Tag Archive: Elementary

Elementary school principals’ beliefs about mathematics education and their leadership practices (Education Papers posted on March 25th, 2013 )

Schools in all parts of the nation are undergoing reform in mathematics education due in part to the publication of the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Major shifts in classroom instruction, extensive professional development, and new curricula are among the many components for change that administrators must address. Just as students and teachers enter schools with complex mathematics ideas in place, similarly principals participate in this work with specific ideas about mathematics, teaching, and learning. Principals beliefs about instructional leadership and how they navigate the changes within a discipline that requires complex and multifaceted leadership practices are critical to mathematics reform efforts. The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of how principals beliefs and ideas about teaching and learning mathematics influenced their leadership practices. Through a qualitative case study of five elementary principals in one school district, this study examined the leadership they practiced during the districts mathematics reform initiative while offering insight into their ideas about how mathematics is learned and how IT should be taught. Earlier studies of teachers beliefs and knowledge about the teaching and learning of mathematics show the direct influence of these beliefs on their practice. The emerging research on principals and administrators suggests that their beliefs and knowledge about the nature of mathematics and how IT is taught and learned have significant influences on their administrative and leadership practices. The findings in this study validate the emerging research and show that the leadership practices of five elementary principals were influenced by their knowledge about mathematics while also directly influenced by their instructional leadership style. These principals had varying degrees of understanding about mathematics, which informed the approaches they used to support their teachers. An understanding of how and why principals do what they do and the relationship to their ideas about mathematics will inform schools about the opportunities required for administrators to learn about the instructional leadership required to sustain mathematics reform.

How does reform happen? Sensemaking and school reform: An interpretive case study (Education Papers posted on March 23rd, 2013 )

The organizational sensemaking perspective Weick, 1995, 2001) may provide a useful framework for understanding the operation of schools and guiding efforts to make them better. Organizational sensemaking is the process by which people collectively find their environments, identities, and actions meaningful or intelligible. This dissertation focuses on a two-year case study of an elementary school in a reform project supporting change in reading instruction, sponsored by the Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement CIERA). The focus is on the school, the research design team, and their interaction to see how the reform is enacted through shared meanings and activities. The study found activities driven by individual and collective sensemaking, the result of retrospective, noticing, interpretation, and acting. Reformers resolved tensions and ambiguities in their roles, practices, goals, knowledge, and theories by creating plausible, flexible, partial, and ambiguous models that were only fully realized in their enactment. Teachers and administrators authored the reform design as much as they interpreted IT. The needs and expectations of teachers and administrators pushed back on the sensemaking of the design team and transformed the model itself. The process focused on concrete cues, commitments of people, time, money, and activities. Other issues of roles and theories were left to discovery in practice. While many reported positive results, retrospective descriptions of the reform effort differed depending on respondents prior experiences, involvement with the reform, and ongoing projects. The study concludes: 1) A sensemaking perspective helped maintain a focus on puzzling features of the school change process. 2) Sensemaking concepts helped to “make sense” of puzzling features of the school change process. 3) Sensemaking concepts are complex and ambiguous and therefore difficult to apply or test consistently. Possible generalizations include: 1) School reform models embody ambiguities that resist specification. 2) Enactment runs both ways. 3) Enactment operates through collective sensemaking rather than negotiation, interpretation, or adaptation.

Effects of ambient poverty on student achievement among ethnic subgroups (Education Papers posted on March 23rd, 2013 )

The purpose of this dissertation was to explore the relationships between three variables. First there was the general poverty level of community, or group of communities. This poverty level was deemed the ambient poverty level. The ambient poverty level was determined for two groups of North Carolina counties based on the percentage of children living in poverty according to the 2003 federal poverty standard. These percentages were calculated using data from the Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates from the United States Census Bureau. The next variable of comparison was ethnicity. The three ethnic categories for this study were Black, White, and Hispanic. The last variable used in this study was student achievement defined by the mean percent proficient on the North Carolina End of Grade tests of reading and mathematics. Using independent sample T-tests, paired sample T-tests, and a one-way between groups analysis of variance, the study found that ambient poverty level does have some effect on the academic achievement of students. IT has a varying effect on ethnic subgroups, and grade spans. These grade spans consist of two groups. The elementary group is a composite of grades 3-5, while the middle grades group is a composite of grades 6-8. In addition, ambient poverty has a varying effect when reading performance is compared to mathematics performance. There were three important patterns that emerged from the analyses. First, the mean percent proficient for the low poverty group was higher than the mean percent proficient for the high poverty group at every disaggregation. Second, in the between groups comparison of the ethnic groups, the White students had the highest percent proficient, the Hispanic students had the next highest percent proficient, and the Black students had the lowest percent proficient. Third, in reading, the interethnic pattern was split. Due to the variation in achievement between ethnic groups, grade spans, subject areas, and poverty levels, increased differentiation in remediation strategies might be a fruitful area for exploration. Moreover, the findings also suggest that increased sensitivity to family Social status, economic conditions, and potential to support student achievement might be helpful.

