Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Interdisciplinary Education

Major Professor

Barbara Shircliffe, Ph.D.


Achievement gap, No Child Left Behind, Segregation, Tracking, Urban education


As America's public schools become more diverse, the achievement gap between white students and students of color persists. These gaps are even more apparent in urban areas that serve large numbers of poor students of color. Because the population of aspiring teachers is increasingly white and middle class, theorists and teacher trainers often recommend multicultural education as a solution to working successfully in these schools. Multicultural education theorists claim that their suggestions for K-12 practitioners have not been infused into classrooms and schools, and so maintain that additional training opportunities should be provided for teachers. Although there is ample literature regarding multicultural education, there is scant research discussing teachers' perceptions and experiences with multicultural education, especially experienced teachers at the secondary level post-No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

While one of the main purposes for the accountability measures in NCLB is to eliminate the achievement gap, these current political policies are at odds with the ideals of multicultural education. Further, historical and sociological analyses indicate that teachers have not been able to systematically alter school practices or outcomes in urban schools. Therefore, there is a gap between multicultural education theory and practice, as well as a gap between multicultural education theory and policy. The purpose of this study was to further investigate teacher perceptions of the factors in schools that affect the gaps between theories, practice and policy. Seven teachers who embrace multicultural education and work in urban secondary schools serving large populations of students of color were interviewed to further explore their experiences when implementing multicultural practices in their classroom.

The results of this research suggest that multicultural education theory may be flawed in the way it approaches teacher training and the unique conditions of urban secondary schools, especially in the high accountability NCLB era. Teachers in this study understood the theoretical foundations of multicultural education, but believed that the goals of multicultural education were beyond what could be accomplished in classrooms. The findings of this study address some of the theoretical inconsistencies related to the institutional contexts of urban schools, teacher retention, and multicultural education teacher training models.