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Teachers' Beliefs and Instructional Practices within Selected High Performing and Low Performing Florida High Schools

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TEACHERS’ BELIEFS AND INSTRUCTI ONAL PRACTICES WITHIN SELECTED HIGH PERFORMING AND LOW PERFOR MING FLORIDA HIGH SCHOOLS By DAYLE SCOTT PEABODY A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2005

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Copyright 2005 by Dayle Scott Peabody

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For their unconditional love and support, to Bonnie, Katy, Mom, Dad, Zary, Paco, Zahyra, and Carlos.

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iv ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank my wife Bonnie and our daughter Kathry n for all the love, support, patience and understandi ng they have given me as I have pursued this project. I would not have been able to come this fa r without them. I w ould like to thank my parents for always believing in me, and for ha ving the confidence in me to let me grow at my own pace. I must also thank Michael Thorne, Brad Burklew, Diane Archer-Banks, Mary Louise Wells, Angelina Irizarry, Cris ten Krugh, and Meg Deering for giving their support, time, energy, and suggestions, all of which helped me in this endeavor. I must also thank my committee Dr. Ja mes Doud, Dr. James Button, and Dr. Fran Vandiver for providing me valuable guidance during this project. Ea ch one of them was a constant source of support and encouragemen t to me throughout this process. My chair, Dr. Linda Behar-Horenstein, has been a wonderful advisor, mentor, listener, and friend for me these past four years. Her dedication to her students is inspiring.

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v TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.................................................................................................iv LIST OF TABLES............................................................................................................vii ABSTRACT.....................................................................................................................vi ii CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION........................................................................................................1 Theoretical Framework.................................................................................................4 Research Questions.......................................................................................................5 Significance..................................................................................................................6 Definition of Terms......................................................................................................7 Limitations.................................................................................................................... 8 2 LITERATURE REVIEW.............................................................................................9 FCAT as an Accountability Measure...........................................................................9 Teacher Beliefs and Practices.....................................................................................15 Research-Based Literacy Teaching Methods in Secondary Schools..........................20 Teaching Literacy Skills to At-risk Students..............................................................25 Conclusion..................................................................................................................30 3 METHODS.................................................................................................................31 The Setting..................................................................................................................31 Participants.................................................................................................................32 Data Collection...........................................................................................................34 Data Analysis..............................................................................................................35 Researcher Bias..........................................................................................................37 Validity and Reliability...............................................................................................38 4 FINDINGS AND ANALYSIS...................................................................................40 Research Question 1) To What Extent Are FCAT Scores based on Outside Factors such as Race, SES and Size of the School?..............................................40

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vi Research Question 2) What Are the Inst ructional Practices among Teachers of Students in High Performing Schools and among Teachers of Students in Low Performing Schools?..............................................................................................40 High-Performing Schools....................................................................................41 Low-Performing Schools.....................................................................................48 Research Question 3) What Are the Inst ructional Beliefs among Teachers at High Performing and Low Performing Schools?............................................................58 High Performing Schools....................................................................................58 Low Performing Schools.....................................................................................65 Common Themes at Low and High Performing Schools....................................71 Research Question 4) What Is the Co rrespondence among Teachers’ Beliefs and Instructional Practices at the High Performing and Low Performing Schools?....75 High Performing Schools....................................................................................77 Low Performing Schools.....................................................................................77 Research Question #5) What Is the Correspondence Between Teacher SelfReported Beliefs, Interview Responses a nd Instructional Practices at the High and Low Performing High Schools?......................................................................78 Summary.....................................................................................................................81 5 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION........................................................................83 Summary.....................................................................................................................83 Relationship between FCAT scores and outside factors.....................................83 Instructional Practices.........................................................................................83 Instructional Beliefs.............................................................................................85 Congruence Between Teacher Practices and Teacher Beliefs............................87 Implications................................................................................................................88 Suggestions for Further Study....................................................................................91 Teaching Reading................................................................................................91 Student-Directed Teaching and Learning............................................................92 Policy Decisions Aimed at Helping Low Performing Schools...........................92 Other factors impacting FCAT scores.................................................................92 Summary and Conclusion...........................................................................................93 APPENDIX A TEACHER OBSERVATION INSTRUMENT..........................................................94 B TEACHER INTERVIEW PROTOCOL.....................................................................97 C IRB APPROVAL AND CONSENT FORMS............................................................99 LIST OF REFERENCES.................................................................................................102 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH...........................................................................................109

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vii LIST OF TABLES Table page 3-1 Percentage of students who passed the 2003 Reading FCAT, percentage of minority students, percentage of lowincome students, and school grade at participating schools.................................................................................................32 3-2 Number of respondents to the TBPS from each school...........................................37 4-1 Amount of time spent engaged in student-directed activities..................................48 4-2 Mean number of reprimands issued by teacher per period observed.......................52 4-3 Emergent themes from analysis of observations and interviews.............................76

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viii Abstract of Dissertation Pres ented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy TEACHERS’ BELIEFS AND INSTRUCTI ONAL PRACTICES WITHIN SELECTED HIGH PERFORMING AND LOW PERFOR MING FLORIDA HIGH SCHOOLS By Dayle Scott Peabody August 2005 Chair: Linda S. Behar-Horenstein Major Department: Educational Leadership, Policy and Foundations Student performance on standardized test s correlates with demographic factors such as race and socio-economic status. On standardized te sts, minority and low income students often perform below averag e. Previous analysis of 10th grade Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) Readi ng scores demonstrated that students at some schools with a majority at-risk populat ion perform significantly below the state average, whereas students at other, simila r schools perform significantly above the state average on this test. This study examined the differences between classroom factors, such as teacher beliefs and instructional practice, that might help explain these differences in performance among similar students on the 10th grade FCAT Reading test. Teachers at four schools with a majority of at-risk students were observed, interviewed and surveyed. This study found that t eachers at high performing schools emphasized learner-centered teaching in both belief and practice, de-emphasizing the FCAT and the benchmarks tested. In contrast, teachers at low performing schools emphasized teacher-

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ix centered behaviors, both in belief and practi ce, and focused specifically on the FCAT as well as specific benchmarks tested.

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1 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION For the past 25 years, studies of the SAT a nd Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) have shown that there is a relationship between test scores and students who are poor or minorities. Cunningham and Sanzo (2002), Howell and Peterson (2002), Kohn (2001), and Port (1979) also found a correlation between race and/or socio-economic status (SES) of students with their pe rformance on state-administered standardized tests. In these studies, performance on state-administered standardized tests has yielded the same result; that students of minority backgr ounds, as well as students from low SES backgrounds, perform poorly on these tests, when compared to white, middle and upper income peers. There are several reasons why poor and/or minority st udents perform poorly on standardized tests; however, often, the underlying reason rela tes to literacy. Literacy, according to Lewin (2003), is defined as being able to read and write functionally. The relationship among literacy, poverty, and e ducational attainment has been well documented by researchers (Denti & Guer in, 2004; Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2003). Some researchers have pointed to institutiona l or systemic differences between the poor in America and others. Kozol (1991) provi des a striking picture of the differences between students enrolled in poor, inner ci ty schools and those enrolled in wealthy, suburban schools. Examining class differences illustrates that the poor face obstacles in acquiring a public education that most public school students do not face, including high unemployment, drugs, gangs, crime and exposure to acquired immunodeficiency

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2 syndrome (AIDS). Bertrand (1995) argued th at many students today are considered “atrisk.” Included among those students that he would classify as “at-r isk” are individuals who are of normal intelligence, who come from broken homes, and have witnessed or suffered from parental loss of employment or have experi enced undue burdens that are typical for the American underclass. Another causal factor as to why low SES/minority students perform poorly in school generally is immigration. Bertra nd (1995) observed that Hispanic/Latino immigration has made that group the fastest growing minority group in the U.S. since the 1970’s. This growth in Hispanic immi gration, coupled with growth in Asian immigration, has increased the need for multilingual education because typically these students are not able to speak English flue ntly when they enter the American public educational system (pp. 8-9). In California this issue has been controversial between proponents who advocate for providing for nativ e language instruction in public schools, and the “English First” proponents, who seek to limit non-English instruction in the public schools (McQuillan, 1998). As a result, many school dist ricts in states with large numbers of immigrant populations find themse lves unable, or unwilling, to provide the resources necessary to provide instructi on to immigrant stude nts in their native languages. At the same time that the number of poor and/or minority students entering public schools has grown (Ross, 2003), many U.S. st ates have increased their reliance on standardized test scores. If there are not interventions to increase the achievement and pass rates on standardized tests among poor and minority students, public education in America is likely to become more class-based. Concurren tly, there is a likelihood that

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3 the number of low SES/minority dropouts will incr ease. Many of the students at risk will face difficult economic decisions, some of which are likely to be shared with taxpayers. While the problems of poor and minority Amer icans do not necessarily begin in school, these issues do impact learning and standardized test performance. In many communities across America, poor an d/or minority students face barriers to successful educational attainment from th e circumstances of their lives outside of school (Shulman, 2003). The government has trie d to intervene in the learning process for poor and/or minority students. For exam ple, since the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, when the National Governors Conference, and Presidents Bush and Clinton began advocating for standards-based education, other states began to follow this lead. Florida developed and implemented the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) in the mid-1990’s. After Jeb Bush was elected Gove rnor in 1998, the FCAT became part of the Governor’s “A +” plan for public education. Under this mandate, schools are assigned grades based on the performance of stude nts on the FCAT, making the FCAT a “highstakes” test. States throughout the nation are beginning to follow Florida’s practice, and use standardized test scores to determin e funding decisions a nd students’ graduation rates. In 2003, for the first time, students in Florida were required to pass the 10th grade Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) in order to graduate. The FCAT is composed of two criterion-base d tests, a math test and a reading test, and a norm-referenced test that is composed of reading and math questions. Statistical analysis of the 2003 FCAT reading scores show s that a significant por tion of variance in 10th grade FCAT scores was due to student’s race and socio-economic status (SES), confirming, at least in part, Popham’s thesis. In a study of the re lationship between low

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4 SES/minority students and the FCAT using st atistical data retrieved from Florida’s Department of Education website ( www.fldoe.org/ ), the researcher f ound that 52% of the variance in FCAT reading scores among 10th graders in 2003 was due to student race and SES. Using the same statistical data, the researcher found that school size accounts for less than 0.1% of the vari ance in FCAT scores. Although race and SES are immutable factors, 48% of the variance in FCAT scores remains unaccounted for in this particular data se t. Thus, there appear to be other factors, such as students’ and educators’ behaviors, that influence FCAT scores. Among Florida high schools that have large numbers of poor a nd/or minority students, less than 40% of students passed the 10th grade reading test. However, in some of these schools, at least two-thirds of the students pass the FCAT. Wh at makes these schools different from other schools that have large numbers of poor/minority students? If variables such as race and SES are held constant, other f actors must account for this diffe rence in performance. One factor might be teaching practices; also, th e amount of time teachers spend teaching to the test might be critical (Shepard, 1 989; Romberg, Zarinnia & Williams, 1989). Theoretical Framework How teachers think about and practice teaching has a profound affect on learning among students (Applebee et al., 2003; Fisher 2001; Greenleaf et al., 2001). Many researchers have noted that th e practice of high-stakes test ing affects teaching practices (Benson, 2003; Popham, 2001; Stecher, 2002), causi ng some to “teach to the test.” The existence of the FCAT as a high-stakes te st has affected the curriculum, but not uniformly. The fact that students from schools with similar demographic backgrounds perform so differently on the FCAT suggests th at factors internal to the classroom and/or school are affecting stud ent performance on the 10th grade FCAT Reading test. Recent

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5 research into the effects of teaching on lear ning, notably in the langua ge arts, finds that use of more student-centere d or student empowered teach ing models produces more effective learning, and is more likely to cont ribute to higher test scores (Applebee et al. 2003; Cook-Sather, 2002; McCombs and Whisle r, 1997; Northeast a nd Islands Regional Educational Laboratory at Br own University, 2001). Accordingly, three theories based on this research will be tested in this study: 1. The existence of the FCAT as a high-stakes test has affected teaching beliefs and practices in 10th grade English classes, 2. Teachers in high performing schools are more likely to employ learner-centered methods in curriculum design and implem entation, than are teachers in lowperforming schools, and 3. Teachers in high performing schools are more likely to use the social and/or personal family of teaching models (Joyce and Calhoun, 1996), and are less inclined to “teach to the test,” in co mparison with teachers at low performing schools. The purpose of this study is to examin e how teacher belief s and instructional practice might influence FCAT scores. Cl assrooms in high performing schools and in low performing schools will be examined in this study to test these theories. This study seeks to understand and interpret how classr oom practices affect the performance of students on standardized tests. Contextual ization, interpretation and understanding are the domain of the constructivist/interpretivi st paradigms of research (Glesne, 1999). Using an interpretivist framework will allow for developing a better understanding of the complexities of classroom practices among teachers that may have an impact on the performance of their stud ents on the FCAT. Research Questions The following questions are in vestigated in this study:

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6 1. To what extent are FCAT scores based on outside factors such as race, SES and size of the school? 2. What are the instructional practices am ong teachers of students in high performing and low performing schools? 3. What are the instructional beliefs am ong teachers at high performing and low performing schools? 4. What is the correspondence among teachers’ beliefs and instructional practices at the high performing and low performing schools? 5. What is the correspondence between teach er self-reported inst ructional beliefs, interview responses and instructional pr actices at the high performing and low performing high schools? Investigating these questions will require use of quantitative research methods for question number 1, both quantitative and quali tative methods for question number 5, and qualitative research methods for the remain ing questions. Utilization of quantitative methods provides evidence of a relationship between demographic factors and FCAT scores. However, in order to develop a furt her understanding of the factors that influence student performance on the FCAT beyond demogr aphic factors (that are easily tabulated), qualitative methods provide a possible explan ation that would otherwise be inaccessible through the use of a stri ctly empirical study, by providing a ri ch data set that allows for comparison between high performing and low performing schools. Significance The findings from this study will provide educators with information about ways “at-risk” students can succeed on standardized tests such as the FCAT. Educators and educational policy makers are likely to ha ve a better understa nding of the kind of instructional practices which distinguish a successful classroom environment that prepares low SES/minority students from less successful classroom environments.

