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Student teachers' awareness, preparedness and attitudes of issues related to high poverty schools

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2009
Dissertation
Author: Darryn R Diuguid
Abstract:
As more students are coming from diverse backgrounds including race, ethnicity, and social class, teachers are challenged to work with demographics with which they are not familiar. Society is faced with "tomorrow's teachers" who are mostly white, female, and middle-class with little intercultural background. Most of the research has been conducted on student teachers' perceptions of diverse populations but little has been performed in terms of focusing on student teachers' perceptions of high poverty issues. Therefore, this dissertation examined student teachers' awareness, perceptions of preparedness, and attitudes about high poverty students. The population of this quantitative study consisted of student teachers at three universities: a large Midwestern, Jesuit university; a small, liberal arts Midwestern university with ties to the United Methodist Church; and a large, public Midwestern university. A 31 item open-ended and closed-ended survey was distributed to student teachers during their on-campus professional development seminars. The closed-ended items were analyzed using descriptive statistics including mean, median, mode and skewness and an independent samples t-test. Responses to the open-ended questions were coded using a thematic analysis approach in order to disaggregate the themes which existed. In general, student teachers in the survey seem aware and prepared to work in high-poverty school settings. The survey population also holds relatively positive attitudes of high poverty students. The mean, median, and mode of the awareness, preparedness and attitude scales support these statements. The independent samples t-test only noted significance in the white and non-white student teachers in terms of their awareness and preparedness of high-poverty issues.

Table of Contents List of Tables viii CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION Overview 1 Importance of the Problem 2 Need for the Study 4 Contributions of the Project 6 Definitions 7 Research Questions 8 Limitations of the Study 8 Participants 8 Generalizability 9 Methodology 9 Researcher bias 10 Summary 10 CHAPTER 2: REVIEW OF LITERATURE Introduction 12 Definition of Poverty 12 Impact of Poverty 13 Achievement gap 14 Inequity of resources 15 Health problems 16 Student readiness 17 Literacy skills 18 Parental involvement 20 Preparing Teachers for Diverse Populations 21 Teacher education programs 22 The poor and English language learners 23 Professional development programs 24 Conflicts in culture 25 Instructional Strategies to Meet the Needs of Poor Students 26 Code-switching 27 Integrating cultures 28 Critical pedagogy 32 Preservice and In-service Teacher Attitudes 33 Preservice teachers 34 In-service teachers 38 Summary 40 v

CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGY Introduction 42 Overview of the Problem 42 Overview of the Purpose 43 Research Questions 44 Population 45 Site Description 45 Definitions 46 Instrumentation 46 Survey of student teachers 46 Data collection methods 47 Data Analysis Plan 48 Research question one 48 Research question two 48 Research question three 49 Research question four 50 Recruitment Procedures 51 Risk Assessment 51 Benefits Assessment 52 Summary 52 CHAPTER 4: FINDINGS Review of the study 53 Description of the Participants 53 Research Question One 56 Research Question Two 58 Multiple item indicator and mean substitution 59 Internal consistency of survey items 59 Closed-ended survey question 60 Open-ended survey question 62 Research Question Three 64 Multiple item indicator and mean substitution 65 Internal consistency of survey items 65 Research Question Four 68 Summary 69 CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS Overview of Study 71 Conclusions 74 Study Strengths and Weaknesses 76 Recommendations for Future Research 77 Summary 77 vi

Appendix A 79 Appendix B 84 References 85 VitaAuctoris 92 VI1

List of Tables Table 1 Participant Demographics 55 Table 2 Frequency of the Three Most Important High Poverty Issues in Schools. 5 7 Table 3 Awareness Scale 58 Table 4 Central Tendencies of Awareness Issues 58 Table 5 Internal Consistency of Preparedness Statements 60 Table 6 Central Tendencies of Preparedness Scale 60 Table 7 High-Poverty Preparedness Statements 61 Table 8 Teacher Education Program Preparation 62 Table 9 Needed Preparation in the Teacher Education Program 63 Table 10 Internal Consistency of Attitudes Statements 65 Table 11 Central Tendencies of the Attitudes Scale 66 Table 12 Individual Attitudes Statements 67 Table 13 Awareness, Preparedness, and Attitudes Independent Samples T-Test... 69 Vl l l

