Date of Award

Fall 11-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Dr. Lynda Leavitt

Second Advisor

Dr. Edward Morris

Third Advisor

Dr. Sherrie Wisdom


The performance of the United States’ students on international tests remains an ongoing source of concern, division, and anxiety for government, educational, and business leaders, teachers (and their unions), as well as the general public. These selfsame test results have been used as evidence to support diametrically opposed political and educational strategy and policy for decades. All too often the performance of students is discussed with a single test score number that is used to represent the entirety of the education system’s students without accounting for geographical, demographic, or socioeconomic differences among the student test takers. The contributing factors of the national level performance are often summed up simplistically as resulting from underfunded school systems or under qualified teachers. These generalized assessments and underlying national angst are also often based on the mistaken perception that the United States once led the world in international testing and that the declining performance is a grave indicator of the nation’s economic and social future. Researchers have begun to produce studies showing a far more nuanced interpretation of national level scores that point to much different contributing factors; in particular, poverty. Somewhat unexpectedly for the world’s largest economy, the United States’ poverty level is nearly the highest of all nations taking standardized international tests. These studies show that when international test results are controlled for certain socioeconomic factors that the United States scores are at, or very near, the top of the international tables. This study supported the body of evidence that poverty is the greatest hindrance to the academic achievement of the nation’s students and sought to better understand the unique contributors to achievement of the nation’s poor on the iv mathematics portion of the Program for International Student Assessment test depending upon the socioeconomic composition and geographical location of a student’s school.


Copyright 2014