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7 Educational researchers will be able to id entify those factors beyond race and SES that impact performance on standardized tests. This study focused on what factors within the control or influence of educators help poor /minority students succeed on the FCAT. This study will illuminate what e ducators at schools with la rge numbers of poor/minority students can do to diminish disadvantages th at such students face. Additionally, other studies in the field have looked at the impact of teaching styles on student performance in literacy and reading (Antinarella & Sal bu, 2003; Bertrand & Sti ce, 2003; Lewin, 2003; and Olson, 2003). This study will help to determine what educators can do to enhance achievement outcomes for poor and/or minority students by illustra ting how techniques used to teach “at-risk” secondary students l iteracy skills can be a pplied to helping these students prepare for high-stakes tests su ch as the FCAT. By looking beyond the relationship between race and SES with standa rdized test scores, it is hoped that factors unique to certain schools that have positively im pacted standardized test scores for poor and/or minority students can be revealed. The unit of analysis within this study will be teachers’ instructi onal practice. Definition of Terms At-risk schools – refers to schools with either a majority of students who are of minority descent, receive free/reduced lunch benefits, or both. Criterion-referenced test – refers to a test in which students are expected to perform at a pre-establishe d standard, achieve a passing grade, or demonstrate proficiency. FCAT – Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test A standardized test developed by the state of Florida and administered to st udents each year from grades 3-10. Students who graduate with a standard diploma in the state of Florida must pass both sections of

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8 the FCAT (reading and math) in order to gr aduate, regardless of other state/district criteria. High-performing schools – refers to schools in whic h at least two-thirds of students tested passed the 10th grade FCAT reading test. High-stakes test – refers to tests such as the FCAT; in which outcomes guide funding decisions for schools. Low-performing schools – refers to schools in which no more than 40% of students tested passed the 10th grade FCAT reading test. Minority – refers to individuals who ar e African-American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander, or Native American. Norm-referenced test – refers to a test in which students’ scores are compared with each other and not against some fixed standard. Poor/low SES – refers to the percentage of students at each school who receive free/reduced lunch benefits. Limitations 6. Only data within Florida at one point in time were examined; only the FCAT and only Florida were examined herein. 7. Only scores on the 2003 10th grade reading FCAT test were examined. 8. The generalizability of this study will be restricted to the context where it was performed. 9. Only a sample of the relevant schools was selected for study. 10. Only a small sample of teachers met the criteria fo r participation. 11. Students’ perceptions of in struction were not collecte d and analyzed although it is likely that they impacted the findings.l

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9 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW The purpose of this study is to devel op an understanding of what factors beyond race and SES impact student achievement among “at-risk” students. The purpose of this chapter is to review relevant research studi es. An overview of the following topics will be presented: 1) FCAT as an accountability m easure, 2) teacher beliefs and practices, 3) research-based practices for teaching literacy in secondary schools, and 4) teaching literacy skills to “at-risk” students. FCAT as an Accountability Measure The use of standardized te sts in K-12 education in the United States is long standing. Since the 1970’s, there has been a pr oliferation of standardized tests developed by the states and others. Standardized test s are utilized for a variety of purposes in schools today. Some tests, such as the now defunct Florida High School Competency Test (HSCT), are used as minimal competency tests, to assess whet her or not students are learning certain basic skills. Others, such as the SAT, are used for college admission decisions. How does the presence of high-stakes test ing affect literacy development among secondary students? Literacy, according to Lewin (2003), is composed of adequate development of both reading and writing skil ls so that the learner can communicate effectively. Accountability in K-12 education has become an emerging trend among policy makers. Florida is among the leaders in this regard, states Greene (2001). Not only has

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10 Florida created its own standardized test (the FCAT), but the results of this test are used to determine a grade for each school. These grades, in turn, carry consequences for funding public schools in the state. The fundi ng aspect of Florida’s A Plus accountability plan gives it teeth, notes Greene. Whereas other states have developed their own standardized tests and account ability measures, none include the financial incentives that Florida law currently mandates. Greene describes similar accountability programs in Texas and in North Carolina, in which highstakes tests are used to determine both student graduation and school-wid e evaluation criteria by the st ate. However, neither of these plans includes the financial incentives of Florida’s A Plus plan. The state of Florida gives money to schools based on the letter grad e earned. The highest graded schools earn more state money. Schools are financially reward ed if they achieve ga ins of at least one letter grade. “F” schools are penalized financially, and they are not able to receive the performance-based money. The state’s monetary award is used at the discretion of each school’s staff. Prestige or embarrassment may be felt by a school’s stakeholders depending upon the grade a school receives. As schools are rewarded or penalized based on students’ test scores, the inte nsity of the debate has heightened. Thus, in this capacity the FCAT is viewed as a “high stakes” test. Greene contends that the FCAT, combined with the school grading formula in Florida, has led to “catching up” by poor a nd minority students, noting that FCAT scores among poor and minority students are improving from year to year at a faster rate than they are among other groups of students. According to the state Department of Education, the FCAT assesses high and low order thinking skills by posing challenging questions that require students to think, not just memorize answers. Additionally, the

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11 state argues that one benefit of the FCAT is that it indicates when a school needs more resources and teacher training. Another benef it of the FCAT, according to the state, is that it clearly outlines expectations for teaching and learning (Florida Department of Education online, 2005). Two significant changes were recently made to the FC AT. In 1999, a writing test was added. Also, students’ performance on the FCAT was used to determine a letter grade for each school. Any school that recei ves an F grade during two consecutive years is now managed by the state Department of Education. Students are given options about which school they attend. They are free to take “vouchers” and s eek enrollment in any public or private school. The dollar amount of the voucher is equivalent to the state contribution to the district for educating these students. By 2002, every public school student in grades 3-10 was re quired to take the FCAT. Two important steps took place in the de velopment of the FCAT in 2003; all high school seniors were re quired to pass the 10th grade FCAT in order to graduate, and all 3rd graders were required to pass the 3rd grade reading FCAT in or der to be promoted to 4th grade. FCAT scores, then, have become the primary mechanism that is used to measure success within Florida’s schools. Policymakers in Tallahassee and in Wa shington argue that the FCAT makes educators focus on teaching the skills stude nts need to succeed. Indeed, since 1999, when school grading became a reality, many schools around the state managed to achieve and maintain high (A-B) grades. Now that school grades are public knowledge, the public can acquire a better picture of whic h schools are and are not meeting these

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12 standards. In this way, it is believed th at the FCAT has made schools more accountable to the public. However, there are serious problems in usi ng the FCAT as an accountability tool. FCAT scores correlate strongly with race and SES, which suggest that the instrument is racially biased. Also, there is a high potential for using le ss effective teaching practices, especially teaching to the test in schools that struggle to achieve satisfactory grades. Basing FCAT scores on the Sunshine State St andards, a system of benchmarks devised by the state has lead to the development of a top-down model of curriculum, in which the state’s needs take precedence over those of individual students. As Popham (2000) pointed out, the FCAT is not a valid or reliable measure of student learning. For example, the criteria used to determine a school’s grade have been inconsisten tly applied since the grading system began in 1999. Popham argued that it should not be th e single factor that determines a school’s grade because it is not a fair representation of what students have learned. Accountability seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon. However, the debate over the merits and pitfalls of standardized te sting predates discussi ons of accountability. Finn (2002) identified three kinds of accountab ility related to the school improvement: 1) trust the experts, 2) trust, but verify, and 3) market-based reforms. Florida’s emerging system seems to be a combination of “trust but verify” and market-based reforms. Grading the public schools is a top-down, government-based reform program, coupled with penalizing poorly performing schools. Market-based competition is illustrated by controlling the disbursement of state monies Lam (2001) argued that many of the current

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13 reform efforts are driven by competitiveness, and states that such reforms could have consequences for racial, ethnic a nd socio-economic segregation. Raywid (2001) cautions us to watch how we use the term “accountability.” She states that this term is often confused with the “standards based” movement. For example, Florida uses the term “standards based” education. The Sunshine State Standards provides goals and benchmarks, wh ile the FCAT is the tool that assesses students and schools. Yet, performance is not going to be accessible simply through a single observation of a school. She advocates the use of formative evaluations. In her view, paper and pencil tests are only capable of measuring selected school goals. Ravitch (1984) asserted that standardi zed tests can be useful for educators, students, and parents. In part icular, they can serve as an early warning for subject areas (such as reading comprehensions, or math sk ills) and provide evidence that some students may need improvement before they progress too far in the K-12 system. Yet, Ravitch argues that standardized testing, as used by policymakers, negatively impacts the curriculum in schools. Borman (1992) argues that the emphasis on standardized testing in public schools negatively impacts teaching math and science skills, because low-level skills are emphasized rather than high-level skills. Ta llahassee policymakers as sert that the FCAT was designed to assess lower order and higher order skills. The noti on that educators are “teaching to the test” causes angst among e ducators and policy makers. Popham (2004) distinguished between “item teaching” a nd “curriculum teaching” as alternative definitions of teaching to the test. “Item teaching” refers to teaching specific items as a way to prepare students for tests. Such teaching does not allow students to master the

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14 curricular aims represented on the test. “C urriculum teaching” refers to a broader conception of “teaching to the test” in which teaching does target th e larger curricular aims. Popham stated that curriculum teaching is desirable, while item teaching is not. “Item teaching” to the test shortchanges st udents by not teaching them how to process, analyze or synthesize information, and by promo ting test taking skills and strategies over content mastery (Haney, 2000; Kl ein et al., 2000). Students’ critical thinking skills are neglected. Posner (2004) warned that an obsession with testing simply promotes the acquisition of trivial kn owledge, rather than those skills that students need in order to function in a global society. Using test da ta exclusively to assess student learning provides an incomplete picture of what teach ers teach and what students learn. BeharHorenstein and Seabert (2002) argued that quality instructio n is a necessary factor in quality learning. They noted that: “Unless quality instruction can be documented, goals and mandates cannot be evaluate d. Factors that are not and cannot be measured are the nature of instruction. The validity of te sting is grounded in a positivist paradigm, in which reality is objective and measurable” ( p.23). The quality of teaching and learning becomes hard to gauge when the proce sses of teaching and learning involve the construction of knowledge. This argument re inforces the need to employ qualitative methods in studying classroom factors that impact student performance. Another issue regarding sta ndardized testing concerns comparing schools and test data against each other. Black (1998) cauti oned that comparing schools’ performance on standardized tests against each other can gene rate “unfair and misleading” comparisons. This practice can be harmful, Black a dded, if policymakers do not factor in considerations of a school’s resources. In other words, test sc ores alone are not a

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15 sufficient indicator of performance within a school; other, more cont ext-specific factors should be considered. The FCAT has been criticized as a valid measure of what students learn (or should learn) in school. Popham (2000) argued that the FCAT is biased in favor of white, upper/middle class students. According to P opham, the FCAT is a measure of SES, not achievement. He claimed that basing a school ’s grade largely on FCAT scores results in rewarding or punishing schools based on the SE S of their students. Behar-Horenstein and Seabert (2002) added that accurate assessments of teaching and learning must focus on factors inherent to the classroom. They argued, “Before educators can propose a plan aimed at improving educational effectiveness, th ey must obtain an accurate picture of the quality of classroom teaching that takes plac e across all classrooms within school sites” (p.25). Teacher Beliefs and Practices If the quality of classroom teaching is a f actor in educational effectiveness, then research should focus on this factor as an influence in student performance. BeharHorenstein and Seabert (2002) noted that research on school improvement largely has focused on school-level factors, with little emphasis on pedagogy. They argued that examining instructional practices as a central element in t eacher development would help students achieve more and standards would rise (p.22). Teachers vary in their approach to teaching, and these indivi dual differences should not be discounted in analyzing student performance. What teachers believe and the decisions they make in class are not necessarily congruent (Raymond, 1997). In a year-long study of one math teacher, Raymond found that the teacher’s prac tices were more closely related to her beliefs about content, and

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16 tied to her own experiences as a student, rather than to her beliefs about pedagogy. Raymond also concluded that this teachers’ pr e-service program had a negligible effect on her beliefs as a teacher. In another study of math teachers, Liljedahl (2005) concurred, noting that teachers' beliefs about mathema tics teaching and learning come from their own experiences as a learner of mathematics. Liljedahl noted that if a math teacher believes that learning mathematics is “all about learning algorithms,” then that teacher is likely to perceive that teach ing math is “all about teaching algorithms.” If a teacher believes that “all problems have one solution,” then this teacher is likely to approach teaching math with the attitude that “all pr oblems must have one solution.” Liljedahl concluded that pre-service teachers' beliefs about what mathematics is, and what it means to teach and learn mathematics, varied depe nding on the environmen t within classrooms, and the extent to which problem solving was important to that classroom environment in the pre-service setting. L iljedahl reported that through their own experiences with mathematics, pre-service math teachers cam e to believe, in the value of teaching mathematics through “doing”, and through “think ing,” suggesting a hands-on approach to teaching and learning. Albion (1999) reported that teachers’ self-efficacy beliefs are critical in determining the extent to which teachers incorporate instructional technology into decisions related to curriculum. Minchew ( 2004), in an in-depth study of two high school science teachers, argued that how teachers vi ew their own effectiven ess as teachers, or their self-efficacy, as a key variable in thei r effectiveness as teachers. Minchew argued that pre-service and in-service teachers bri ng to the classroom experiences and beliefs about their abilities to handle both their classroom environmen t as well as their career

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17 responsibilities. What teachers believe about te aching generally, as well as their ability to teach, affects approach different situations a nd issues that arise in the classroom, from classroom management to curriculum-related issues, according to Minchew. A teacher’s beliefs are extremely important to that te acher’s ability to ef fectively implement classroom management. If teachers have a positive image of themselves as teachers, then they will develop more effective classroom management skills, and are more likely to create an enriched and active learning envi ronment, Minchew added. She goes on to note that many teachers feel overwhelmed by what teachers perceive to be extensive responsibilities that are mandated by school boards a nd state governments. Minchew argued that this increasing workload can affect the success and attrition rate of teachers. She reported that participants in her study be gan their careers as teachers believing that their goal as a teacher was to be an advocat e for science. They became teachers so that they could positively influence students. Th is belief and many of their other outlooks on teaching have slightly changed during thei r teaching career, Minchew reported. After several years in the profession, Minchew notes that they still be lieve in influencing students and helping them take their scie nce knowledge and us e it outside of the classroom, regardless of whether or not that infl uence is used strictly for scientific issues, or to broader social and/or life issues. Mi nchew added that teacher s perceive society’s image of teaching as quite different from the reality of teaching, especially related to issues of student ownership in education. She noted that the particip ants in her study give their students ownership in certain classroom responsibil ities while keeping final authority for themselves.

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18 Other researchers found that teacher beliefs and how they construct their classroom environments are interrelated and direct their pedagogical actions as teachers. (Salamanca, 2005). While Minchew focused on teacher efficacy, Salamanca added that teacher beliefs, principal beliefs, and teach er efficacy are factors in the nature of classroom instruction provided by teachers. Salamanca argued that skilled teachers who manipulate their classroom environments can affect the quality and variety of students oral language use, engagement in literacy behaviors and story composition. While teacher beliefs clearly are a fa ctor affecting teacher attitude and performance, it is one of thr ee such critical factors, accordi ng to Taylor, Dirkx, and Pratt (2001). These researchers noted that as teac hers gain experience in the classroom, their attitudes and beliefs change. Over time, th ey argued, teachers, develop a kind of personal compass which helps them make decisions and reflect effective actions and practices, as well as the reasons behind why a practice is effective or ineffective in the classroom. Additionally, they noted that this compass is what distinguishes those who persist and flourish as teachers from less successful teachers. Taylor Dirkx and Pratt elaborated that teachers who do not create a cohesive pe dagogical system often are subject to the whims and influences of others. When such ‘compass-less’ teachers are challenged by students, colleagues, or admini strators, these teachers experi ence difficulty explaining or defending their approach to teaching. Having a pedagogical system is an essential aspect in the development of effective teaching, they concluded. Teacher beliefs ar e only one of three fact ors inherent in the development of this teacher ‘compass.’ The other two f actors are foundational knowledge and informal theories of teachi ng. Together, these three factors helped

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19 support these teachers in the pursuit of thei r work. Each of the three factors was dependent upon the other two for its meaning and activation. When all three were in agreement, the teacher had a coherent pe rsonal pedagogical system by which to conduct and govern the work of teaching, concluded these researchers. Moje (1996) argued that the relationship established betw een teachers and students is a critical factor in getting secondary students to engage in literacy-based ac tivities. She concluded that teachers’ beliefs about literacy, their content areas, their students, and the contexts in which they teach all have an impact on how students learn reading and writing. Errington (2004) argued that teacher s’ beliefs about teac hing and learning are key factors in what they manage to achieve as teachers. In other words, if teachers do not believe that students can rea d, write or achieve, then, accord ing to Errington, this belief, whether expressed or not, is likely to impede student learning in the classroom. Dieker and Little (2005) advocated a more interdisci plinary approach to teaching reading and writing. They argued that in or der to better prepare secondary students for the challenges inherent in standardized testing, more cooperation between and among teachers is necessary in developing curricu lum, so that reading and wr iting are taught throughout the day, not just in English class. The National Council of Teach ers of English, (NCTE) of fered its perspective on what teacher beliefs are necessary in orde r to effectively teac h writing (NCTE, 2004). Eleven core beliefs were offered. Those are: 1. Everyone has the capacity to write, writ ing can be taught, and teachers can help students become better writers. 2. People learn to write by writing. 3. Writing is a process. 4. Writing is a tool for thinking. 5. Writing grows out of many different purposes.