STUDENT TEACHERS' AWARENESS, PREPAREDNESS, AND ATTITUDES OF ISSUES RELATED TO HIGH-POVERTY SCHOOLS Chapter One: Introduction Overview Jonathan Kozol has written much about high poverty schools including his groundbreaking book Savage Inequalities which was one of the first narratives to expose the brutal differences in schooling environments. In 1991, his impression was "these urban schools were, by and large, extraordinary unhappy places. With few exceptions, they reminded me of 'garrisons' or 'outposts' in a foreign nation" (p. 5). As he continued, he described walls lined with barbed wire, police patrolling the hallways, and windows covered with steel grates. Many taxi drivers refused to even drive into these neighborhoods as Kozol was attempting to perform his research and he often had to walk the rest of the distance to the schools. In East St. Louis, IL, students were sent home since sewage was flowing into the school kitchens; substitute teachers were often the norm and textbooks were outdated or sometimes not available for the student population (Kozol, 1991). In one of his follow-up books Shame of the Nation (2005), he continued to describe the inequities. Kozol states "I also think we need to recognize that our acceptance of a dual education system will have consequences that may be no less destructive than those we have seen in the past century" (p. 11). Although the book's subtitle refers to the inequality of apartheid schools, he states that high-minority and high-poverty schools are interchangeable. "Racial isolation and the concentrated poverty of children in a public school go hand in hand" (p. 20). Eighty six percent of 1

high minority schools (African-American and Latino) have over 50% of the students receiving federal funds due to their socioeconomic status which defines them as high poverty. He noted the discrepancies in funding for the 60 schools in 30 districts that he visited across 11 states. For instance, a student in a poor neighborhood in New York City who is educated in a public school will have $11,700 spent on her/his education while a student in the white suburb of Manhassett would have $22,000 per student spent (2002-2003 figures from Shame of the Nation), The dollar amount is significant when the $10,300 difference is multiplied by every student in the school. Machtinger (2007) stated that high poverty schools receive "an average of $907 less per student" (p. 3) or close to $350,000 for a school of 400. In one of the more inequitable states of Illinois, the funding gap is closer to $2,000 per student (Machtinger, 2007). In St. Louis County schools, a 2005-2006 report by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education report showed that school funding varies between $7,112.57 per eligible pupil in the suburban Mehlville school district to almost $15,000 per eligible pupil in the wealthier suburb of Clayton. In St. Louis Public Schools (city), $11,401 is spent per eligible pupil (MDESE, 2008). The Importance of the Problem As more K-12 students are coming from diverse backgrounds including race, ethnicity, and social classes, teachers are challenged to work with demographics with which they are not familiar (Davis, Brown, Liedel-Rice & Soeder, 2005; Easter, Shultz, Neyhart, & Reck, 1999; Banks & Banks, 2007). In fact, many question the teaching abilities of preservice teachers simply since there is a growing disparity between teachers and students (Garmon, 2003; Easter et al., 1999). Sleeter (2001) 2

described the situation as a "cultural gap" that is large and growing. Society is faced with "tomorrow's teachers" who are mostly white, female, and middle class with little intercultural background (Banks & Banks, 2007; Davis et al., 2005). Sadker, Sadker, & Zittleman (2008) detailed the disparities: 84% of new teachers are white while 69% are white students; there are 16% minority teachers and 31% minority students. In detail, African-American students make up 17% of the student population while there are only 8% African-American teachers. Hispanic students make-up 19% of the student population while only 6% of teachers are Hispanic. Grant and Gillette (2006) stated that teacher educator demographics have not changed in the last 20 years and "the prospective teaching force and the majority of teacher educators are predominately white" (p. 292). Student teachers should be also be concerned about the disparities which exist in social class. One can examine the social class of each population to see the dissimilarities. Approximately 1 in 5 of the student population is in poverty while it is very possible to state that very few teachers are poor (Heward, 2003; Banks & Banks, 2007). Additionally, the National Center for Children in Poverty (2007a) states that 39% or 28.6 million children live in low-income families; low income families are families who fail to make 200% of the federal poverty level. The disparities exist with full-time teachers making an average of $30,000 with ranges of as little as $20,000 to more than $100,000 (Sadker et al., 2008). The areas where teachers are needed the most are in high poverty schools. Machtinger (2007) acknowledged that "high poverty schools are below average in student achievement, graduation rates, and other important school outcomes" (p. 1). 3

