

P. Bruce Uhrmacher, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Paul Michalec


Algebra, Effective teaching, Equity, High school, Reform, Teacher evaluation


The inequities in learning between the rich and the poor have become pervasive in United States. This is evidenced by the high school graduation rates, college attendance percentages, and employment statistics. Upon another wave of reform, the Common Core State Standards in mathematics are currently being adopted in hopes of increasing learning for all students, with a focus on college and career readiness. This study is intent on finding ways to remedy the inequities in mathematics between the high income and low income schools by focusing on one of the great glass ceilings to high school graduation and beyond, high school Algebra I. This study gives examples of how successful teachers are providing opportunities for learning Algebra I despite barriers that students, administrators, and policy-makers deliver in low-income schools amidst the latest reform movement.

The researcher provides a portrait of how three different algebra teachers in three different low-income high schools, in the same city in Colorado, teach within the confines of various reform mandates to meet the diverse needs of their students. The research was conducted with a particular focus on the classroom management strategies, student engagement strategies, culturally relevant pedagogy, and caring relationships contributed to the learning in these classrooms. Using observations, teacher interviews, and student interviews, the researcher employs the method of Educational Criticism and Connoisseurship to answer the research question. The question that guided this study was: What practices do effective algebra teachers employ in high poverty, diverse high school algebra classrooms to implement the curriculum and influence student learning? This question was supported by the sub-questions: (a) What classroom management strategies contribute to student learning?; (b) Which teaching strategies contribute to student engagement?; (c) Which culturally relevant pedagogy practices contribute to students' opportunity to learn?; (d) How do relationships in the classroom support students' opportunities to learn?; and (e) How are classroom management strategies, engagement strategies, culturally relevant pedagogy, and caring relationships intertwined in classrooms today?

The findings of this study provide a stark warning to overly prescribed curricula and pedagogy, along with the heightened use of standardized tests tied to teacher evaluation. Answering the primary question using Eisner's (1998) dimensions of schooling and Uhrmacher's administrative dimension, paints a bleak picture for low-income schools under the current movement for accountability using student test scores. The negative consequences of a punitive administrative oversight on the teaching and learning of students paints a depressing scene for low-income schools. Conversely, the efforts of teachers to provide classroom management and student engagement supported by culturally relevant practices and caring relationships give a picture of hope if we focus on supporting and keeping in the schools that need them the most.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Cassandra Dunn Gannett


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

291 p.


Mathematics education, Educational evaluation, Education