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20 6. Conventions of finished and edited texts are important to read ers and therefore to writers. 7. Writing and reading are related. 8. Writing has a complex relationship to talk. 9. Literate practices are embedded in co mplicated social relationships. 10. Composing occurs in different modalities and technologies. 11. Assessment of writing involves complex, informed, human judgment. Together, these beliefs suggest that English teachers, at least in the area of teaching writing, should provide a variety of opportuni ties for students to develop and sharpen their writing skills, that they should reali ze the complex aspects of teaching writing, and that they should realize that opportunities to teach writing sk ills are embedded in literacy skills as a whole and should be included in efforts to teach reading as well. Other researchers advocate that the subs tance of pre-service teacher training may need to be evaluated to ensure that gradua tes can teach critical thinking skills. BeharHorenstein and Seabert (2002) found that mo re thoughtful curriculum planning may be needed at the graduate leve l of education. They found an emphasis of teacher-directed instruction was normative in a situation wher e students were preparing for a high-stakes test. In a study of elementary teachers, Seabert et al. (2002) found that pre-service instruction in health education teaching met hods resulted in significant differences among learner comprehension. In a study of b ilingual teachers, Flores (2001) found that participants held certain beliefs about how b ilingual students learn, and that the teachers’ prior experiences affected their beliefs about learning. Flores argued for the need to develop philosophically grounded pre-service teacher education programs in order to produce effective teachers. Research-Based Literacy Teaching Methods in Secondary Schools Lewin (2003) observed that secondary teachers feel intense pressure to meet state standards or benchmarks in curriculum, although many teachers know that a significant

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21 number of their students have reading comp rehension difficulties. Lewin stated that reading and writing are the “twi n pillars of literacy.” Build ing them into the secondary curriculum is vital. Lewin (2003) outlined a four step plan that he suggested was essential to building literacy skills among struggling secondary student s. He suggested to prepare, first dare, repair and share. Each step applies whethe r the teacher is teaching writing or reading skills. Prepare means getting ready to r ead or write by making a conscious effort. Suggested activities involve brainstorming or interviewing. First da re means to attempt the task at hand. For writing, it means to write a first draft. Repair involves correcting mistakes that occur during the first effort. Share involves higher or der thinking skills and application of one’s work to some larger purpose. To build literacy among secondary student s, Lewin (2003) argues that teachers need to work together among subject areas. To be truly successful reading and writing instruction must be interdisciplinary and cros s-curricular. Developi ng the confidence of struggling readers and writers is important, as well as bui lding students’ self-efficacy. Lewin proposed the use of instructional st rategies that are common in secondary education, such as KWL (Know, Want to know, Learn), stop signs, sticky notes, and scaffolding. To “repair,” Lewin (2003) recommended that students critically reevaluate their own work. Lewin also advocated using literar y texts and activities such as Story Webs, Open Mind, Character Analysis Sheets, Interp retive Cards and visual ization activities to develop literacy among st ruggling adolescents.

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22 Finally, Lewin (2003) recommended an in creased emphasis in teaching writing skills across the curriculum. When students wr ite about a topic within social studies, science, math, language arts, or any other subject area, they process the relevant content more deeply and apply that knowledge in ways beyond what is necessary. A concerted, school-wide effort at developing writing skil ls among adolescents pr ovides benefits to students that extend well beyond their schooling. Olson (2003), like Lewin, also stressed th e need for secondary teachers to provide scaffolding to students struggling. He de scribed five components of effective instructional scaffolding: ownership, appr opriateness, structure, collaboration, and internalization. Use of scaffolding in readi ng and writing provides students with a variety of cognitive strategies that give them the fr eedom to approach texts in ways that make sense to them. Creating a climate within the classroom that values students as individuals is essential in building a sense of student ownership. Olson suggested “getting to know you” activities to promote a feeling of bel onging; setting the tone of learning, while getting students to develop self-efficacy. Olson (2003) suggested that secondary t eachers use a multiple intelligences (MI) approach to teaching and learning, in addition to traditional linguistic approaches. She recommended a method whereby students write reactiv e first drafts to a te xt read in class. Getting students to interpret texts required teach ers to teach literature in such a way that helps students see read ing and writing as an aesthetic experience, not a chore. Olson suggested exposing students to a wide variet y of texts to help students develop their thematizing skills. She recommended using multicultural perspectives to teach reading and writing. As the percentage of students becomes less white, incorporating literature

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23 from other cultural perspectives becomes imperative. The use of multicultural literature promotes ownership among struggli ng minority students (Gay, 1994). The efforts of educators notwithstandi ng, many of the problems at-risk students face in school, and particularly in developmen t of literacy-based skil ls, stem from a lack of encouragement to read and write at hom e. Researchers (Mahler, 1968; Winnicott, 1988;) have shown that the developmental ch aracteristics needed to produce literate students begin at a very early age. Often, at-risk student s come from backgrounds where they are not given the support or encouragement needed, even before starting school, to become effective readers and writers. “Effective writing teachers apply what they know, make cognitive strategies visible, and encourage student s to practice different types of writing. They balance the use of teacher-prompted and student-selected wr iting tasks, they foster internalization, and finally, focus on process and products ,” argues Olson (2003) (pp. 225-226). Effective writing teachers utili ze small group assignments that give students opportunities to collaborate. This type of teacher c onsiders the audience, provides peer-generated feedback, and helps students develop the comm itment to refine their writing abilities. Olson (2003) also recommended the use of rubrics that clearly outline what is necessary to achieve success in reading and writing. These criteria become a teaching tool because it helps students recognize what standards are used to assess their work. Also, he recommended that teachers invol ve students in self-evaluation. Antinarella and Salbu (2003) stressed the importance of creating an environment conducive to learning, like identifying student and teacher roles and responsibilities. They also advocated cooperative learning activit ies, and use of heterogeneous groupings.

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24 Many of the activities sugge sted by Antinarella and Sa lbu are designed to give students an opportunity to foster their own creative skills and develop a sense of ownership in the process of acquiring the skills of literacy. They recommend using autobiographical poems, writing memoirs, a nd first-person narratives to promote student ownership for their own literacy skills. Antin arella and Salbu, as well as Olson (2003), advised teachers to arrange lessons into “w orkshop” formats to encourage students to write and read regularly on th eir own during class time. Effectively teaching reading and writi ng involves personalizing learning, and getting students actively involved (An tinarella & Salbu, 2003; Curtis & Longo, 1999, D’Arcangelo, 2002; Lewin, 2003; Olson, 2003). Students must have a strategy to approach reading and what they want to get out of it. To do that, teachers need to build background knowledge and vocabulary among stude nts, so that class texts are more likely to have some connection or meaning to students. Allington (2004) asserted that policymakers’ actions make teachers’ efforts to build literacy skills more difficult. Rather than re lying on scripted programs, he claimed that if legislators are serious about bu ilding literacy skills, then th ey must provide more one-onone teaching in the schools. Elsewhere, Al lington (2002) has argued that current policy trends, such as the No Child Left Behind Act, favor a federalization of teaching and curricular methodologies. The danger in such an approach is that Washington policymakers neglect relying on a professiona l consensus in developing methodologies. He cited the differences between the resear ch-based Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children Report (PRD) and the recomme ndations of the National Reading Panel

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25 (NRP). Allington argued that the NRP’s recommendations fo r reading instruction ignore or contradict many of the research -based findings in the PRD. Teaching Literacy Skill s to At-risk Students Cunningham and Sanzo (2002) argued th at “education is more highly prioritized…in high-income homes, and they…see school as the means by which qualification, acquisition, and socialization are achieved…school is not an essential vehicle for working class life” (p. 360). They asserted that testing adds pressure without addressing educational inequities. As a re sult, the gap between what poor students and non-poor students get out of schooling continues to compound. Luker, Cobb and Luker (2001) observed many poor children are deprived of the basic requirements for success in a competitive society, such as intellectual deprivation. Intellectual deprivation, as these au thors define it, is a result of: “The absence of minimal verbal and quantitative educational resources, commitments and stimulants such as books, pe riodicals, encyclopedia and computers. All of these conditions affect the motivation, pe rformance and success of poor children in school…they often come to schoo l with large academic defi cits that place them far behind their more privileg ed schoolmates” (p. 989). This idea of intellectual deprivation has been addressed by others, and might help explain why poor students do not perform as well in school generally, and on standardized tests spec ifically. Bertrand (1995) noted th at students from poor and/or minority backgrounds are especially “at-risk” for many of the same reasons which Luker, Cobb and Luker mention. Ayers (2000) conc urred and argued that the standards movement itself is fraudulent a nd renders the poor victims.

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26 Ayers (2000) also argued that American sc hools are in a crisis that selectively impacts the poor, inner city and minority st udents. These schools, he pointed out, struggled to educate children who were at ri sk with fewer human and material resources than other schools. Burns (1979) stated thes e same concerns over 20 years earlier. Several researchers have raised questions about the physical, social and economic differences between rich and poor schools in the United States, and about whether standardized testing, accountability, and standards-based education exacerbates differences between the poor and everyone else (Ayers, 2000; Burns, 1979; Kozol, 1991). Allington (2002) argued that si nce the 1970’s, federal mandates have placed a greater impact of standardized testing on poor chil dren, as a condition for their eligibility for federal education dollars. In Savage Inequalities Kozol (1991) vividly describe d the physical differences between affluent, suburban public schools a nd poor, inner-city schools, noting the funding disparities. Nonetheless, the standa rds-based education movement, despite much room for improvement, has received wide spread approval from the public (Johnson & Duffett, 1999). Corley (2003) argued that ra ce and poverty are linked. He also stated that AfricanAmericans and Hispanic/Latino Americans are mu ch more likely to be classified as poor than white Americans. She pointed out that the cycle of poverty is tied explicitly to lower levels of literacy. Additionally, minor ity students coupled with majority teachers results in cultural dissonance. Perhaps the most significant factor in this discussion is that self-efficacy among the poor and/or minority students is somewhat lower than it is for other students. Pajares

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27 (2003) reported that studies of student e fficacy and race produce mixed results, but that there was ample evidence to suggest that Hispanic/Latino studen ts had lower selfefficacy about writing skills, a key element of literacy. This same skill was a key element tested on the FCAT as well as other standard ized tests (Linnenbri nk & Pintrich, 2003). In a review of empirically-bas ed research, Linnenbrink and Pi ntrich argued that there was an important link between students’ self-efficacy and their motivation to learn in school. Walker (2003) concurred. He pointed out that student self-efficacy promoted student’ desires to engage in literary activities, whic h translated into increa sed performance. If students do not see themselves as worthy lear ners, then they will not actively pursue an education. He concluded that the research on student motivation has provided evidence that self-efficacy is the key to promoting students’ engagement and learning in the classroom. Some researchers have argued that student s’ attitude towards testing also is important to consider. Stiggins (2002) asse rted that policymakers do not realize that not all students face the challenge of state a ssessment efforts with the same degree of confidence. Thus, states risk damage to a significant percentage of their students. Stiggins concluded that this may, in fact, cause students to lear n less, not more. Kordalewski (2000) found that poor, urban high school students were more likely to resist state-mandated assessments than other students. Davis and Weber (1998) reported that some students viewed some subject matter as irrelevant to their future career needs. This can be especially true am ong lower SES students, whom, as Luker, Cobb and Luker (2001) illustrate, often come to school less ‘equipped’ for the rigors of school, standards, and testing, compared to other students. When stude nts lack particular

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28 experiences outside of school, they may be una ble to see the relevance of what they are learning. Teachers of low income students may have to do more to convince their students that there is relevance to what they are learning in school. The issues of poverty, student self-efficacy and lack of adequate materials each influence how teachers teach and students lear n. Once students have a stake in learning, they are more apt to apply themselves to the fullest of their abilities. In looking at the questions surrounding teaching “a t risk” students, Stice (1995 ) advocated using a whole language curriculum. Whole la nguage instruction is not w ithout its critics, either. McQuillan (1998) suggested that whole language instruction has been identified as the scapegoat for lower student test scores in California. Also, students in classrooms utilizing whole language inst ruction did not perform diff erently from their peers on standardized tests of read ing in California. Childress and Stice (1995) argue d that literacy is the ke y to breaking the cycle of poverty. They reported that a program which is learner-centered, l iterature-based and integrated across the curriculum helps stude nts move beyond the minimal levels that so few “at-risk” students achieve. Others, such as DeStephan (1995), and Miller and Stice (1995), claimed that at-risk students thrive in environments in which they are able to develop a sense of commun ity and ownership. Corley (2003) stressed that teachers must teach critical litera cy skills to their students in order to break the cycle of povert y. He asserted that teachers must connect learning to learners' lived experiences; give vo ice to learners and create forums in which they can tell their stories, help learners view knowledge as something that they can

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29 produce; and give learners the tools to critique frames of reference, ideas, and information (p. 2). In order to reach at-risk st udents, we first must embrace the growing diversity in our schools, argued Gay (1994). Educators should ask themse lves how they plan to reconcile the growing cultural pl uralism inherent in American schools. She advocated a multicultural focus, a way of thinking and acting in the classroom that accepts cultural differences among students and places value in these differences. Multicultural thinking has a profound effect on the developing and implementing curricular objectives, and if embraced by teachers, can lead to greater le arning generally by at-risk students. Gay pointed out that: 1) basic literacy skills s hould be learned within the context of cultural diversity, 2) learning re quires the application of critical thinking and problem solving to ethnic and cultural diversity issues, 3) educa tion content and proce sses should incorporate culturally pluralistic contributions, 4) e quity and excellence ar e impossible without sensitivity to cultural diversity, 5) teaching styles should be accepting of different cultural learning styles, 6) understanding cu ltural traits of students make s teaching more effective, 7) ethnic and cultural factor s should be used in determining students’ readiness for learning, and 8) some motivation for learning is culture-specific. While many of the same teaching techni ques are successful in teaching literacy skills to at-risk students, teachers must be ab le to recognize the special needs of at-risk students. The typical “below ba sic level” reader in high schoo l does his/her best to hide from teachers, avoids eye contact, convenien tly “forgets” classroom materials, and seeks help from friends, not the teacher (Denti & Guerin, 2004). Often, teachers aggravate the problems of at-risk learners by sitting them farther away a nd expecting less from them.