Teachers’ experiences implementing English-only educational legislation (Education Papers posted on March 23rd, 2013 )

This dissertation analyzed the ways in which elementary school teachers in Massachusetts experienced the impact of Question 2 Q2). Q2, a ballot initiative approved by Massachusetts voters, replaced the 30-year old legislation mandating transitional bilingual education with English-only classrooms for English language learners ELLs). Q2 forbids the use of students native languages for instruction, allowing minimal use of languages other than English in the newly mandated sheltered English immersion SEI) classrooms. In order to ensure compliance, Q2 establishes severe punishments for any school employee who refuses to implement the law. Within a few months, more than 50 school districts in Massachusetts were mandated to restructure their programs for ELLs and to develop new SEI programs. Using a mixed methods design Creswell, Plano Clark, Gutmann & Hanson, 2003), two collective case studies were the focus of the dissertation. Through interviews and document analysis, the Schools Collective Case Studies focused on the implementation of Q2s mandates in three elementary schools and the ways teachers in each school experienced Q2s impact. The Type of Teachers Collective Case Studies used both interviews and questionnaire results to portray the similarities and differences among experiences of mainstream ME), SEI, and two-way bilingual education TWBE) teachers working in seven elementary schools. The results suggest that teachers experiences with the passage and implementation of Q2 were mediated by macro-level, mid-level, and individual-level influences. Teachers in each classroom setting experienced Q2s mandates in varying degrees. As a group, SEI teachers experienced Q2 as a complex, multi-dimensional process that brought several challenges as well as some positive and negative consequences to their teaching positions, classrooms, instruction, and/or professional identities. The majority of ME and TWBE teachers experienced Q2 mandates in less complex ways. While there were similarities in the experiences of teachers across classroom settings, each teacher uniquely adapted Q2 mandates.

A descriptive study of instructional and non-instructional strategies supporting underrepresented gifted and talented elementary students in Orange County schools (Education Papers posted on March 22nd, 2013 )

Experts agree that gifted and talented programs tend to be sporadic and limited across the state for ethnically, linguistically, and socio-economically diverse student populations. These student populations continue to grow each year in number and in diversity, although their representation in gifted and talented programs does not equate to the overall growth. The purpose of this study was to identify instructional and non-instructional practices at 6 Orange County elementary schools that are serving underrepresented elementary students in gifted and talented programs. A qualitative, descriptive study was employed to answer 4 research questions: 1) What identification practices are used in Orange County elementary schools to identify diverse children as gifted and talented? 2) What primary and secondary language acquisition instructional methods are used? 3) What gifted and talented instructional strategies are used? 4) What non-instructional services are used? Interviews were conducted with school principals to collect school demographic data. A written survey was administered to a group of educators at each school to learn about perceived site practices. Document reviews and informal site observations were also conducted at each site for comparison with survey responses. Data was then analyzed for trends and patterns. Study findings indicated that elementary schools use multiple and diverse measures. Instructional methods included 2nd Language Acquisition strategies, Differentiated Instruction, Cooperative Learning, and Project Based Learning. Non instructional methods used included parent education and bilingual liaisons. As a result of the findings, this study concluded training of school personnel to be an important factor to increasing the number of ethnically, linguistically, and socioeconomically diverse students as gifted. Teachers were identified to have the most influence in student identification. The study also confirmed parent education as being an important factor for student success as well as the presence of a bilingual liaison at the school to ensure parent participation and understanding of gifted and talented program services.