The Children's Defense Fund (CDF) (2004) reported that the biggest roadblock in student achievement is the lack of high quality teachers in the high poverty school systems. In fact, Sadker et al. (2008) confirmed that 700,000 teachers are needed in those high poverty areas in the near future. Need for the Study Poverty and success in school are negatively correlated (Eamon, 2002; Machtinger, 2007); students in poverty suffer challenges such as impaired parenting and environmental risks (NCCP, 2006) which adversely affect a child's educational performance; preservice teachers need to be aware of these. A "state of crisis" is how Sleeter (2001) described education in communities of color (where much of high poverty exists) and poor white communities. The problems exist for schools whose student population consists of low-income, minority, limited language skills, and children with disabilities. These schools often hire newly degreed teachers and teachers who are teaching in a field in which they hold no certification (Banks & Banks, 2007). These same schools see a high turnover rate for teachers; the figure is one-third higher for these schools when compared to others throughout the United States (CDF, 2004). Researchers note that poverty knows few boundaries in terms of physical proximity and that teachers will encounter students of poverty in most school settings. Poverty rates for children increased 11 percent or 1.3 million in the five year span between 2000 and 2005 (National Center for Children in Poverty, 2007b). Cognitive differences (Farah et al., 2006), health concerns (GAO, 2007; Wertheimer et al., 2001), low literacy skills (Wright, Diener, & Kay, 2000), student readiness (Wright et 4

al., 2000) and a lack of parent involvement (Santrock, 2006; Shoaf, Shoaf & Leek, 2006; Wright et al., 2000) all interact to adversely affect a child's educational performance. Barriers exist which prevent or discourage new teachers from searching for work in such high poverty schools. Hagan and McGlynn (2004) found that only "a limited number [of students in their final year of coursework] felt comfortable with and prepared for dealing with diversity in the classroom" (p. 243). Where teachers live is generally far different from the communities where they teach (McDermott & Rothenberg, 1999) and this could play a role in discouraging qualified teachers from applying. Also, many qualified candidates do not take the time to "jump" through the hoops which are common in the university education system. Finn Jr. and Madigan (2001) questioned how many gifted teachers were lost due to the many obstacles which clutter the road to teacher certification. Finally, teacher pay may be the largest obstacle to working in high poverty schools. Kozol (2005) reported that median income (2002-2003) in New York City 's high poverty schools was $53,000 while pay in upper-middle income suburbs ranged between $87,000- $95,000. In fact, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is interested in "negotiating or collaborating with districts for incentives and supports to ensure that high-poverty schools can hire and retain well-qualified and experienced teachers" (AFT, 2007, p. 6). In North Carolina, there is limited evidence in one study that bonuses in high poverty areas do attract and retain certified math, science, and special education teachers. By paying teachers an $1800 bonus, the mean turnover rates in high poverty areas were reduced by 12% (SERVE, 2007). 5

The plan of this research study is to survey student teachers about poverty issues including questions about awareness, perceptions of preparedness, and attitudes. These questions will begin to gauge whether teacher education programs are preparing preservice teachers to be culturally responsive educators or teachers who validate student's culture, teach the whole child, and empower and liberate students (Gay, 2000). Contributions of the Project The results of this research study may identify issues and attitudes about poverty in student teachers. Additionally, results may generate recommendations to teacher education programs, specifically to the curriculum and field experiences portions of the programs. Consequently, changes to the programs could see culturally responsive teachers enter the workforce, which may have some impact on graduation rates. In the Harvard University Executive Report (2005), it was stated that "across the country, a dangerously high percentage of students—disproportionately poor and minority" (p. 1) are lost each year and never make it to high school graduation. In Multicultural Education: Issues and Perspectives (2007), Banks and Banks stated "social class is a more important cause of lost talent among U.S. youth in late high school and post-high school than gender or race" (p. 99). If graduation rates rise, the economy and individuals would likely benefit from the more educated population entering the workforce. In American School Board Journal, Rothstein (2004) reported that high school graduates made an average of $9,476 more than high school dropouts. Many of these dropouts move to the prison system where the demographics show that 60% of prisoners are minorities while these same minorities make up 27% 6

of the general population of the United States (Neely, 2008). The author stated that the minority prison rates were due to the "failure of urban public education" (p. 2). Education attainment is the "most powerful device" to move people out of poverty and cause social change (Gollnick & Chirm, 2006). Definitions • High poverty schools: schools where 50% or more of the school population is eligible to receive a federal reduced rate or free lunch (Peske & Haycock, 2006). • Teacher Education Program: "traditional university programs where students study the science of teaching and the subject matter, and then do a clinical teaching experience" (Sadker et al., 2008, p. 18). The end goal of this program is to have the preservice teacher be awarded a degree, then certification and finally, enter the teaching profession. • Preservice Teachers: students who have been admitted to traditional university teacher education programs. • Student Teachers: preservice teachers in their semester of clinical teaching experience. • Instructional strategies: techniques that educators use to facilitate learning in the classroom. Research Questions This research will examine the over-arching question: How do student teachers perceive the high-poverty school setting? The following four questions will be explored through the following sub-questions: 7