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30 The needs of at-risk adolescent readers incl ude physically well-organized classrooms, firm schedules, clearly expect ed behaviors, required partic ipation in class, risk-free environments, respect for students, and problem s addressed as they occur. Hasselbring and Goin (2004) advocate using video and a udio programs associated with the Peabody Learning Laboratory at Vanderbilt Universit y, a program which was used with much success by the Orange County Public School system in Florida. Conclusion Standardized testing and accountability have become commo nplace in American public education. Most states utilize standa rdized test scores to determine student progress in school. More states are followi ng Florida’s example. A significant body of research cautions that a single measure, su ch as standardized test scores, cannot adequately measure performance. The correla tion between standardi zed test scores and students’ race and SES has been well documented. Research demonstrates that students from low SES backgrounds face significant challenges in their acquisition of an educati on in public schools that differ from other peer groups. Many low SES students perceive themselves as less “worthy” learners, and act accordingly in the classroom. As a result, literacy rates for poor and minority students are often significantly below aver age for the population as a whole. There are a variety of strategies that can be used to teach reading and writing in the secondary classroom. All of them are de signed to build a sense of community and ownership among secondary students, and to de velop students’ desire to become better readers, writers and learners.

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31 CHAPTER 3 METHODS An overview of the following topics will be presented in this chapter: 1) the setting, 2) participants, 3) data collection, 4) data analysis, 5) re searcher bias, and 6) reliability and validity. The Setting The population for this study is 148 high schools that administer the 10th grade FCAT reading test for a majority of its stude nts who are considered to be “at-risk.” In order to be classified as “atrisk,” a simple majority of st udents at these schools must be classified as of a minority background, from a low SES background, or both. Of the 148 “at risk” schools the mean percentage of students who passed this test was 49%. However, within these 148 schools there are gr eat disparities in performance. In 2003, 65% or more of their students passed the 10th grade Reading FCAT in 10% (N=15) of these schools, compared to 25% (N=37) of the schools where 40% or fewer of the students passed the same test. The 148 at-risk high schools are scattered th roughout the state, in urban and rural areas from Miami to the Panhandle. A signifi cant number of these schools are found in south Florida; 45% (N=67) of these school s, are in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, the three largest metr opolitan counties in Florida. The disparity between the 15 high-performing, at-risk schools and the 37 lo west performing, at-risk schools is of interest. Four of these schools were select ed and teachers were interviewed and observed to gain a better understanding of how educator s teach literacy skills and prepare students

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32 for the FCAT. The passage rates of student s on the 2003 FCAT Reading test for each of the four participating schools, the percentage s of students who receiv e free/reduced lunch benefits, the percentage of students reported as minority a nd school grades assigned by the state for 2003 are presen ted below in table 3.1: Table 3-1. Percentage of students who pa ssed the 2003 Reading FCAT, percentage of minority students, percentage of lowincome students, and school grade at participating schools Athens HS Hamilton HS Jackson HS Pine Crest HS Passing % 66 72 21 40 Minority % 51 71 99 81 Free Lunch % 19 46 50 37 School Grade B B F D Due to logistical constraint s only schools in the north or central part of Florida were selected for study. Schools selected fo r this study met the fo llowing criteria: (a) each is classified as a public high sch ool, (b) student population is comprised by a majority who are non-Caucasian, low SES, or both, and (c) the school is located in the central part of Florida. Participants Two of the “high performing schools” a nd two of the “low performing schools” were selected for this study. One English an d/or language arts teacher at each of the participating high schools was observed and interviewed. Additionally, all English/Language Arts teachers at each of th e four schools were asked to complete the Teacher Behavior Preferences Survey (TB PS). This survey is a research-based instrument that assesses teacher attit udes and efficacy. At each school, one 10th grade

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33 English/language arts classr oom was observed on five separate days for a minimum of 50 minutes per observation. Interviews of each teacher occurred after all five observations had been completed. Before contacting schools, the researcher contacted the dist rict director of research and evaluation to request permission to c onduct this study in the district. Next, the researcher contacted the principals of the se lected high and low perf orming at-risk school and asked for permission to observe 10th grade English/language arts classes. Once the principal of each school gave permission to pa rticipate in this study, individual teachers at each school were contacted and informed a bout the purpose of this study. After their permission was obtained, interviews and observations were scheduled. Only teachers who teach English or Language Arts classes to tenth graders were observed and interviewed in this study. Effo rts were exercised to select teachers for observation who shared certain demographic characteristics, such as race and gender. Each of the four participants in this study is a Caucasian female, whose ages ranged from early 30’s to early 60’s. The participants’ experience te aching ranged from four to 35 years. One of the four particip ants is in her first year of teaching in Florida; each of the others had at least four years experience teac hing at their respectiv e schools. Two of the four were teaching tenth grade English/Language Arts for the first time this year, whereas each of the other two had f our years experience teaching tenth grade English/Language Arts. Interview questions focused on curric ulum planning, design, development and implementation decisions made by each teacher, and the influence of the FCAT in these

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34 decisions. Teachers’ instructional practices were observed to better understand if there were differences in the nature of teaching at the high and low performing schools. Data Collection Participant teachers were interviewed, observed and surveyed. Data from observations was gathered through extensive fi eld notes taken using a teacher observation protocol developed by Anusavi ce (1999) and modified for th is study. Field notes were typed and submitted to each participant for review. Portions of a teacher interview protocol relevant to curriculum design, de velopment and implementation questions used by Gonzales (2002) guided interviews. Intervie ws were tape recorded and transcribed. Running notes were documented while teacher s provided instruction in reading and writing. A semi-structural observation protocol based on Joyce and Weil’s (1996) instructional models framework and used by Anusavice (1999) gui ded observations. Notes that describe what the teacher said or did across the following dimensions were recorded: 1) The sequential tasks students are asked to do (syntax), 2) Student/teacher roles and their respective involvement in the lesson (social systems), 3) Teacher responses to students’ answer s and questions (principles of reaction), 4) Methods for using instructional supports (support system), 5) Social interaction among students as well as between students and the teacher (socia l interaction). A tota l of 20 observation sessions, five at each school, were conducted. Four interviews were conducted, one with each participant. Field notes were recorded to document interactions in each observation among students as well as between students and teachers. Participating teachers were observed in February 2005, before the FCAT Reading Test was administered, and in terviewed after the FCAT in March 2005. Each interview

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35 was conducted on March 15, 2005 at the participan t’s school. These interviews lasted from 30 to 50 minutes in length. To provi de member checks, interviews and running notes were transcribed and sent to the teacher Participating teacher s were asked to read the transcript to ensure its accuracy and to ma rk any necessary changes. Two of the four participants returned observati on notes with few, if any, comments. None of the four participants returned interview transcripts to the researcher with any comments, or provided the researcher with any other feedback subseque nt to the interviews. Additionally, the Teacher Behavior Pr eference Survey (TBPS), developed by Behar-Horenstein, was given to English/Langua ge Arts teachers (including the four participants named above) at each of the four schools. E ach participant volunteered to coordinate administration of the TBPS to thei r fellow teachers. Teachers from all four schools responded to the survey. Using a five point scale, the TBPS measures the range of teacher preferences on 60 items. These it ems are arranged in 30 pairs; where one item assesses agreement from a student-centered pe rspective and the other assesses agreement from a teacher-centered perspe ctive. The items comprise four subscales including: methods of instruction, classroom milieu, assess ment techniques, and use of questions. Data Analysis Transcribed interviews and observations were analyzed inductively, guided by Spradley’s (1980) domain analysis method, and Attride-Stirling’s (2001) thematic networks method. After all observations had been completed, the field notes were typed and coded using an open coding system base d on methods of part icipant observation described by Spradley. Emergent themes were coded along the margins of each set of typed field notes. Afterwards, these c odes were listed in a separate document chronologically. Next, codes were tabulated for frequenc y of appearance and listed

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36 accordingly for each set of observational notes Finally, themes among the codes were identified based on the categories of codes list ed, as well as the frequency of each code in the notes. Emergent themes were identified from each set of teacher observations and then compared with themes and trends observed acro ss the four teachers. In order to assess the differences in instruct ional beliefs among the four participants in this study, interviews of each were conducted and tape r ecorded. The interviews were transcribed by the researcher, who then sent copies of each transcript to each pa rticipant for review. The transcripts were each coded and analyzed using the same methods regarding analysis of field notes taken from the twenty obser vations conducted. Using these methods of analysis, several themes emerged from each interview. Differences in attitudes and beliefs between the participants from high performing schools and low performing schools were recorded. In order to analyze the results of the TBPS, mean scores for each item were calculated. In order to asse ss reliability, alpha coefficients were calculated for the teacher-centered questions as well as the st udent-centered questions Additionally, alpha coefficients were calculated for each of th e four subscales: methods of instruction, classroom milieu, assessment techniques and use of questions. An item analysis of results from the TBPS was conducted in orde r to determine statistically significant differences among items while controlling for sc hool site. Forty-four percent (N=31) of teachers responded to this survey, from a popul ation of approximately 70 teachers. The number of respondents representing each school is shown here in Table 3.2.

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37 Table 3-2. Number of respondents to the TBPS from each school Athens HS Hamilton HS Jackson HS Pine Crest HS N 10 5 12 4 Each of the 60 items measured by the TBPS was sorted by school in order to determine the extent to which answers va ried by school, as well as between high performing and low performing schools. Fo r each variable, a Pearson’s R correlation coefficient was calculated. Researcher Bias The researcher is in his ninth year of teaching secondary social studies to public school students in Alachua County, Florida. Each school year he has taught large numbers of students who are at-risk. He ha s participated in a variety of school and district level initiatives th at have been aimed at improving high school FCAT reading scores. Based on his experiences as a teacher this researcher is acquainted with the struggles and efforts among at-risk students to achieve literacy skill s, and their efforts (and feelings) regarding the FCAT. Monitoring researcher subjectivity is a c onstant process, and one that must be pursued consciously by qualitative researcher s in order to present more valid findings (Glesne, 1999). To monitor s ubjectivity properly re quires that researchers “see what you are not seeing” and “be aware of instances in which a researcher might make less of something than could be made” (p. 109). Si nce the researcher is a high school teacher who has had substantial experience working wi th students who are at-risk in reading and writing, his experience is likely to impact his interpretation of the data. Thus, several

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38 steps were taken to ensure that the interp retation of data was not a reflection of the researcher as instrument. Use of the select ed protocols helped mi nimize researcher bias, as did field testing use of the protocols. Awareness of his role as a participant-observer helped minimize the impact of researcher bias in this study. In hi s graduate coursework, the researcher has learned a nd practiced many of the relevant skills needed to conduct qualitative research, including: observati on, domain analysis, designing and conducting interviews, and transcription of interview data. Additionally, applying the research protocols, and lessons learned from their usage prior to commencing this study, helped the researcher use the protocols systematica lly during the observati ons and interviews. Finally, a dependability audit was conducted by another graduate student in order to further minimize researcher bias. This st udent viewed one of the four interview transcripts, and 4 of 20 sets of observati on notes. Considerable agreement existed between the researcher and the graduate st udent regarding analys is of this data. Validity and Reliability Several steps were undertaken to help esta blish validity in this study. First, the selection of participants wa s stratified to minimize the pot ential effect of confounding variables such as race and SES. To the extent possible, teacher participants were selected and matched across several variables including ra ce, experience level, gender and age. Second, by including two schools each that were “high performing” and “low performing,” different sources of data were used, and different groups (high and low performing) were sampled, each with more than one source of data. Third, because this study was designed to gather da ta through a series of obser vations, multiple observations establishes triangulation by giving the research er enough data to observe similarities and differences in observations over time (Patt on, 2002). Fourth, conducting interviews and

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39 observations, as well as collecting survey data from other teachers at the same schools, provided multiple sources of data. Fifth, before selecting schools to study, each of the four schools selected met a pre-established cr iterion level of “high performing” or “low performing” characteristics (with respect to percentage of 10th grade students passing the reading FCAT) for more than one year. The criteria selected for “high performing” was that at least 65% of student s had to have passed the 10th grade FCAT reading test. The criteria selected for “low performing” was th at no more than 40% of students could have passed this same test. Sixth, the TBPS, a rese arch-based study, was administered to each of the four participants as well as to othe r language arts teachers at each of the four schools. This provided an additional data set corresponding to each school, yet beyond just the experiences of one teacher in each schoo l. Alpha coefficients of reliability were calculated and reported among the different subs ets of questions on the TBPS; each of the alpha scores showed moderate to strong reli ability. Use of the TBPS further establishes triangulation, as data was gathered thr ough observation, interview and by survey. To further insure reliability, the researcher used observation, interview, and survey protocols that are research-based, and that have been used (teacher observations and interviews) on multiple occasions. The research er pilot tested use of the protocols by observing a teacher who is not a part of this study. A transcription of the observation session was provided to this teacher. Feedback was solicited from the teacher in order to ensure that the researcher has generated an accurate portrait of this classroom session.

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40 CHAPTER 4 FINDINGS AND ANALYSIS The purpose of this chapter is to presen t the findings related to each research question. Research Question 1) To What Extent Are FCAT Scores based on Outside Factors such as Race, SES and Size of the School? Analysis of 2003 10th grade FCAT Reading (Peabody, 2004, unpublished) showed that race and SES of students accounted for 52% of the variance in the scores, and an insignificant relationship between size of th e school and FCAT scores. Subsequently, that data was used to id entify high performing and low performing schools on the FCAT, for the purposes of conducting this study. Students’ performance on the 2004 FCAT Reading test at each of the four participati ng schools is consistent with the level of performance measured and utilized with the 2003 FCAT data. Fewer than 40% of students at Jackson HS and at Pine Crest HS, low performing schools, passed the 2004 FCAT Reading test, while over 65% of student s at Athens HS and at Hamilton HS, high performing schools, passed this same test. Analysis of 2004 10th grade FCAT Reading scores confirmed the relationship between race, SES and FCAT Reading scores. Research Question 2) What Are the Inst ructional Practices among Teachers of Students in High Performing Schools and among Teachers of Students in Low Performing Schools? Data gathered from each of the four sele cted schools illustrate characteristic instructional strategies that were observed at the low performing and high performing

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41 schools. (Italicized material contained in this text is taken directly from field notes or interviews.) High-Performing Schools At both of the classrooms in high perf orming schools, the researcher observed several instances of student-led activities, the provision of student choice in the curriculum, and an emphasis on reading-rela ted activities and assignments, both in and out of the classroom. In both settings, higher order thinking skills were emphasized. Talking specifically about the FCAT was ra re among the teacher or the students. Student-directed learning was part of the normal daily routine in these classrooms. For example, notes from an observation in Ms. Kelly’s class at Athens High School illustrate this point: The class begins with student pres entations using PowerPoint and a projector. Two to three students are worki ng together on their presentation. One student from the first group conducts the PowerPoint presentation. She is talking about phrases. The teacher is sitting at a stude nt desk, listening to the presen tation. The rest of the class is listening to the presentation silently. Th eir attention seems to be focused on the dry erase board in the front of the room, where th e projector is projecting the slide show. The presentation lasts about five minutes Book talk activities were common in Ms. Ke lly’s class at Athens HS, as well as Ms. Davis’ class at Hamilton HS. During Ms. Kelly’s 10th grade Honors English class: The teacher announces that it is time to resume “Book Talks.” After she goes to her desk at the back of the room and sits down, one stude nt walks to the front of the room, stands next to the overhead. First, he briefly su mmarizes the book “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” He discussed the setting of th e book, along with literary concepts such allusions and foreshadowing. Other stude nts remain quiet during the student’s

