Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 2014


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Professional Doctorate in Educational Leadership (ProDEL)


School of Education

Committee Chair

Rick R McCown

Committee Member

Jennifer L Murphy

Committee Member

Franny J Serenka

Committee Member

Phillip DiLucente


Education, Generative, Poverty, Secondary, Systemic, Urban


The problem of practice examined in this dissertation in practice is that many urban schools that serve low socioeconomic communities fail to engage and, therefore, empower students to succeed. The purpose of this dissertation is to identify how urban poverty presents in secondary learning environments (i.e. high schools), to report findings on how urban poverty presents in one urban high school, and to report on an emerging model for engaging stakeholders across the boundaries of school, academy, and community to improve student success for those who attend such schools. Urban students of low socioeconomic status who attend secondary schools with high concentrations of poverty do not succeed academically because, in part, the school system alone is unable to effectively empower, motivate or engage them. Outlined within is a detailed design for action that may be employed to produce systemic change in urban learning environments with high concentrations of poverty. This dissertation begins with historical context explaining the relationship between poverty and education. It introduces a connection between Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and learning environments with high concentrations of poverty. Analyses of current research studies support the connection between the stress of poverty and the affects on one's person. The research specifically details the biological, physiological, neurological and psychological affects that the stress of poverty has on one's person and how said affects present in the learning environment. A design for action that calls for school, local government and community to work collaboratively is presented. Suggestions for systemic improvement goals are outlined and the progress-monitoring tools by which such goals can be measured in the course of an improvement effort are shared. The overall goal is to find a beginning: a starting point for contextually situated improvement efforts aimed at ending a pernicious and damaging cycle that is fueled by urban poverty; a cycle that robs communities and, ultimately the parents and children in those communities, of an identity that subsumes a sense of value and a sense of efficacy so that they may move toward academic, social, and economic success.