Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education

First Advisor

Susan Korach, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Kent Seidel, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Linda Brookhart

Fourth Advisor

Douglas Allen


Achievement gap, Hope theory, Student motivation, Student perception, Student voice, Urban education


For several decades, there has been a large gap between the achievement scores of urban youth of color and their white counterparts. This achievement gap persists despite the efforts of educators and policymakers to close it. This descriptive study examined the perceptions of urban youth of color regarding their role in school and the support and barriers they encountered related to academic achievement in school.

Duncan-Andrade (2009) compares schooling in underserved communities to growing roses in concrete. He argues that the conditions of life for urban youth of color are in themselves oppositional forces. He writes that hope is required urban youth face such forces. Hope is composed of three parts: goals, pathways, and agency (McDermott, 2002; Snyder, 2003).

This study examined the goals, pathways, and agency for urban youth of color and their perception of what schools are doing to support them. Through the use of focus groups and surveys in two high schools in the Denver metropolitan region of Colorado, students' stories were collected. These groups were facilitated by student leaders from Urban Youth Ambassadors.

Major findings in this study include that students identified a greater number of barriers to engagement than they identified sources of support. All three sources of support (teacher/student relationships, family influence, and teacher quality) were also potential barriers to engagement according to the students. School climate and limiting mental models were the other two barriers to engagement. The teacher was central in two of the support and barrier themes: Teacher/Student Relationship Quality (TSRQ) and Teaching Quality (TQ).The teacher's ability to develop a strong, productive relationship with the students can be the factor that changes a student's experience and success. The students articulated hope through relationships and displayed evidence of personal resilience toward accomplishing goals. The goal orientation that emerged in this study was more about relationships and the people in student's lives than it was about academic achievement or the standardized testing.

Publication Statement

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

Rights Holder

Michael Stephen Roth


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

160 p.