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42 presentation, and they ask him questions about the book. Several students are observed writing down information about th e book in their notebooks. Both teachers provided rubrics, as a mean s to assess students’ work and provided them with a framework for conducting student-l ed activities within class. Ms. Davis’ rubric for the “Book Talk” assi gnment was straightforward: One student walks up to the front of the room to presen t his “Book talk” on “Secrets of the Shadow.” He stands next to the overhead talking about the book. Meanwhile, the teacher is seated at her desk in the back of the room. She is sorting material s, as well as asking the presenter questions about his book. The rest of the class listens quietly to the presentation, some of them are writing. The teacher asks the student presen ter information about th e author. Next, the teacher instructs him to pick a passage and re ad it to the class. He opens the book and reads aloud for about two or three minutes. The class listens. When he concludes, they applaud. Several students in the class, along wi th the teacher, talk about where this book is in relation to a series of books. The stude nt presenter sits down. The teacher calls on several students and asks them specific questio ns about the book just presented, such as the title, the setting, and literary terms discussed by the presenter. The teacher’s use of questioning during and after this presenta tion demonstrated what information she expected students to convey through these presentations. Scaffolding and providing opportunities fo r students to engage in active learning were present in work assigned in Ms. Davis’ class: The teacher, standing by the overhead at the front of the room, tells stude nts to get out their Caesar folders and six sheets of blank paper, as she turns off the ov erhead quiz. The teacher explains that the six pieces of paper will be used as foldables. She tells the students that they will be

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43 responsible for 30 vocabulary terms from Julius Caesar by the end of the unit. Next, she turns the overhead back on, and on a blank trans parency, begins writing words from the play down in groups of five. She writes dow n six groups, for a total of 30 words. She tells students to draw four lines on their six pieces of paper, creating five columns on each piece. Students begin doing so amidst chatter. The teacher announces to the class that she will determine when the class is done with this by looking at who can be done fir st. The class works faster at finishing. Students write the terms down in their notebooks. As both teacher and students write, the teacher asks the class to state the meanings of these words, a nd/or gives them clues as to the definitions of these terms. She tells stude nts that each student wi ll be responsible for presenting a word to the class from the list. Several hands go up at once, as students volunteer to choose words they would like to present. The teache r tells them to pick words they do not already know well. Th e teacher writes down in her folder which student is presenting each word. After each student has been assigned one wo rd, the teacher tells the class that the remaining words will be extra credit, but that she won’t give any extra credit to students that don’t need it. There is s ubstantial chatter in the room during this activity, most of it revolving around who will choose what terms. Al l of the students are writing, some of the students are teasing each othe r or joking about the vocabulary terms, using them out of context or in funny sounding ways. The te acher calls on several students by name, and tells them that they are going to be responsib le for presenting their words on Thursday to the class. She gently teases them, saying, “W e’re counting on you.” This activity lasts about 25 minutes.

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44 Students in both settings appeared know ledgeable regarding their student-led activities. They often went beyond the boundaries of an assignment in the preparation of student-directed activities, as evid enced in Ms. Kelly’s class: The next group begins setting up. The chatter resumes as they set up their presentation. Two students conduct this presentation; they are wearing matching re d shirts. One shirt says “Upper case S,” the other, “lower case s.” They point this out to the class, when they announce that their presentation is about capitalization. The teache r is sitting at the same student desk as before, listening to the presenta tion. The class audience is at tentive and listening to this PowerPoint presentation. One student as ks a question about cap italization, which the presenters answer. The presenters explain that their game will involve correcting capitalization errors in a PowerPoint presentation, using one of two “magic wands” they created. The function of one wand is to fix errors that need capital letters, while the other wand will fix errors in words that are cap italized when they should not be. Volunteers come up two at a time to play the game. Players point w ith their wand at the error on the board. Once they have spotted all th e errors, one of the presenters c hanges the slide to reveal the corrected (and highlighted) errors. Each of the slides they use contains a quote from, and a scene from a movie. Making learning fun was emphasized in both settings. A representative example from Ms. Kelly’s class follows: A second student from the group sets up a game for the class to play. Using masking tape, he taped folded pieces of paper across an open doorway in the back of the room. The teacher helps the student pres enters explain the concept of "extended

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45 phrases" as the rest of the class listens, and the second stude nt set up for the game. While he was setting up for the game, there was a lot of chatter in the room. Once the taping was finished, he explained that students were to use a plastic toy dart gun to shoot darts at the hanging papers. Students volunteered to play. As st udents were called on by the student running the game, they came, one at a time, to the middle of the room a few feet away from the targets in the back of the r oom. Students were atte ntive and seemed to enjoy playing the game or watching others play The entire class seemed to be engaged in the activity. A total of four students played as they grabbed the gun and shot the targets. When one was hit, the student running the gam e would grab the paper that was hit by the player, read aloud a phrase and asked the cla ss to identify the type of phrase read. Students would raise their hand to give the ans wer. One student played a noisemaker when other students answered questions corre ctly. The student running the game called on other students to answer these questions. The teacher was sitting on a counter on the side of the room during this game while the students took turns playing the game. The class laughed when each student aimed at th e targets. The teacher was heard telling one student, jokingly, "Don't go to the police academy." After 20 minutes, the teacher instructed the class, "Giv e these two applause." Students in Ms. Davis’ class seemed to have fun as well, while engaged in literature-based activities: After assigning students to re ad Acts 3-5 of Julius Caesar, Ms. Davis told her students that the class would divide parts of the play by group and that they will be responsible for putting scen es from the play in students' own language. "Turn to page 776," the teacher says. She c onducted a "walk through" of selected scenes from the play. After getting a student to volunteer to be Julius Caesar, she handed him a

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46 laminated piece of notebook size paper that says "Caesar." She walked across the room to a storage area, pulled out a purple sheet and handed it to Caesar for his toga. The student puts the "toga" on as the class laughs. Next, she handed him a purple bike helmet, and explained that Ca esar should also have a purpl e crown. Next, the teacher asked students to volunteer for the roles of Calpurnia and the soothsayer. She gave Calpurnia a purple sheet and bike helmet. She handed the soothsayer an orange sheet. She explains that the soothsayer should be somewhat "creepy." The student acted the part. The class laughed. She assigned the role of Brutus to another student and handed him a blue sheet. She assigned the role of Marc Antony to another student and gave him a cap to wear. She assigned other students to serve as some of the other conspirators against Caesar. They received sheets or towe ls which the students served as togas. Students laughed at each other as the actors tried on their costumes. One student actor said "Ay Carramba!" when he looked at his costume. Each of the actors has a script card in hand, similar to the one that was given to "Caesar." Both teachers consistently displayed a hi gh level of rapport with their students. Technological innovations, such as PowerPoint presentations, or other, more traditional props, were utilized by both teachers to fost er learning and interest in language arts. Both classrooms were positive learning environments. Students were generally attentive to, and participated in, the less on or activity, regardless of whether such activities were student-led or teacher-led, as evidenced by the above excerpts. Both teachers planned creative and entertaining lesso ns for their students on a regular basis, activities that gave students ample opportuni ties to develop their reading and writing skills, such as “Music Journals:” At the beginning of class, Ms Kelly instructed students

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47 to get their journals out. The teacher and one student joke about how the teacher almost tripped and fell. Next, the teacher walked over to the stereo and put in a CD, “Loveshack” by the B-52’s. As the students liste n to the song they remain silent. A few students are writing. The teacher remained at th e front of the room during this time. She took roll silently, and then got a small book of f of her desk. The entire song played. At the end of the song, the teacher told the student s to start writing. She played the song a second time, yet she turned the volume down slightly. Students began writing in their journals. The teacher walked over to a student desk, sat down, and began writing in her book. The class remained quiet. Most of the students continued to write in their journal while the song is played for the second time. Towards the end of this activity, a few students begin quietly mouthing the words of the song. As the second playing of the song ends, two students raise their hands. The teache r calls on one of them. The student reads aloud what she wrote in her jour nal as the music played. Th e class listens quietly. The teacher gets up, goes over to the stereo and takes the CD out. She hands it to another student seated at her desk. The student ca lled upon by the teacher talks about going to a “Mega Com” convention. The teacher calls on the second student volunteer. This student talks about the beat of the song and quotes lines fr om it. Several hands go up. The teacher calls on three more students. The first student jokes about how another student has a girlfriend. The class laughs. The next student tells the class that she remembers “Loveshack” as the first song she ever danced to. The teacher tells the student who brought in the CD that this song was a good choice for their Music Journal activity on that day. The class applauds. The next student

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48 talks about whales and how he remembered anot her story. The class laughs. More students volunteer to speak. The teacher ca lls on a few more. One student talks about the song how he free associated thoughts and ideas during the song. Another student talks about how the song seems to always be pl ayed at weddings. The class is attentive; occasionally there are comment s on what students said in relation to their music journals. The topic of school dances comes up, and the teacher jokes with the class about how students act at school dances. While st anding at the front of the classroom, the teacher reads from her music journal. Meanwh ile, the class listens qui etly. This activity lasted about twenty five minutes. Classroom management or discipline-relate d issues were rare in both classes, and never consisted of more than a few minutes of chatter. In both classes, students were easily redirected towards the cla ss activity by the teacher. Low-Performing Schools In the low performing schools, there was a high level of teacher-directed activity. Students were given no opportuni ty to lead the class or to conduct any significant, curriculum-related activities in class. Table 4.1 shows the difference between high and low performing schools with respect to the am ount of time spent in teacher-directed vs. student-directed activities. Table 4-1. Amount of time spent engaged in student-directed activities High Performing Schools Low Performing Schools Athens HS Hamilton HS Jackson HS Pine Crest HS Minutes in student-directed activities 150 80 0 0 Percentage of class time in student-directed activities 60% 32% 0% 0%

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49 At the low performing schools, none of the instructional time wa s student-directed. About 60% and 32% of the instructional time at the high performing schools consisted of student-directed activities. Ms. Wallace announces to her students that the benchmark for this week is inferencing. She asks the st udents to explain how th e plot of a story is like a roller coaster. She dr aws a bell curve on the board at th e front of the room as she explains. She writes th e different parts of a plot in co rresponding places along the curve, and then she returns to the middle of the room She explains the diff erent elements of a plot, and compares it to a Lifetime movie. Next she asks students what it is called when they learn about characters and the setting. One student replies, “exposition.” Next, she talks about conflict and climax. She hands out a worksheet to the students, and tells them to draw a graphic organizer before reading. Students listen, give out answers, and write graphic organizers during this time. Next, the teacher reads the story “Bedtime Story” aloud (on the worksheets she just handed out to the class). She reads the st ory aloud while the students listen and read along silently. The teacher asks the students about the story. She asks them, “Where do you picture the story?” A discussion of the story begins, led by the teacher. Students continue to listen, and answer questions. Th e teacher is breaking down the elements of a story generally and this story sp ecifically. She asks them wh en the climax of this story occurs. When no one provides a correct answer the teacher talks about the movie Halloween as an example of another horror story. One half of the class remains attentive while they try to figure out the elements of this story. One student is wearing headphones and a hood on. Another has his head down on the desk while the teacher is talking. The teacher tells students to ans wer questions about the story (characters, setting, the

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50 problem and the resolution) in their journals. She directs them to get out their Holt Readers when they have finished writing. The teacher circulates around the room and collects worksheets from students. One at a time, students finis h writing, close their journals, and then get out a textbook. Reading activities unrelated to the FCAT were not stressed in either setting, the FCAT itself was mentioned frequently by both teachers as well as the students. As Ms. Wallace walked around the room, at one point she asked students, “How long until the FCAT?” In response, sever al students began talking about the FCAT. During this discussion, the teacher explai ned what a norm-referenced test is, and described the relationship betw een testing and the No Child Left Behind Act. She told her students when the FCAT was going to be administered. She also told her students that their last benchmark activ ity will be on Friday. Student s begin getting their journals and start writing. One student hands out snacks to a couple other students. One student asks the teacher what to do if he has lost hi s journal. One student who is listening to headphones does not appear to be working. Next, she hands out to students copies of an article (with questions) titled “When Teac hers are Cheaters.” The article is about teachers helping students cheat on standardized te sts. She divides the class into groups of three or four students and assigns each group part of the reading and related questions. The teacher tells them she will read the first paragraph aloud to get them started and begins reading. Although most of the students in Ms. Fernandez’ class have already left, the remaining students begin to talk with one another. One student says that she hates school. Others say that they hate preparing fo r the FCAT. The te acher returns to the

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51 front of the room after hanging up the phone. St udents begin talking to her in a mix of Spanish and English. One student talks about th e stress of getting ready for the FCAT in Spanish. Many of the classroom learning activities stressed lower order thinking and learning skills. In both settings, there was a lo w level of interest or participation in the learning process by students. Ms. Wallace reviews the T chart created la st week as well as the story and the questions that were placed in the margin. She asks students to disc uss the significance of the story’s elements. The students are quiet and some remain attentive. However, two students are looking at CD’s. Another student (different than above) has his head down. Another student is looking at a magazine. Th e teacher begins by re ading questions out of the Holt textbook and tries to get students to talk about or relate to themes in the story. She uses the example of laughing at a funeral. One student de scribes similar examples of having laughed at church. Low student interest in learning was apparent. Ms. Fernandez re-reads the passage to the class about stew. She asks the student s if they know what stew is. Students laugh as the teacher is talking; much of the laught er does not seem to involve the lesson. Two or three students are pounding on their desks, simulating a drum beat. Several students are playing with their locks. The teacher c ontinues to stand at the overhead in the front of the room. She tells the class that the set ting of the story is a k itchen. Next, she asks the students to determine what season the stor y was set in. The teacher asks the class to identify words in the passage that point out th e story is set in the winter. Chatter and the beating on desks continue throughout this discussion.