A perfect fit: A study of tessellations (Education Papers posted on March 22nd, 2013 )

To embrace the creativity and curiosity that comes with being a pre-teen sixth grader, I chose to implement a unit surrounding the very basics of tessellations. Tessellations have the simplicity of taking one shape and repeating itself over to create a masterpiece as well as taking geometric polygons and manipulating to create a pattern so beautiful to the eye. Through implementing a tessellations unit, students will be able to see the beauty that surrounds “ordinary” math. To provide an opportunity for project-based learning, I implemented a Design Challenge in which each student was able to participate. By applying their knowledge of tessellations, the students each designed their own quilt square that was turned into a pillow. Each square had to meet certain specifications and constraints. The specifications include a pattern that will create a semi-regular tessellation, a pattern using at least two shapes, and a pattern that has the same configuration at every vertex. Also, the students were required to use at least four different provided fabrics. The constraints for this project include using the materials provided by me, the teacher. Also, the quilt square must be in a 1 foot by 1 foot dimension. With the sixth grade mentality and a boost of encouragement, I was certain these students would be able to succeed and create the tessellation quilt of a lifetime! Throughout the unit, the students never stopped giving their all. Their enthusiasm was always visible. Most of all, they all walked away from this experience learning new concepts and discovering they could enjoy mathematics. The students enjoyed learning about tessellations. IT was apparent through their excitement when the project was introduced. They each clearly applied what they had learned to their designs. The students all rose to the occasion, but I think this project was more difficult than I expected. The students could have each benefited from more time and from someone who had more experience sewing. In the future, I would modify the curriculum and do the project with an older group, or have the sixth grade students complete the project using something other than sewing.

Conceptions of art: A case study of elementary teachers, a principal, and an art teacher (Education Papers posted on March 21st, 2013 )

This qualitative case study investigated elementary teachers’ concepts of art, their anxieties associated with art practices, and a principal’s decision making concerning art in the curriculum. Two in-depth interviews were conducted with 12 participants to determine their knowledge base, family and educational backgrounds, conceptions of art, and the relationship with the art teacher. Observations of classroom art activities were carried out over a period of six months and recorded in a field log. Visual images in the school building were analyzed for content. Data were analyzed through open and pattern coding. Through axial coding, clusters of data were organized by commonalities and patterns arranged around the axis category of teachers’ conception of art. Through the metaphor of “The Medium of Water” representing teachers’ understanding of art, six themes were developed explaining the results of this study: (1) Skimming the Surface of the Water—describes classroom teachers’ inadequate backgrounds. A lack of exposure, education, and familiarity connected to art knowledge was linked to how art was superficially conceptualized and valued. (2) Wading in the Shallows—describes classroom teachers’ shallow conceptions of art. (3) A Choice Not to Dive—describes manifestations of classroom teachers’ conceptions of art and implementation of art. Images displayed within classrooms and corridors were found to be predominately commercially adult-generated and/or student-generated from the art curriculum. (4) Fear of the Water—describes anxieties associated with the teaching and making of art. Anxious participants did not consider themselves artistic and used less art in their classrooms. (5) Unable to Take the Plunge—describes a knowledgeable principal’s indecision. While being knowledgeable and sympathetic to art, she was unable to make a case for an art-inclusive program, and (6) Drowning in Responsibilities—describes an overwhelmed art teacher. Her isolation contributed to an inability to collaborate with other teachers and responsibility to integrate fell mostly to her. Her teaching objectives and values did not match with classroom teachers’. All participants’ concerns were coping with curricular pressures, high-stakes testing, and lack of time in the schedule. Because of these issues, art was not a priority in this school’s curriculum.

A perfect fit: A study of tessellations (Education Papers posted on March 21st, 2013 )

