The Changing Face of Education: Perspectives on Demographic Change and Student Achievement in Texas Public Schools



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Background: Rapidly changing demographics tend to cause Texas public schools to become more diverse than ever before (Texas Education Agency, 2017). Students of various nationalities, races, and ethnic origins bring different worldviews and experiences to the classroom. Educators must find pedagogical approaches and teaching strategies to effectively deliver instruction that will prepare students for post-secondary challenges (Saphier, 2017). Minority and under-represented students have struggled to achieve success equal to that of their Anglo peers (Texas Education Agency, 2017). As demographic shifts unfold, the minority becomes the majority, which could inevitably widen the achievement gap if schools are unable to transition successfully from antiquated instructional practices to proven approaches that will improve outcomes. Specifically, the Hispanic population in Texas is on pace to become a majority in some geographic regions and to become a larger part of the entire student population in the public-school system (Lucio, 2014). Hispanic students struggle in school because of socioeconomic factors and language barriers; however, considering the disparities that exist among minority groups in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), these are not the only challenges students face (Parker, 2018). Examination of the teacher’s perspective regarding the challenges of successfully educating the growing Hispanic population in Texas public schools has revealed important information about the needs that exist and areas in which educators feel under-supported in their efforts to move the needle on success for students who are preparing for college and careers. Purpose: The purpose of this study is to uncover the perspectives, attitudes, and feelings of secondary educators who work in grades 9 and 10 and are responsible for delivering instruction and leadership in schools with large Hispanic populations. The study was guided by the following research question: What are educators’ perceptions regarding the best teaching practices for Hispanic students? Methods: A qualitative phenomenological approach guided this study, which seeks to explore the lived-experiences of educators serving Hispanic students in Texas Public Schools. The selected method is optimal because it allows the researcher to collect rich and thick descriptions of shared experiences that exist among teachers working with a specific population (Creswell, 2012). Utilizing one-to-one, in-depth interviews, the researcher had the opportunity to follow an interview protocol of semi-structured questions that left room for follow-up. Creswell (2012) explains that the sample size in qualitative research is relatively small to allow deep investigation. Utilizing convenience sampling, this study elicited participation from three suburban teachers from a suburban school district. The participants were teachers in the subject area of English. Next, a focus group was conducted to generate validity and member checking that helped add credibility and trustworthiness. Triangulation is a process whereby accuracy is enhanced through the utilization of multiple data sources (Creswell, 2018). This study relied on one-to-one in-depth interviews and a focus-group interview to add validity to the methodological approaches selected to explore the study questions under consideration. The researcher sought approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB). Following IRB approval, participant recruitment began. Once participants had been identified, the researcher invited the selected candidates to participate in the study. Individuals willing to participate in the study were made aware of their rights and privacy considerations and were asked to sign an informed-consent form. After informed consent was granted, the researcher conducted interviews and transcribed data prior to the analysis and development of findings and conclusions. Findings: Results from the study have provided valuable information that can be used to better understand the needs of our Hispanic populations. Analysis of the data has allowed the researcher to uncover six themes: (1) Relationships are critical to building trust, (2) language barriers create difficulty in instruction, (3) students need more diverse educators, (4) preconceived notions compromise instruction, (5) resources are not adequate, and (6) work load takes away critical time. Each of these themes presents unique information regarding how all students’ needs can be better met. The results of this study lead to further recommendations about how students can be better served. Conclusion: This study adds to the body of knowledge about closing the achievement gap and transforming teaching methods to meet student needs. Students are the future, and the quality of education they receive will have long-term economic, social, and political implications (McGlynn, 2010). Schools must engage in critical examination of their practices to meet the demand of changing demographics. The voice of teachers must be a key source of data that drives the decision-making process regarding strategies, curriculum, funding, and the overall design of the educational system. Informing policy about education should result from understanding the experiences of teachers in the classroom who spend time in the instructional setting with students on a daily basis.



Education, Hispanics, ESL, ELL, Changing Demographics, Secondary education, Teacher perspectives, Minorities