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52 The teacher reads the questions on the over head regarding the setting of the story. Next, she puts a second transparency on, and tells the class how to determine the characters in a story. Chatter continues. Some students begin yawning loudly. The teacher asks the class generall y what characters are in a st ory. One student answers that characters are people. Another says they could be animals. The teacher says that characters could be animals, people, monsters, etc. The teacher stat es that all characters have feelings. At this point, five students ha ve their heads down. C hatter continues. The teacher goes to the five student s with their heads down one at a time, taps them on their shoulders, and says, “guys.” Two of them pick up their heads. The teacher reads a second passage. There is a lot of chatter in th e room as the teacher reads. This passage is about moving and the feelings it generates. The teacher circulates, talks to individual students, and reads questions regarding the passage. The teacher gets some of the students to describe the characters ’ emotions based on the reading. The teacher reads and re-reads questi ons on the overhead transparency about the story. Laughter among students continues. Th e teacher stops talking and looks at one of the students that have been l aughing intermittently throughout th is portion of the class. She does not say anything to him. “Sorry, Mi ss” he says, as the laughter continues. Seven students have their heads down. One student raises his hand and talks about mixed feelings he has had about moving. The teacher talks about inferring information from a passage. She turns the lights on and hands out a worksheet. Chatter, yawning and the beating on desks continue. Table 4-2. Mean number of reprimands issued by teacher per period observed Athens HS Hamilton HS Jackson HS Pine Crest HS N 0.8 1.8 2.6 2.0

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53 Table 4.2 above shows that in low perfor ming schools teachers were more likely to reprimand their students than were teachers in high performing schools. Students in high performing settings seemed to be more e ngaged than the students observed in low performing school settings. Classroom management issues impeded instruction frequently during Ms. Fernandez’ Pi ne Crest High School classes: Throughout this discussion, several students listened silen tly, while others talked among themselves. About four students had their he ads down early in this activit y while later there were as many as six heads down. Another student yawn ed. Other students displayed off-task and inattentive behavior while the teacher reads from the book. When one of the three students volunteering answe rs said, “It’s on page 193.” A nother student, who had not been paying attention up to t hat point, said loudly, “Who said that?” Many students appear to tune out the discussion of the re ading. One or two were seen listening to portable CD players while another was looki ng through his CD’s. One checks her hair in a small mirror. Another student plays with a hair brush. Another one quietly rearranges books on a shelf next to his se at. Two or three students wrote and passed notes back and forth. Another student looked at some of the cash in his hands. On at least six occasions during this activity, th e teacher announced that there was too much noise in the room. Ms. Fernandez stopped and talked with one student at length about his inattentive behavior. As demonstrated by the vignettes above, stude nts frequently were off-task. Acts of defiance towards the teacher were commonplace. For example, Ms. Fernandez asks students general questions about setting in st ories. One student began talking about the teacher and she stated that the teacher "is getting on my case." The teacher looks at her,

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54 but did not say anything. A mi nute later, the same student ag ain stated that the teacher was getting on her case. The teacher calls this student outside. "Bye guys; I'll see you later," the student stated as she was leaving the room. In another instance, students banded together in an act of group defiance, fostered by a sense of confusion on campus that morning: The teacher then reads the directions contained in the overhead aloud. She asks stud ents what words will identify the setting of a story. Students chatted and some began hi ssing. Two students shout out for passes, one of them for the fourth time. The teacher re-states that students are to be called to their lockers. Students argued with the teache r and stated that they need to go to their lockers. Next, an announcement came on again, te lling teachers that they could send as many as five or six students at a time to th eir lockers, if they have lockers in building 100. Before the announcement wa s finished, about 20 students stood up and left the room without a word from the teacher. Student outbursts, usually unrelated to th e lesson, were frequent in number, as reflected by the number of teacher reprimands listed in Table 4.2. Several students came to class late on each of the five days when observation occurred. Participation in these lessons frequently consisted of students randomly shouting out answers to questions posed by the teacher. After reading a sentence, Ms. Fer nandez asks the class what the sentence means. Then she begins to read again. After reading a passage for approximately three or four minutes, she re ads a question in the booklet based on that reading and the multiple choice answers. Sever al students offer answers A, B, C, and D aloud. The teacher asks, “How many agree on A?” A few hands go up. “Is that what it says?” asks the teacher, “B?” Next, sh e calls on a particular student for the second

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55 question. She re-reads the question. Student s (including the one ca lled upon) give two different answers. “Let’s look back at the reading,” the teacher says. The teacher rereads that portion of the text. The passage is about the growth of photocopying and the environmental hazards associated with photocopying. In both settings students acted as passive recipients of knowledge. Student interest in learning, and in the classroom activities, was observed to be very low. Students often were inattentive. The teacher frequently had to redirect students’ o ff-task behavior. In Ms. Wallace’s class at Jackson High School c hatter continued over the teacher’s verbal directions. The teacher calle d one off-task student by nam e and said “Alright.” She pointed to another student and motioned for her to sit down. She told another student to “concentrate and turn around.” The teacher distributed a packet and a separate worksheet to each of the students. One stude nt asks the meaning of the bell work quote. The teacher read and explained it. The chat ter continues among several students. The teacher said, “One, two, thr ee, four, five, six people talking. Stop.” On another occasion, she spoke to a student who had not begun working several times. Students were instructed to read the packet and answer the questions based on the reading. In classrooms, at least one student, and often more than one, was observed with his/her head down for substant ial amounts of time during inst ruction. This activity was often overlooked by both teachers. Students in both classrooms frequently were seen playing with cell phones, CD players, and othe r gadgets, rather than completing assigned work. Student chatter, unrelated to th e content or lesson, was commonplace in both settings. Ms. Wallace redirected off-task behavi or more frequently than Ms. Fernandez.

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56 In Ms. Fernandez’ ESOL class, students of ten appeared frustrated with the learning process: Ms. Fernandez asks students what the confli ct in the story is. Students guess. Next, she asks them when the turning point occurs in the story, and what is the resolution. Students pass notes during this discussion. On e student replies that, "…the bears were smoking weed." Students laugh. Other stude nts yawn loudly. One states, "This is boring." One of the students asks loudly, "Wha t's the whole point of th is?" At this point, the teacher has already told the students to listen twice. She tells another student, "You can't continue talking." He replies, "whatever." The teacher removes the first overhead and replaces it with another that showed a graphic outline of the elements of a plot. Next, she leads a discussion about a poem that appears on the second page of the packet. She asks the class what a eulogy is. Several students guess at once, out loud. None of them are correct. The chatter continues. “Let her teach!” one student says. One student tells another, “Stop talking, idiot!” The teacher tells the class to read the poem silently to themselves, and underline any words in the poem that they do not rec ognize. Some of the students read the poem while others do not. The chatter continues. The teacher asks the class to tell her what words they underlined. One student says "s hrunken." Another student says, "You don't know what shrunken means?!?" The teacher te lls them it's based on the word "shrink." Several students identify "sphinx" as an unfamiliar word. The teacher asks the class if they know what it means. Several students gue ss a variety of answers and blurt them out loud. The teacher tells them to visualize something. The teacher asks the class what the poem means. One student raises his hand, asks what sphinx means. The teacher says again, ju st visualize something. She asks the class

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57 what the poem is about. Chatter and laughter among the students continues. Among the chatter, one student asks another who the main character is in the poem. Students guess out loud about the meaning of the poem. The teacher reads the poem out loud. Some students do not read along with her. One stude nt says, “I still don’t know what sphinx means.” Two students in the back of the cla ssroom begin to playfully slap one another. The other student tells the first one to leave her alone. Students te ll each other to "shut up" several times during this activity. Teaching and learning activities in the low performing school classrooms were mostly teacher-directed. However, the teach ers tried to engage their students in the lesson or activity by posing questions that were designed to encourage their participation. Ms. Wallace frequently connected elements of the curriculum to things the students could relate to. Ms. Wallace tells students that they will read an article from their text and answer questions based on it just like they will do on the FCAT. She tells them to turn to page nine of their workbooks, rip out the page, and th en get their textbooks from the shelf. She tells them to turn to page 105 in their texts. As students complete these tasks, she asks them if any of them have lived in New York. She asks them if any of them know what PS stands for in New York. With a few hints from the teacher, students eventually figure out that it stands for “public school.” The teacher rings the bell on her desk a total of three times during this activity when students provide correct answers. The te acher is setting the context for the story the class is about to read. She explains what PS and IS mean. She tells students about the New York middle school that is the subj ect of the story they are about to read. She

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58 discusses the concept of a “melting pot” and its significance in American culture. She contrasts the melting pot idea with the idea th at America is a “salad.” Students listen to the teacher and guess answers to questions she asks them. The teacher asks them if they know an yone whose parents or grandparents came here from another country, and how the par ents or grandparents sp eak their ancestral language, while their kids speak English. A few students nodded in agreement. She explained how the middle school they will read about might be considered a “melting pot.” She talked about how students moving to Florida from the Midwest might find a friend in their new school and how they might get that friend to show them what kinds of clothing styles to wear. At one point during this discussi on, the teacher said, “I know, I’m old and slow.” A student responded, “No, you’re not.” Frequently students in the low performi ng classroom settings did not actively, or appropriately, participate in the lesson. Assignments in bot h classrooms consisted often of seatwork that explicitly related to the Sunshine State Standards benchmarks and the FCAT. Research Question 3) What Are the Inst ructional Beliefs among Teachers at High Performing and Low Performing Schools? High Performing Schools The interviews revealed that Ms. Kelly, at Athens High School, and Ms. Davis, at Hamilton High School, each hold an open a nd dynamic view of the curriculum and believe that curriculum is a reciprocal rather than a linear process. Both teachers stressed their belief that the curriculum should be ta ilored to the students’ needs. They also mentioned that the curriculum decisions they make do not consider the FCAT specifically. They also asserted that they do not “teach to the test.” Ms. Davis states, “ I

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59 want them to have attached language, again fo r themselves, have thos e basic skills, so they can attack any piece of literature, (what ever) anybody decides all of a sudden is the tenth grade book. I think right now, a lot of teachers are getting bogged down thinking that language arts is all about FCAT, and it’s no t, that’s just a bas ic myth. Um, my biggest compliment, now I’ve heard a second st udent tell another teacher, that I don’t teach FCAT, I teach. And, they’ ve really enjoyed that this year, because they’re not doing drills.” Ms. Kelly stated that, “ Teachers sometimes lose sight of the fact that it’s skills we’re teaching, it’s not necessarily teaching to a test. I think this is a misconception. We’re teaching them the skills they should be abl e to do in any situati on, if it’s the SAT or the FCAT or just a test in their class, or some type of assessment in chorus, there are certain skills that they need to be successful.” Both teachers emphasized that teaching and learning in the language arts classroom should be student-centered. According to Ms. Kelly, “S tudents… are my biggest influence. What are they intere sted in? What do they watch? What do they listen to? What do they read? They are my number one influence because I can take what they need to know, and apply it to what they want to know, and therefore they’re going to remember it a lot better.” The teachers reported that their learning did not remain static over time and that they made adjustments as needed on an annual, monthly, or even daily basis. Ms. Kelly states that, “Here’s this lump of clay that Flor ida gave me, and I’m goi ng to mold it into something that’s going to work for the kids I have this year. Every year, you get a different set of kids, I don’t k now that I’ve ever, even the ye ars that I taught ninth grade

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60 English four years in a row, I never taught it the same way twice. You don’t know what you’re going to get, and so I think, in te rms of influencing curriculum, I think it’s the teacher’s individual willingness to be an active part of creating that curriculum, molding it to fit their needs .” These teachers reported that they were proponents of giving stude nts real choices, decision-making power, and owne rship over aspects of curriculum planning. Ms. Kelly had a “Novel of the Month” assignment fo r her students. She explained that: “ I have them read a novel of the mont h outside of class, to fost er independent reading, [and] hopefully a love of reading, I give them a genre, but I let them pick [the actual title] in that genre. Usually, like ri ght now they’re doing poetry, so they have to read ten poems by the same poet, or ten poets about the same subject, or theme. I’ve had [topics such as] published from 2000 or newer, science fiction fantasy month, children’s books, I actually have them read a number of childre n’s books and talk about the lessons you can learn. Projects range from making a movie poster about your book, to actual analysis of literary elements: character, plot, confli ct, setting, and those types of things. The projects that I got fo r the last one, they had to read a self-help book, or a cookbook, or a how-to book, or something like that so I got lots of f ood items that I think that, for the self-help books, they connected with whatever it was they were assigned to get help on, whether it was ADD, um, Li nda, the noisemaker (laughs), she read a book about, almost a Seven Habits kind of book, but a little bit different, she created two photo essays of this is when you’ re doing all the positive things that it tells you to do, and she used it as a model, and when you turned the pos ter over, her sister did all of the opposite things…her being able to put that much crea tivity and thought into it, she really liked

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61 being able to express herself that way, so I may try that next year, al so letting them have a month, ‘OK, you pick the topic, whatever.’ In retrospect, I want some type of proposal, in writing, from them, because it’s almost a little scary, to not k now what I was going to get from someone, but I want to say, 90 percent of them were appropriate.” Ms. Davis requires students to read outside of class ever y week. The benefits of this assignment are many. She explained that: “Every child is required to read 50 pages a week for regular, 75 pages a week for honors, a book of their choice, and every Friday in my classroom, they write me about it and I br ing in literary terms…they might write a paragraph about whatever they read that week. A nd then, I bring in some fun things like, illustrate a book cover, or add a symbol to the cover, um, I’ll ask about the author. I try to give them a couple of questions they can choose between that are open-ended, and I’ll have a pretty good idea, by the time they’ve fi nished answering it, whether or not they’re really reading. [After] they finish the three pag es of writing, which is expository writing, they do a summary of what they read that week. And, they get pretty excited about it, so that they go from thinking t hat they can’t write three pages to thinking that they can’t read 50, to coming in and finding out that th ey sometimes have read a couple of novels during the week. They’ve found one author that they really love, it spreads like wildfire through the classroom that ‘this guy is really cool, read him.’ So, they get very excited about it, and it’s all based on their choice, because I don’t read fantasy anymore, but there’s a whole group that’s into fantasy, a whole group that’s into action, a whole group that’s into realistic, whole groups that are into what they call pimp books, which are a little bit on the racy side, but as long as thei r parents approve, they go for it. So, they’re reading what are really 350 to 400 page adult novels, happen to have maybe a bit of a

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62 teenage, maybe college flair to them. Lots of sex, lots of relationships, but it’s a beginning. Because you can lead them from that very easily to Grisham and on to something else that has maybe a little le ss sex (laughs), and they have to use their imagination a little bit more. So, they take all these skills and that’s where I basically see most of my growth. That’s what I attri bute to most of the growth in their reading, because they’ve been duped into reading, and then moving into a higher level with the writing, so the literature that we do in class is where I teach the strategies.” During their interviews Ms. Davis and Ms. Kelly reporte d that an emphasis on teaching and learning literacy skills weighed heavily in their curriculum planning. These teachers made statements that sugge sted they had a high level of efficacy. Ms. Kelly stated that: “I believe that I can teach any subj ect that needed to be taught. Because really, I teach life skill s. I use English as my vehicle to help them think. I create, no I foster, thinking. And, being lif elong learners, and always going back out there and retraining yourself, and I always te ll them that even at my age, I’m still learning new things, and you know, I c ould teach math and still have the same philosophy about wanting them to be lifelong learners and I can tell them they’re going to use any class that they take in life, they think that they’re not. When am I ever going to use this, but, they do, they ju st, it’s not a literal transla tion of the Odyssey into my regular job at Burger King.” Ms. Davis had a practical perspective on teaching and learning in her class. She stated that she wanted students to be able to use and develop lite racy skills that would serve them in the marketplace. “I think I’m a very practical teacher, I’m finding that out more as I talk with other teachers who are real ly into teaching literature. Having been in

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63 the business world, I know that no one will ever ask you to write a Haiku, so all those lessons were lost. I could ha ve given them a great Haiku, but no, they never asked me for it, nor wanted to pay me for it. So my stress is always on can you effectively communicate. So, every lesson is geared toward s that. If I can’t justify the lesson in terms of if he’s going to end up being a mec hanic, why they need it, then I usually don’t teach it, so I won’t teach in the abstract. I teach pretty concrete how to write, how to communicate, how to make sure you’re reading at a level that will be appropriate.” Neither teacher plans their curriculum ar ound texts, although bot h utilize texts to suit their needs. Ms. Davis suggested that: “ The whole guidance here is away from textbooks, away from ‘everybody in ninth grade has to re ad ninth, everybody in tenth grade has to read,’ I don’t even know what you have to read in tenth grade. I guess you have to read Julius Caesar. That’s as close as my ‘have to.’ So, I’m allowed to bring in a lot of practices I’ve seen work in other places. I’m able to incorporate a lot.” Ms. Kelly communicated genuine affection for her students, and stated that she loves teenagers. Both teachers mentioned the importance of getting to know their students, and doing so as early as possible. Ms. Kelly stated that: “I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know my students and really it tie s back to what… motivates my curriculum planning, the students do. Whatever they are interested in; I k now what I have to cover. I’m point blank honest with them, ‘We have to do this. I know that there are things you want to do, and I’ll try to make them mesh togeth er as well as I can,’ Being able to have a certain level of sarcasm and fun with them goe s so far. They sometimes say, ‘I wish all my teachers were like you.’ And then I remind them that if all thei r teachers were like me, then I wouldn’t be so special. And I think that I’ve spent a lot of time, since I started