1. Are student teachers aware of issues in high poverty schools? 2. Do student teachers believe they are prepared to work in high poverty education setting and if not, what specifically is lacking? 3. What are student teachers' attitudes about students in poverty? 4. Is there a difference in awareness, preparedness, or attitudes in terms of student teachers' race, gender, religion, class or area of concentration? Limitations of the Study In Educational Research (2005), Creswell noted the limitations that the researcher must be aware of when conducting quantitative research. Limitations are potential weaknesses or problems with the study identified by the researcher. These weaknesses are enumerated one by one, and they often relate to inadequate measures of variables, loss or lack of participants, small sample sizes, errors in measurement, and other factors typically related to data collection and analysis, (p. 198) Glesne (2005) also noted it is "your [the researcher's] responsibility to do the best that you can do under certain circumstances" (p. 169). It is for these reasons that I will describe the possible limitations to this quantitative study. Participants. Student teachers at three universities were selected for this quantitative study. The population consists of a large private, Midwestern, Jesuit university, a small private, Midwestern university with ties to the United Methodist Church, and a large public Midwestern university. The demographics of the three teacher education programs are predominately white, middle class, and female much like the teacher population; therefore, the survey results may display many of the same viewpoints due to the similarities in gender, race and socioeconomic status. Additionally, 8

participants (education students) may be influenced by their service learning in high schools and volunteer assignments at religious organizations rather than their educational experience. Generalizability. The setting and demographics of the three universities limit the generalizability of the study. The findings will only represent a small section of the United States, specifically the Midwest. Limitations will also exist since the data will be analyzed collectively and the data will not be disaggregated in terms of each specific university. In addition, the results will only represent the self-chosen participants and their perceptions in this specific moment in time. Methodology. Some limitations may exist in the type of methodology, which I have chosen for this dissertation. With the closed-ended questions, participants may not understand the terminology nor will they be able to provide detail to explain their responses. In the open-ended questions, participants may not be able to fully explain themselves or this researcher may not understand how strongly they believe in an issue. Researcher bias. It is possible that my background may play a role in how I have constructed the closed-ended questions or how I will code the open-ended questions. My previous experience in teaching in a high-poverty school and my desires to make sure that the population is treated equitably in society may influence my data analysis. Further, since some of the participants may know my teaching background and may 9

have taken my classes, it could influence how they answer the closed-ended and open-ended questions. Summary This research will examine the over-arching question: How do student teachers perceive high-poverty school settings? The following four sub-questions will be answered addressed: 1. Are student teachers aware of issues in high poverty schools? 2. Do student teachers believe they are prepared to work in the high poverty education setting and if not, what specifically is lacking? 3. What are student teachers' attitudes about students in poverty? 4. Is there a difference in awareness, preparedness, or attitudes in terms of student teachers' race, gender, religion, class or area of concentration? The purpose of this study is to determine student teachers' awareness, perception of preparedness, and attitudes toward students in poverty. The student teaching semester was selected because preservice teachers have taken all of the prerequisites for student teaching. It is expected that student teachers have developed awareness, preparedness and attitudes through observations, coursework, and practicum experiences. Data from surveys will provide this researcher with data about universities and how their teacher education programs prepared preservice teachers to work in high poverty situations. 10

Chapter Two: Review of Literature Introduction This chapter of the dissertation includes the literature review. Specific sections of this chapter include the definition of poverty, the impact of poverty, student teachers' preparedness to work in high poverty schools, instructional strategies to meet the needs of poor students, and attitudes of preservice teachers and in-service teachers. Finally, a summary will be included to examine how this quantitative study differentiates itself from previous ones. Definition of Poverty Poverty is a complex issue which is difficult to explain and I have chosen to focus on three common definitions which would be pertinent to educators. Researchers most commonly use poverty thresholds to formulate a definition, although critics have noted discrepancies in defining poverty. One that researchers often employ is "cash on hand" to determine income yet they rarely include housing subsidies and food stamps. Other critics have confirmed that the cost of living will vary across regions and what may be considered poor in New York City may not be poor in Bellingham, Washington. Rodgers, Jr. (2006) describes the concept of poverty as "a specific dollar amount that a family of a particular size and composition must have to avoid poverty" (p. 13). According to the US Census Bureau (2007), a family of four must have an income of less than $20,650 to be considered in poverty. The gap between the percentages of people in poverty in urban and suburban areas is narrowing as people in poverty are moving to suburban areas (Hannaway, Fix, & Passel et. al., 2004). 11

