Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Maralee Mayberry, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Tomas Rodriguez, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elizabeth Vaquera, Ph.D.


No Child Left Behind, Minority Students, Low-Income, Resources, Teacherstudent Relationships


This study examined teachers' perceptions and attitudes of Title I students at an urban elementary school in which over 90% of the student population receives free or reduced-priced lunch. Using participant observation and in-depth interviews, this research analyzed three avenues for Title I students to acquire cultural and social capital at school: material and non-material resources, language acquisition, and the building of positive teacher-student relationships. In order to analyze these avenues, this study explored the following questions: How do teachers talk about and perceive Title I students? Do their attitudes and the images constructed from these perceptions impact students' ability to build positive teacher-student relationships? Do these perceptions and attitudes impact students' opportunities to build social and cultural capital? Do the resources afforded to students aide the acquisition of cultural capital? What expectations do teachers have for students' language usage and do these expectations hinder the acquisition of cultural capital? These questions guided my data collection process and analysis on how social and cultural capital operates within a Title I school.

This study found that students attending Sherwood did not have access to quality material resources such as books and computers. However, they did have exposure to non-material resources such as nutritional programs that provided students' avenues to acquire cultural capital through dominant cultural experiences. Students' acquisition of Standard English was another avenue for students to acquire cultural capital. Teachers at Sherwood held different expectations for African American students and Spanish speaking students. African American students were constantly corrected when they did not speak Standard English by white teachers. In contrast, Spanish-speaking students were not corrected because teachers did not view their language as a disruption to the class. My findings suggest that African American students did not know why Standard English was important. Thus, it is likely that they did not learn how to activate this form of capital to their social benefit. In contrast, the cultural codes Spanish-speaking students were perceived as of higher value and incorporated in the school. Last, this study found teachers' perceptions of Title I students did not always hinder their ability to form positive teacher-student relationships, but may have helped these relationships to form because of teachers' perceptions of students' home life. Throughout this study, I explored the strategies and obstacles faced by Title I teachers and students as well as how these affect the acquisition of cultural and social capital.