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64 teaching, becoming that person that I’m always available to them, they can email me, because that’s where my teachers were for me. I had great teachers like that, and so I just think I try to emulate them a lot. And they’re fun. I lo ve teenagers. I really do. All the potential is right there. Some of them haven’t been trained in how to use it, so sometimes you have to manipulate t hat a little bit, but I really I think they’re great kids.” She stressed that she remained available to students outside of class time to help them with research projects and homework. Both teachers reported that their school-bas ed administrators are supportive of their efforts, but they added that administrators still keep a close eye on teachers because of the importance that FCAT scores hold. Ms. Davi s and Ms. Kelly reporte d that inherently tenth grade language arts teachers feel pressure from this high stakes test. Despite the success her school has had with students pass ing the FCAT, Ms. Davis shared that there was a new emphasis this year on teaching to the test and utilizing district-generated assessments. Ms. Davis asserted that these assessments are more of a hindrance than a help and pointed out that they do not n ecessarily correspond to the FCAT or the benchmarks assessed on the FCAT. “Because of the failing school s, it’s supposed to be a requirement that as of August, but then it got blown out of the water. We were supposed to do monthly assessments, and th en teachers complained bec ause, they were like, OK, monthly assessments, how do you know they’re the same as that assessment and they wanted us to be breaking it down by, so it looked very mu ch FCATish, so we could say words and phrases go here, comparison and contra st go there, refere nce and research go there, and we could analyze every student by their four categories. So most teachers freaked out, the county decided that they would provide the te st, don’t worry, but then we

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65 had more to worry about, because as I mentioned, they (the district) never could do it. They never did it.” Low Performing Schools The FCAT itself received mu ch more consideration from Ms. Fernandez at Pine Crest High School and Ms. Wallace at Jacks on High School, the two participants from low performing schools. Both of these teachers discussed the pressure they felt from the FCAT, coupled with the historic ally low scores associated wi th their students. In 2004, both schools received F grades from the state. As a result, the state and district had gotten involved in curriculum decisions made for language arts classes at their schools. Ms. Fernandez reported that: “ They (the district) have to analyze the data, the data that we have from all the testing, analyzing th e data, you can use that data to develop activities, and it’s a lot, it’s so much for us at least I, maybe because I’m new here, but I heard other teachers say, ‘Wow, this is too much .’ I don’t know if it’s the same in other schools, I guess it’s not that, I guess it’s the pressure of th e test, because we have the F grade. I think it has a lot to do with it.” Ms. Wallace characterized the extent to which the FCAT, and the state, are involved in the language arts curric ulum at Jackson High School as: “ working at Jackson, the FCAT has had a direct influ ence on what we are asked/re quired to do in a language arts class. It was, ‘you will do this sma ll focus thing to work specifically on FCAT because that is how, you the school, will be j udged. You will do it this way.’ And it was put very nicely, but these messages, you will do it this way. In that case, FCAT has had a direct effect on what we do here and how we teach.” Perhaps as a result of this outside involvement, both of the low performing school teachers viewed curriculum as being more linear, or top-down, than did Ms. Kelly or Ms. Davis.

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66 Both Ms. Wallace and Ms. Fernandez st ressed the importance of teaching the benchmarks. For Ms. Fernandez, the benchmar ks were the key factor in lesson planning, “ The benchmarks that we have to teach to, we have to teach that in order to, it follows that. Anything else, you’re wasting you’re time, because they’re going to be tested on that. You know, the FCAT, it puts a lot of pressure. Bilingual standards, state standards. Well, it (the benchmarks) keeps you on track. It influences you, and you have to keep track of what you’ve done, and what needs to be done still, and where you are. (You) cover them in the lessons you teach the students. No matte r what you’re teaching, that has to be covered. It keeps you on tr ack, as what needs to be done.” Ms. Wallace reported that other teachers professional development workshops, and the students are the biggest infl uences on her regarding curriculum. “ Well I like to steal from other people, who are doing things th at I think work with students that help them, things that are really solid lessons, different teachers that teach different courses than mine, and some of that is student k nowledge, if I were, the coursework that I’ve taken is so far in the past, that I think I have, all the coursework is your foundational stuff, that you have to grow b eyond that or, you’re not going to be at the student’s level, so I do belong to the NCTE.” Ms. Wallace stated that she believed it was important to account for individual differences among st udents when planning curriculum. Her teaching philosophy incorporated personality theo ry. She stated that she gave students a personality inventory and cons idered student personalities when designing lessons. Ms. Wallace and Ms. Fernandez both discu ssed the importance of the Assistance Plus Plan, and/or the mini-lessons associat ed with this state-based plan for failing schools. Ms. Wallace lamented about the amount of instructional time lost to Assistance

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67 Plus, noting that teachers must incorporat e it into their curriculum somehow, “ Jackson in particular, because of the multiple F grades, is basically under mandate from the state to perform under the Assistance Plus program. And so, because we are a school that has adopted Assistance Plus, school wide, there are curricular mini-lessons that go with the benchmarks that we have to do everyday. So there’s a mini lesson at the beginning of each period, so that’s something you have to incorporate into whatever you’re doing. And so, you also have to be cognizant of that, and you don’t want it to be a ten minute vacuum at the beginning of class, you have to be able to connect it w ith other things that you’ve planned, so that they can see how it all works together. So, specifically, at Jackson, at this time and place, that’s someth ing that we’re having to work consciously at, integrating that… in order to teach the mini lesson, it’s supposed to be ten minutes at the beginning of class, so what that leaves me is ten minutes, 180 days, OK, that’s 1800 minutes of instruction are specifically on the benchmark lessons, and that is time I do not have to do other stuff. Now, I’m not saying it ’s not valuable time, but it does impact how you have to arrange the rest of what you plan. So, you may have to cut out a short story, or sometimes the benchmark assessment will bring up questions the students don’t understand and you have to go beyond your ten mi nutes, especially if you’re trying to integrate those mini lessons, trying to ma ke them meaningful with what you’re doing everyday, so there’s going to be a lot of cross talk between here’s what we do the first ten minutes, and then here’s what we’re doing now, as opposed to just slicing off ten minutes at the beginning of class, and saying that’s for this program, and the rest of it is for what we do, I don’t think that’s very smart teaching ”

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68 Because of the state’s and district’s em phasis on the Assistance Plus program, Ms. Wallace uses assessment data to motivate her students, “W ith the mini lessons, the benchmarks, we, in fact, I was showing them before they took the (FCAT), ‘Look here are the results from the benchmark test you took the begi nning of the year, here are the benchmarks, the first marking period, here they are at the second marking period, and here you are now. Look how high some of these have gotten,’ and so sending them off, feeling at least that they, y ou know, asking them after the te st, how did you feel about it, and a lot of them, a couple of kids said, ‘We ll I probably didn’t pa ss, but I think I did much better than I did last year.’ So, they weren’t co ming in all gloom and doom thinking that they were going to die, I won’t graduate high school, and some just felt really confident.” One recurrent theme in Ms. Fernandez’ in terview was the pressure and frustration experienced by both students and teachers. Some of the frustration related to the language barrier many of Ms. Fernandez’ students faced: “ And the problem was, that we didn’t get enough time for us to master the sk ills, and they were te sted on it. So, they were tested before they were ready, and as a result, they aren’t getting passing scores, because they didn’t have enough time to really get it, and that touche s a little bit, that ESOL teachers are not satisfied, because you ha ve to cover things so rapidly, it was like, boom! In a week, sometimes, and to test ESOL students on that after a semester, no way. And we’re supposed to do those mini lessons to go parallel with the FCAT, but it’s so hard, but now, after the FCAT, we’re not ju st doing mini lessons, we’re going to incorporate everything in the reading, going to do the literature readings, and in the

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69 tenth grade it’s easier to do that than in the ninth grade because there’s a lot of pressure. ” Both teachers stressed the challenging natu re of their school environments. They focused on the need to understand and accommodate students of different cultural backgrounds. Both schools have experienced a growth in recent years in the number of students from a Haitian Creole background, whil e Pine Crest also has a large Hispanic student population. Ms. Wallace argues that prejudice at Jackson High School is not based on race, but on ethnicity, “ This is a school that has a very large Haitian Creole population, where we went from one ESOL te acher to two who teach all day long, and both of them have to be Creole speakers. We do not have a large ESOL group that speaks Spanish; they all speak Creole, which is different. That has brought some interesting kind of dynamics to the kids here… S o when you see prejudice at Jackson, it’s native versus islander prejudice, more than it is any racial, black/white or Hispanic. That has changed the way that you approach certain things bec ause you’ve got kids coming from different countries, their context is completely d ifferent than what these kids are from.” Jackson High School has a long and proud tradition in its community, however, as it has been a fixture in the c ity for over 80 years. Race itself was an important topic for Ms. Wallace, as a Caucas ian teacher in a largely African American school setting. Ms. Fernandez, a 35 year teaching veteran in her first year teaching at Pine Ridge, emphasized the need to focus on how to work with low level learners. Ms. Wallace also discussed strategies for working with low le vel learners. Ms. Wall ace, a 17 year teaching veteran at Jackson discussed her role in wh at she termed the ‘mama factor’ at length.

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70 “ Well, many of our [student s] are below grade level. So, several things. One is personality. Sometimes kids be low grade level have self-confi dence issues. They’ve been plowed over by their classmates Some of it is the Mama fa ctor. We have access in this county to all kinds of testing information, so test score info rmation is something I try to look at before I start a class. What does this class of students look like? There are distinct personalities in classes. That particular tenth grade class is very low. Most of them are level one, a lot of kids came in as very low level ones. Many of them came in way below grade level. It takes more, if y ou have to, if you’re bu ilding context, you may have to go three or steps further than a class th at has more high level, two level students. You have to build more contexts for them. Y ou have to break down more stuff for them. They will say, you need to break it down for us … So, in classes that are low level, I’ve developed that habit over having years of low le vel performers, and so I try to break stuff down, not to, ‘Here’s a ll the information you need,’ but asking a lot of open, leading questions that will get, if one of them will come through the door, because a lot of the time, they’re very reticent to talk. Low level learners don’t talk a lot in class, especially in this class, because then you’re stupid, so they’ve learned to shut up and be quiet. They just don’t talk, so you have to break it down and give them an opening, and once you get one of them through the opening, then more of them are likely to jump in and say, OK that’s not a scary pl ace, I can do that. ” Getting to know her students is importan t to Ms. Wallace. She explained that: “ A lot of it is bedrock stuff that I always try to do with classes. Get to know them as individuals, let them see me as an individual, who wants to help them, and someone that is trying to grow them, and basically to feed ing them, and kicking them out of the nest.

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71 When they do this, it’s not my job to fly th em. You’ve got to fly on your own. I’ll show you what you need to do to help develop your wings, but those are your wings. I’m not, I can’t be with you. Your parents can’t be with you. You have to do some things on your own. ” Additionally, her teaching philosophy emphas izes visual learning, consistent with the preferred learning styles of her students. Ms. Fernandez stated that she could only do fun and interesting, student-centered activities after the FCAT was done: “I would say it’s [planning] different. We’re going to do more (laughs). You want to do all these literature related activities, we want to be able to have the students participate more, more hands-on activities, they can present a play, or write something, that you have not had the chance to do so, because you were getting them ready for the FCAT. There is a lot of stress there. ” According to Ms. Fernandez, the FCAT drives the curriculum; “ I would say it [the FCAT] has the most influence. There’s a lo t of pressure on tent h grade teachers, you need to be prepared for that test, you want to make sure, they know that this is going to be on the test, but yeah, I think it has a big influence. I thin k it’s the most important one when you’re developing curriculum .” Common Themes at Low and High Performing Schools While there are many significant difference s in teaching beliefs and perspectives among these two groups of teachers, there were notable similarities between Ms. Wallace, Ms. Kelly and Ms. Davis. For ex ample, Ms. Wallace, like Ms. Kelly and Ms. Davis, views the textbook as just one tool available to teachers. “ And, I use a lot of things from Sports Illustrated, from news papers, so they can s ee things in their environment, so it’s nice to have a textbook as a resource, it’s just one tool, and so looking for other things that will help make things fresh. I also like to use… the Alpha

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72 Smart keyboard, which they have responded to beautifully, and in fact, watching them work with them, since I’ve kind of lean ed on them hard, knowing that they had FCAT writing coming up, and I saw how positively they responded to it… And so, I found that letting go of the death grip of the textbook is helpful, letting go, the kind of, at least for English teachers, ‘Thou shall star t at the front of the chronolo gy of whatever literature you’re doing and proceed towards the end,’ you know, getting rid of that and saying, screw that, let’s look at it thematically, so thematic st uff is just very helpful. So again, there are changes in practic e and changes in philosophy.” Like Ms. Kelly, she incorporated technology into the classroom. She expresse d a strong confidence, or efficacy, in her abilities as a teacher, wher eas Ms. Fernandez expressed very moderate confidence in her abilities as a teacher, “ You can always help [s tudents learn]. How much you help, it’s hard to tell. There are a lot of students [who] are passive, but they are gaining a lot of knowledge, they just don’ t feel comfortable in participating, so it’s hard for you to tell how much you have influe nce, but you do, I think you get through to a certain level.” Ms. Wallace stressed the need for teachers to make the curriculum relevant to students’ needs. In order to do this, she ties every lesson or activity she can into some context that her student s can relate to. “ There are some things that they [students] don’t have. In many cases, they don’t have a c ontext for what we’re discussing, especially when we get into literature, and sometimes as they come in from other places, and so, if there’s dead air there, I can’t make the assu mption that whatever I present to them is something they can immediately connect to. So, I’m often having to do a lot of analogies,

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73 I teach a great deal by analogy, trying to relate what we’re reading, what we’re discussing, with things that will be familiar to them in their regular, everyday context .” Each of the four participants referred to the pressure placed on teachers and students because of the FCAT. Each of the pa rticipants described th e extent of school administrators’ involvement with curriculum, annual eval uations, and the FCAT. Ms. Wallace, at Jackson, characterized her admini stration and others at the school as very involved in curriculum decisions, “ As principal, (he) is one of the first principals I’ve worked with who is very cl ear about instruction being j ob one, and having that be the focus of what we talk about at faculty meeti ngs, which is a different flavor in a principal, because I know a lot of pr incipals, you go to a faculty meeting, and it’s all about discipline, stuff you got to do, he, he’s in a difficult position because of the multiple F grades, and so, unfortunately, he has to do, he ge ts called off campus a lot, which is one of the great ironies of being an F school, is that it’s vital to have a strong instructional leader, but they spend most of the time taking your instructional le ader off campus to go to meetings, so OK, this makes sense in what universe, please? So, um, as far as curriculum goes, he sets the overall tone and expect ations. The API (Assistant Principal for Instruction) is the person who puts a lot of that stuff to work in how the classes are scheduled, which teachers are assigned whic h groups based on assessment of strengths, etc, as far as what goes on in the actual classroom, there’s discussions all up and down, with that group, with input from people, like the learning resource sp ecialist, and we also have a reading coach, a math coach, and so the reading specialists ar e there to put out information about reading… Expectations are set out from the pr incipal and that’s verbal. You’ll see a lot coming from Betty, the API, about we’re going to do this, she and

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74 I have conversations, I go in there as de partment chair asking questions, how do you want to look at how we do X,Y, and Z, in terms of a group of students or a particular course? Sometimes, teachers have discussed who is the strongest to help develop this particular kind of thing with the students. So, a lot of conversations but some of it is informal, some of it is actual planning.” Ms. Fernandez referred to pressure co ming from the school’s administration, “ It’s the school, the administration. Because they have responsib ilities to do that, and they pass it to us, and we are the ones who have to carry it out with the students, and then the pressure is, OK, what if they don’t do well, they can blame me (laughs). You know, you feel kind of, trapped, but we do the best we can.” Ms. Davis, at a high performing school, ec hoed these sentiments, adding the threat of job loss for another teacher at her school, “ We try at our school, each department is responsible for one benchmark area that woul d tie nicely into what they teach, so that social studies is responsible for the kids in reference and research, science is responsible for reasoning and the main idea, so we ha ve more of that push here, and again, I’m not sure if it will be evaluated, but um, a very st ern look came across the principal a couple weeks ago with an English teacher, explaini ng to this person that if they didn’t show improvement in FCAT, no matter how much th ey disagree with the test, no matter how much they thought standardized tests are baloney, no matter how much they were irritated by the fact that they have to have students [who] cannot read, um, when springtime comes, they will not find a job anywh ere in the county. So, that was kind of an eye opener.”