In examining the school setting, poverty is explained through "the use of the same yardstick: the percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced meals under federal school lunch programs" (Viadero, 2006, p. 1). In addition, the 60 largest urban school systems are more likely to have free and reduced lunch subsidies when compared nationally to suburban schools (62.3% vs. 37.5%) (Hannaway et. al., 2004). Although this explanation of poverty has been prevalent since the 1940s, many have questioned the use of the method. To better explain the procedure, free meals are given to children whose families meet or fall below 130 percent of the US poverty level (as explained in the previous paragraph) and reduced meals are provided to children who meet or fall below 185 percent of the same level. Burtless (an economist at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank) in Viadero (2006), states that this measure is still used simply because "it's handy, it's there, and people collect it every year" (p. 2). The measure is questioned for two reasons: students are embarrassed about their parents' income and often refuse to give accurate information, and some schools in high poverty areas feed all children regardless of socioeconomic status. One statistic included that the reduced lunch program participation was 69% at the first and second grade levels, which then decreased to 35%o at the 11th and 12th grade levels, which supports the theory that students are unwilling to be labeled in poverty as they age. Solutions to the subsidized school lunches include: • Geocoding-assigning geographic identifiers to students so that analysts can gather income information from the US Census Bureau about areas in which the children live. 12

• The Dissimilarity Index-a method that uses Census data to calculate the proportion of poor families that would have to move out of the neighborhood surrounding a school in order to achieve an even socioeconomic distribution. • The Isolation Index-A calculation, also drawn from the Census data, that measures the extent to which poor people in a school's neighborhood are likely to be in contact with members of the same socioeconomic group. • Home Resources-Survey questions asking students about the kinds of learning resources available in their homes, such as the number of books or magazines, encyclopedias, or computers, (p. 4) Payne (2005) also differentiates between two types of poverty: situational and generational. Generational poverty is defined as "having been in poverty for at least two generations" (p. 47) while situational is "a lack of resources due to a particular event [i.e. death, chronic illness, divorce, etc.]" (p. 47). The attitudes are different as people in generational poverty often feel that society "owes them" and individuals in situational poverty think that poverty is temporary and have more pride and less willingness to accept a handout from society. Payne explains the relevance of poverty and education, "one of the reasons it is getting more and more difficult to conduct school as we have in the past is that the students who bring the middle-class culture with them are decreasing in numbers, and the students who bring the poverty culture with them are increasing in numbers" (p. 61). In this dissertation, when poverty is examined and explained, the viewpoint is from that of a student who is in generational poverty since this is what teachers most often see. Impact of Poverty Published works note that "economic composition of a school's student body has a significant impact on the educational outcomes of individual students independent of their family backgrounds" (Saporito & Sohoni, 2007, p. 128). 13

Students in poverty suffer many challenges which adversely affect a child's educational performance and preservice teachers need to be aware of these in order to be more effective educators. In the next several paragraphs, I will explain these numerous challenges of poverty. Researchers note that poverty knows few boundaries in terms of physical proximity and that teachers may encounter students of poverty in most school settings. Reduced cognitive achievement (Farah et al., 2006), health concerns (GAO, 2007; Wertheimer et al., 2001), low literacy skills (Wright et al., 2000), student readiness (Wright et al., 2000) and a lack of parent involvement (Santrock, 2006; Shoaf et al., 2006; Wright et al., 2000) adversely affect a child's educational performance. The achievement gap. An achievement gap exists between students in low socioeconomic status levels with the middle and upper class categories of socioeconomic statuses. Machtinger (2007), at the High Poverty Schooling in America conference, wrote: "There was consensus on the unsurprising point that high poverty schools are below average in student achievement" (p. 1). Farah et al. (2006) explained that the achievement gap starts before schooling as students of low socioeconomic (SES) levels already come to school well below their counterparts in the middle and upper SES levels. They examined the differences in achievement and intelligence testing among the three SES levels. The researchers stated that "cognitive ability is not depressed across the board among children of low SES.. ..(but) SES disparities (exist) in working memory, cognitive control, and especially in language and memory" 14

