Page 52 - Volume 6 - Issue 1 - DBU Journal for K-12 Educational Leadership

50 Chelsea Kostyniak, EdD were families with exceptionally healthy children, or Bright Spots. Sternin sought to solve local problems with existing local solutions. Public education faces similar challenges that Sternin experienced in Vietnam to provide an equitable education to all students. Underserved schools face a teacher quality gap due to high teacher attrition and difficulties in hiring effective replacements (Goldhaber et al., 2018). Underserved campuses typically consist of primarily underrepresented populations, historically low studentachievement, low attendance, and low graduation rates. Like the families with healthy children in Vietnamese villages, some teachers achieve uncommonly, exceptional student results with the same challenges. When less effective teachers see Bright Spot teachers’ successes in the same challenging environment, they begin to see that success is possible. The persistent teacher quality gap in underserved schools negatively affects student outcomes such as standardized test scores, student attendance, college completion rates, and future career opportunities (Hanushek et al., 2016). National and state entities have attempted to reduce the effects of the teacher quality gap in underserved schools by creating higher pay structures, teacher internship programs, and multiple paths to certification (Espinoza et al., 2018). While these new programs show promising results, there is a sense of urgency to address the wealth and opportunity gap for current students before these programs come to fruition (Garcia & Weiss, 2019). The pool of qualified teacher candidates is shrinking, disproportionately affecting underserved campuses that already struggle to hire and retain the most effective teachers (Goldhaber et al., 2018). Improving teacher effectiveness by activating Bright Spot teachers to lead change could be a powerful factor to decrease the teacher quality gap. Shared teacher leadership, strengths-based efforts, and a collaborative culture promote effective and sustainable school change (DuFour, 2011). By learning about the exceptional results of teacher Bright Spots who experience the same challenges, less effective teachers may feel more confident in their own ability to transform practices. Engaging Bright Spot teachers in leading change creates a deeper connection to school improvement on the underserved campus, increasing teacher retention. As effective teachers remain on their current campus and positively impact the ability of their peers and student achievement, the teacher quality gap dissipates. Exploring local solutions to local changes could potentially transform an underserved campus without additional funding or addressing systematic challenges. Research Design A phenomenological qualitative research design was selected to allow the researcher to engage with teachers who continue to achieve exceptional student gains on the same underserved campus. The purpose of the current study was to explore the narratives of highly effective teachers on an underserved campus to understand two phenomena: a) why teachers stay at the underserved campus, and b) why teachers believe they are successful when their peers are not. By evaluating Bright Spot teachers’ uncommon practices, beliefs, and behaviors, the current study sought to understand effective teachers as local solutions to local problems. Participants for the current study consisted of the 25 most effective teachers, or Bright Spots, identified by the current campus administrators. Interviews were conducted with individual participants using the Zoom platform According to Creswell (2007), qualitative research has the capacity to promote a multi-faceted tableau exploring characteristics of the community of individuals. In qualitative research, the researcher is an instrument to find meaning within members’ voices through an intersection of knowledge and experiences. Interpreting teachers’ perceptions for why they stay at the current campus and are more successful than their peers requires researcher awareness of the context in which teachers work. In qualitative interviews, reflexivity determines that the researcher is not a distant or omniscient participant during the study. The researcher was cognizant of critical subjectivity, or a hyper-awareness, to ensure that findings were driven by participant responses and not researcher assumptions (Creswell, 2007).