To embrace the creativity and curiosity that comes with being a pre-teen sixth grader, I chose to implement a unit surrounding the very basics of tessellations. Tessellations have the simplicity of taking one shape and repeating itself over to create a masterpiece as well as taking geometric polygons and manipulating to create a pattern so beautiful to the eye. Through implementing a tessellations unit, students will be able to see the beauty that surrounds “ordinary” math. To provide an opportunity for project-based learning, I implemented a Design Challenge in which each student was able to participate. By applying their knowledge of tessellations, the students each designed their own quilt square that was turned into a pillow. Each square had to meet certain specifications and constraints. The specifications include a pattern that will create a semi-regular tessellation, a pattern using at least two shapes, and a pattern that has the same configuration at every vertex. Also, the students were required to use at least four different provided fabrics. The constraints for this project include using the materials provided by me, the teacher. Also, the quilt square must be in a 1 foot by 1 foot dimension. With the sixth grade mentality and a boost of encouragement, I was certain these students would be able to succeed and create the tessellation quilt of a lifetime! Throughout the unit, the students never stopped giving their all. Their enthusiasm was always visible. Most of all, they all walked away from this experience learning new concepts and discovering they could enjoy mathematics. The students enjoyed learning about tessellations. IT was apparent through their excitement when the project was introduced. They each clearly applied what they had learned to their designs. The students all rose to the occasion, but I think this project was more difficult than I expected. The students could have each benefited from more time and from someone who had more experience sewing. In the future, I would modify the curriculum and do the project with an older group, or have the sixth grade students complete the project using something other than sewing.

Dual language programs: Are they an effective model for teaching second language learners (Education Papers posted on March 20th, 2013 )

The present researcher compared the outcomes from Dual Language and Traditional Bilingual approaches on the acquisition of English and the development of first language literacy for second language learners in the first and second grade. The study was conducted over a one year period in a large urban elementary school. The sample consisted of 94 students attending Dual Language 58) and Transitional Bilingual classes 36) in both grades one and two. Both samples consisted of students who were second language learners. The design used was a two-way mixed factor analysis of variance, with groups Dual Language and Transitional Bilingual) as the between subjects factor, and time of testing pretest and posttest) as the within-subjects factor. The dependent variables were student performance on the ECLAS an English proficiency assessment) and EL SOL a Spanish proficiency assessment). A one-way comparison between groups using scores from the NYSESLAT exam was conducted as well and a descriptive analysis of NYSESLAT scores is presented. Results of the study revealed that second language learners instructed in both Dual Language and Transitional Bilingual Education methods demonstrated an increase in language acquisition and oral literacy skills in English. The results also indicate there was growth in most domains of native language oral and literacy skills. Both Dual Language and Transitional Bilingual Education scores showed an increase in Spanish language skills on the majority of subtests as demonstrated by the EL SOL assessment. However, results of the study suggest that a greater proficiency in the first language does not necessarily correlate with success in acquiring a second language. There was no interaction observed in this study between students initial levels of native language proficiency and their success in English acquisition as measured by ECLAS. The progress observed was primarily due to the quality of instruction. Results of the study further suggest that the Dual Language approach was more effective than Transitional Bilingual Education in attainment of English proficiency as measured by the NYSESLAT.

A perfect fit: A study of tessellations (Education Papers posted on March 20th, 2013 )

To embrace the creativity and curiosity that comes with being a pre-teen sixth grader, I chose to implement a unit surrounding the very basics of tessellations. Tessellations have the simplicity of taking one shape and repeating itself over to create a masterpiece as well as taking geometric polygons and manipulating to create a pattern so beautiful to the eye. Through implementing a tessellations unit, students will be able to see the beauty that surrounds “ordinary” math. To provide an opportunity for project-based learning, I implemented a Design Challenge in which each student was able to participate. By applying their knowledge of tessellations, the students each designed their own quilt square that was turned into a pillow. Each square had to meet certain specifications and constraints. The specifications include a pattern that will create a semi-regular tessellation, a pattern using at least two shapes, and a pattern that has the same configuration at every vertex. Also, the students were required to use at least four different provided fabrics. The constraints for this project include using the materials provided by me, the teacher. Also, the quilt square must be in a 1 foot by 1 foot dimension. With the sixth grade mentality and a boost of encouragement, I was certain these students would be able to succeed and create the tessellation quilt of a lifetime! Throughout the unit, the students never stopped giving their all. Their enthusiasm was always visible. Most of all, they all walked away from this experience learning new concepts and discovering they could enjoy mathematics. The students enjoyed learning about tessellations. IT was apparent through their excitement when the project was introduced. They each clearly applied what they had learned to their designs. The students all rose to the occasion, but I think this project was more difficult than I expected. The students could have each benefited from more time and from someone who had more experience sewing. In the future, I would modify the curriculum and do the project with an older group, or have the sixth grade students complete the project using something other than sewing.