(p. 6). The authors stated that "SES is correlated with numerous environmental factors that could influence brain development" (p. 7). Miller, Duffy, Rohr, Gasparello and Mercier (2005) examined the achievement gap which existed at their professional development school that included 76% in high poverty situations. Through placing a "full cohort of 25 preservice teachers" (p. 62) in the specific school, the school benefited from at least 1 extra person in the classroom and university supervisors' assistance and recommendations. Proficient reader scores (in 3rd through 5th grades) raised an average of 100%. Finally, Borman and Rachuba (2001) explained that "children in poverty have been disproportionately placed at risk of academic failure" (p. 8). High poverty schools "fail to provide a supportive school climate, by institutionalizing low academic expectations, or by delivering inadequate educational resources" (p. 8). Peske and Haycock (2006) also found that as poverty increased in schools, teacher quality decreased. In Savage Inequalities (1991), Kozol discovered poor schools had fewer teachers, a lack of school supplies, dilapidated buildings, and student overcrowding. Inequity in resources. Teachers who choose to teach in high poverty schools face challenges such as fewer resources when compared to schools in the suburban middle class settings (Gehrke, 2005). The main reason for this is the inequity of the distribution of school funds. Wood (2004) reported that No Child Left Behind legislation was important because one goal was to support increased funding for poor schools, yet NCLB is underfunded by at least 12 billion dollars. Still, others have noted that limited resources in the school and community would prevent students from being successful 15

in schools (Borman & Rachuba, 2001). Even community resources are limited in high poverty schools and teachers need to be prepared to assist their students. Gehrke (2005) stated that teachers should have files with area resources available to use in the classroom. Payne (2005) took an even broader approach when discussing resources or the lack thereof in poverty; poverty consists of a lack of resources in financial, emotional, mental, spiritual, physical, support systems, relationships/role models, and knowledge of hidden rules. Health problems. Researchers are finding common health characteristics in persons living in poverty (GAO, 2007; Wertheimer et al., 2001). The GAO stated that "health outcomes are worse for individuals with low income than for their more affluent counterparts" (p. 8). Moreover, these same individuals are more likely to die younger due to higher instances of disabilities, diseases and persistent illnesses. In fact, some researchers contend that life expectancy rates for persons of poverty are 25 percent lower than those who do not live in poverty. These outcomes are based on the lack of health care and insurance, which lead to lower instances of preventive care. The lack of health insurance could be one reason why 300,000 babies in the United States were deemed low-birthweight (5.5 pounds). Wertheimer et al. found that "poverty rates for children born to unmarried, teenage high school dropouts are 10 times those of children born to unmarried high school graduates over age 20 years" (p. 21). In Kozol's narrative piece on high poverty schools and neighborhoods {Savage Inequalities, 1991), he described events he encountered while researching the book. Through conversations with teachers and local citizens, he found a multitude 16

Full document contains 105 pages
Abstract: As more students are coming from diverse backgrounds including race, ethnicity, and social class, teachers are challenged to work with demographics with which they are not familiar. Society is faced with "tomorrow's teachers" who are mostly white, female, and middle-class with little intercultural background. Most of the research has been conducted on student teachers' perceptions of diverse populations but little has been performed in terms of focusing on student teachers' perceptions of high poverty issues. Therefore, this dissertation examined student teachers' awareness, perceptions of preparedness, and attitudes about high poverty students. The population of this quantitative study consisted of student teachers at three universities: a large Midwestern, Jesuit university; a small, liberal arts Midwestern university with ties to the United Methodist Church; and a large, public Midwestern university. A 31 item open-ended and closed-ended survey was distributed to student teachers during their on-campus professional development seminars. The closed-ended items were analyzed using descriptive statistics including mean, median, mode and skewness and an independent samples t-test. Responses to the open-ended questions were coded using a thematic analysis approach in order to disaggregate the themes which existed. In general, student teachers in the survey seem aware and prepared to work in high-poverty school settings. The survey population also holds relatively positive attitudes of high poverty students. The mean, median, and mode of the awareness, preparedness and attitude scales support these statements. The independent samples t-test only noted significance in the white and non-white student teachers in terms of their awareness and preparedness of high-poverty issues.