Page 55 - Volume 6 - Issue 1 - DBU Journal for K-12 Educational Leadership

Journal of K-12 Educational Research 53 choose to face the challenges of teaching on an underserved campus. Figure 2 defines teachers’ perceptions within the major themes to answer RQ1. Research Question 2 (RQ2) What behaviors and practices do the most effective teachers perceive as positive deviant practices responsible for exceptional student results? RQ2 explored the practices and beliefs that contribute to the exceptional student results gained by Bright Spot teachers. Interviews were designed to uncover the positive deviant practices by Bright Spot teachers who gained exceptional results in the same environment where peers were not as successful. Understanding what Bright Spot teachers do differently focuses on strengths to improve deficiencies. Strengths-based change concentrates change efforts on finding local solutions to local challenges. Establishing and expanding current practices receiving uncommon results enables local educators to improve student outcomes without needing more state funding or changes in accountability. Figure 3 defines teachers’ perceptions within the major themes to answer RQ2. Implications The growing wealth gap and review of the literature regarding underserved students and quality teachers presents an urgency to improving teacher quality for underserved students to improve social and economic outcomes (Goldhaber et al., 2018; Hanushek, 2020). Texas public schools serve 4,847,844 students of which 60.2% are identified as economically disadvantaged (TEA, 2020). Current demographics indicate that underserved students will continue to represent the majority of the Texas school population. Improving outcomes for underserved students by decreasing the teacher quality gap addresses future earning potential and opportunities for the most at-risk students. The current study aligns with previous research that successful teachers apply implicit knowledge of the unique needs of underserved students to improve instruction and social-emotional support (Emdin, 2016; Hammond, 2015; Jensen, 2009; Kafele, 2013; Muhammad, 2015). Effective teachers consider the effects of poverty, trauma, and unstable living conditions when they plan instruction and set expectations (Emdin, 2016; Hammond, 2015; Kafele, 2013; Muhammad, 2015). Participants’ responses reflect alignment of the research and their practices, including: • scaffolding instruction, • offering flexible behavior expectations, • differentiating assessment methods, • applying finesse when addressing student struggle or conflict, • providing safe spaces to express emotions, • allowing students to address basic needs, and • supporting students beyond the classroom (Emdin, 2016; Hammond, 2015; Kafele, 2013; Muhammad, 2015). Combining research and practice, Bright Spot teachers demonstrated success under the same challenges, developing the confidence and trust necessary for peers to transform their practice. Bright Spot teachers capture the mindset and practices of Believers described in Muhammad’s (2018) book, Transforming School Culture. Believers are teachers who are intrinsically motivated and have embraced a “student-centered paradigm as their primary mode of operation” (Muhammad, 2018, p. 43). Like believers, Bright Spot teachers share the following characteristics: • Collegiality • Experimentation • High Expectations • Trust and confidence • Caring, celebration, and humor • Involvement in decision making • Honest, open communication. (Muhammad, 2018) The most effective teachers on the campus are studentdriven in their decision-making, emphasizing the socialemotional needs of underserved students over curriculum and policy.