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75 Ms. Kelly characterizes administrative invol vement in the curriculum at her school as based on: “ a lot of teamwork, and a lot of trust to make sure that, I think that’s how it all trickles down. The department head will tr anslate it down to us, but they rely a lot on him to have the same expectations for curricu lum that they have as well. It works for us.” At the same time, administrative exp ectations at Athens High School are not completely devoid of FCAT influence, “ Do I think that it’s (teacher evaluations) solely based on FCAT scores? No, but I think w hat they’re looking at is the teacher’s performance throughout that entir e year, and then here’s where their FCAT scores are, and then maybe they need to change something up for next year. In that respect, I know that we have a teacher here whose student s performed well on the FCAT, and so they wanted him to teach all tenth grade regular th is year because he would do the same thing with them. And you wouldn’t be making me feel great, by asking me to teach five classes a day of tenth grade regular students who are unmotivated. It’s scar y… I think if you ask administration, they would tell you, not very much. I think from my own personal, wanting to have done well, and feeling as though I reached them in a way that I need to reach them, I think it does (make) a big deal.” Research Question 4) What Is the Co rrespondence among Teachers’ Beliefs and Instructional Practices at the High P erforming and Low P erforming Schools? Emergent codes generated from analysis of observations co rresponded with the attitudes, beliefs and perspectives that emerge d during interviews with the teachers at the high performing schools, as reflected in tran scripts of these interviews. Among these four participants, teacher beliefs and in structional practices generally corresponded (Table 4.3). However, there were differe nces between the emergent themes among high and low performing school teachers. Both hi gh performing school teachers believed in,

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76 and modeled student-centered teaching and lear ning than teacher centered approaches. Both low performing school teachers believed in, and modeled more teacher-centered teaching and learning styles more often than student-centered practices. Additionally, the emphasis on the FCAT ev ident, both in belief and practice, among both participants from low performing school s, stands in contrast to the lack of emphasis on the FCAT, again both in belief a nd practice, among both participants from high performing schools. Table 4-3. Emergent themes from anal ysis of observations and interviews Observations Interviews Athens HS *Student-directed activities *Positive environment *Student choice *Emphasis on reading *High teacher efficacy *Use of technology *Rapport with students *Open view of curriculum *Student-centered teaching and learning *Little focus on FCAT Hamilton HS *Student-directed activities *Positive environment *Student choices *Emphasis on reading *Teacher provides guidance, scaffolding *Rapport *Little discussion of FCAT Observations *Practical teaching *Literacy and language skills emphasized *Student influence on curriculum *Move away from texts *County assessments seen as a hindrance Jackson HS *Teacher-directed activities *Emphasis on FCAT *High efficacy *Low level of student participation *Mama factor *Nature of, and changes to, the school environment *FCAT *Assistance Plus Program Pine Crest HS *Teacher-directed activities *Emphasis on FCAT *Low level learning activities *Negative classroom environment *Emphasis on low level learners *Cultural differences *Top-down curriculum *F grade for the school

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77 High Performing Schools Both Ms. Davis at Hamilton HS and Ms. Ke lly at Athens HS frequently included students into the curriculum design and impl ementation process, as noted in the number of minutes engaged in student-directed act ivities in Table 4.1 earlier. During their interviews, these teachers described why it was important to in corporate students’ interests and needs in the curriculum decisions they make. Another theme that emerged during observations and their interviews was a practice and a belief that reading skills should be emphasized during classroom instru ction but that the FCAT should be deemphasized. Low Performing Schools There was a correspondence among low perfor ming school teachers’. Both of the teachers reported and practiced teacher-cente red teaching and learning. As indicated in Table 4.1, there was no time spent in student-directed activities. Teaching and learning were exclusively teacher-directed. This prac tice was reflected in their beliefs, as Ms. Wallace referred often in her interview to what she termed the “Mama factor,” the need to guide and direct teaching and learning based on what she perceived to be her students’ needs. During the interview, Ms. Fernandez reported that she be lieved in using a topdown curriculum. Her belief was consistent with her lesson planning activities. Additionally, the FCAT, as we ll as the school grading fo rmula, were significant influences on both beliefs and practices among both teachers at low performing schools. Both mentioned the FCAT, the Assistance Plus Program, and/or its mini lessons, frequently during interviews. Much of thei r classroom activities centered on planning for the FCAT, focusing on the benchmarks, and discussing the FCAT itself with students somewhat regularly.

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78 Research Question #5) What Is the Corres pondence Between Teacher Self-Reported Beliefs, Interview Responses and Instruct ional Practices at the High and Low Performing High Schools? By incorporating the TBPS in this study, the attitudes and beliefs of other teachers at each school, apart from the four participan ts, were measured. Survey findings from the TBPS helped establish the extent to which cer tain attitudes and belie fs regarding teaching and learning are presen t within schools. Reliability measures for each of the four subsets of questions on the TBPS yielded moderately strong alpha scores ranging from .50 to .75. Th e reliability coefficient for the 30 teacher-centered items yielded alpha = .83; for the 30 student-centered items, the alpha score was .80. The range of mean scor es reported for the teacher centered items was 3.28; with a minimum of 1.22 and a maximum score of 4.5. For the student-centered items, the mean score was 1.71. The minimum score was 3.08 and the maximum score was 4.79. The item analysis revealed four questions which yielded statistically significant differences in scores, when controlling for school. For each of these measures, a Pearson’s R correlation coefficient was calcula ted. These correlation coefficients ranged from 0.36 to 0.54. Those four questions are: 17) “I assess student learning because teaching and assessing are intertwined.” 25) “I believe that my expectations for learner outcomes are implicit.” 35) “When I ask lear ners questions, their responses typically require a short, factual answer.” and 42) “My teaching is guided by instructional strategies that emphasize what learners shoul d know.” The R scores for each of these questions are shown here in Table 4.4:

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79 Table 4-4. Pearson’s R correlation coefficient scores for statistically significant items between respondents from different schools on the TBPS Examination of respondents scores to each of these five questions broken, sorted by school illustrates the nature of differences. Item 17, “I assess st udent learning because teaching and assessing are intertwined” reveal s teacher attitudes towards the relationship between teaching and assessment. On the TB PS, this was one of the student-centered questions. All of the respondents from Ham ilton HS, a high performing school, and Pine Crest HS, a low performing school, answered this item “highly agree.” The respondents from Jackson HS and Athens HS were less cohesive in their answers, all of them ranging from “neutral” to “highly agree.” This s uggests that the relati onship between teaching and assessing is more strongly perceived among language arts teachers at Hamilton HS and Pine Crest HS than it is perceived among language arts teachers who teach at Jackson HS and Athens HS. Item 25, “I believe that my expectations for learner outcomes are implicit,” was indicative of significant differences between respondents from high and low performing schools. This teacher-centered item was rate d by 79% of the respondents from the high performing schools as somewhere between “hig hly disagree” and “neutral.” Whereas, 80% of respondents from low performing sc hools rated this item either “agree” or “highly agree.” This suggests that language arts teachers at high performing schools do Pearson’s R Significance Item 17 0.434 0.05 Item 25 0.408 0.05 Item 35 0.406 0.05 Item 42 0.542 0.05

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80 not believe in making learning expectations im plicit, but rather that they believe in explicitly stating th eir expectations for student learning. For item 35, “When I ask learners questions their responses typically require a short, factual answer,” there was a slight difference between high performing and low performing schools. This teach er-centered question was rate d as “highly disagree” by 71% of respondents from high performing schools, whereas only 25% of respondents from low performing schools rated it the sa me. A majority of respondents from low performing schools, however, did rate this it em “disagree.” Given the low number of responses to this survey, es pecially from Athens HS and Pine Crest HS, this anomaly may not be meaningful, although it is statistica lly significant. Yet, it does suggest that language arts teachers at high performing schools place greater emphasis on generating higher order thinking skills among their students. Item 42, “My teaching is guided by instruc tional strategies that emphasize what learners should know,” showed significant di fferences in responses among teachers from high and low performing schools. For this te acher-centered question, 71% of respondents at high performing schools rated this item either “disagree” or “neutral.” In contrast, 93% of respondents from low performing sc hools rated this item either “agree” or “highly agree.” Given differences based on obs ervation and interview data, this type of disagreement between teachers at high and lo w performing schools is consistent, in that teachers at low performing schools were more heavily influenced by outside factors (notably, the State) with respect to curriculum and instructional decisions. For the vast majority of TBPS items, there were not statistically significant differences between teachers at high and low performing sc hools, suggesting that teacher

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81 attitudes and beliefs were not significantly different. With few exceptions, the teachers’ ratings of TBPS items did not seem to be indicative of the differences observed in instructional practices or expressed during the interviews among teachers in high performing and low performing schools. Summary Classroom observations, teacher intervie ws, and selected results of the TBPS showed that the practices a nd beliefs of teachers at high performing schools differ from the practices and beliefs of teachers at low performing school s. Classroom observations showed that participants at high performing schools utilized more student-centered instructional practices an d learning methods, and empha sized outside reading among their students. Teacher interviews showed th at these practices were reflected in teacher beliefs among high performing schools. Analysis of emergent themes from both observations and interviews showed that teach er beliefs and practices among participants from both high performing and low perfor ming schools held somewhat consistent, although there were significant differences betw een these two groups of teachers, both in teacher beliefs and teacher practices. Additionally, teacher interviews showed that teachers at low performing schools consider th e FCAT much more h eavily in curriculumrelated issues than their counterpa rts at high performing schools. Results of the TBPS were less conclusive, in that teachers fr om all four schools responded similarly across most items on this que stionnaire. However, two items on this survey did generate statistically significant differences in responses that fell along the lines of high and low performing school. These two items were, “I believe that my expectations for learner outcomes are e xplicit” and “My teaching is guided by instructional strategies that emphasize what learners should know.” These differences

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82 indicate that teachers at high performing schools are more explicit in stating their learning expectations for their students, and that teachers at high performing schools might be less driven by outside influences regarding curriculum in their classrooms. This last finding is consistent with data gathered from both observa tions and interviews, in that teachers at high performing schools emphasized practical teaching and learning, and deemphasized testing, the FCAT, the Sunshine State Standards, and other assessments..

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83 CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION The purpose of this study was to understand how teachers’ instructional beliefs and practices differed among at-risk students in high and low performing schools. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a summary of the findings, to describe the implications of this study, and to provide suggestions for further study. Summary Relationship between FCAT scores and outside factors An analysis of data from the 2003 tenth grade FCAT Reading scores shows that student race and SES account for 52% of the variance in these scores statewide (Peabody, 2004, unpublished). This analysis also revealed that there were wide variances in FCAT performance among schools with large numbers of low income and/or minority students. In 2004 this performance gap between lo w performing schools and high performing schools was similar among the four schools that participated in this study. Instructional Practices Student-led activities were common during the observations in classrooms at high performing schools. Overall, student-led activities were observed on average 46% of the time in the high performing schools. In cont rast, observations of learning activities in low performing school classrooms revealed that instruction wa s exclusively teacher-led. In the student-directed activities at th e high-performing schools outside reading assignments were emphasized. At the low performing schools there was a heavy emphasis on FCAT-related learning activities. At high performing schools the FCAT was

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84 rarely mentioned by teachers or by students. Learning activities stressed teaching and learning higher order thinking skills. Also, st udents frequently appear ed to be having fun while learning in high performing schools. St udents in low performing schools appeared to be passive recipien ts of knowledge. Most of the a ssigned work that was observed in low performing schools consisted of seat work that was explicitly tied to the FCAT and its benchmarks. Teachers in low performing schools attempted to engage their students in the lessons and activities by asking thought -provoking questions or by trying to relate the lesson materials to some context of interest to students. Their efforts were met with mixed success, because several students were tu ned out and/or did not participate in the lesson. In high performing schools, students remained attentive. As show in Table 4.2 on page 52, the average number of teacher re primands was 1.3 per observed period, across the two high performing schools. Off-task behavior was more pervasive in low performing schools; the average number of teacher reprimands was 2.3 per observed period. Teachers in high performing sc hools demonstrated more rapport with their students when compared to teachers in low performing schools. Students in high performing schools were demonstrably more invol ved in the day to day operations of the class. Many of them had opportunities to speak before the class or le ad the class in some other meaningful way. Similar opportunities di d not occur in low performing classrooms. Student behavior in low pe rforming schools alternated between quiet and passive and loud and disruptive. Inatte ntive or other off-task behavior such as putting one’s head down occurred with greater frequency among students in low performing schools than among students in high performing schools. Cell phones, CD players, and other

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85 electronic devices were utili zed with greater frequency for non-instructional purposes among students in the low performing schools. However, these devices were not used among students in high perf orming school classrooms. Teaching beyond the textbook was a norma tive practice in high performing schools. The teachers utilized resources, su ch as computer technology, and/or outside props, to relate the content in ways that catered to students’ in terests and/or made learning more fun and interesting. Instructional Beliefs The TBPS was given to all English/Language Ar ts or ESOL teachers at each of the four participating schools. Almost half (n= 31) of the eligible re spondents completed the survey. Across many of the TBPS items there were no statistically significant differences between high performing and low performing school teachers. However, a majority of teachers in high performing schools held so me significantly different attitudes in comparison with teachers at low performing schools. These findings showed that teachers at high performing schools are (a) more likely to eschew abstract and/or outside forces when making curriculum decisions for their students and instead focus on practical teaching and learning, and (b) more likely to make their expectations for student learning explicit, rather than implicit. The interview data revealed that teache rs in high performing schools viewed their role as more inclusive than preparing stude nts for the FCAT. These teachers and their students rarely mentioned the FCAT in cla ss. During their interviews the teachers reported that the FCAT was not a focal point of their curriculum. In contrast, the FCAT was a common topic during classroom instruc tion and in interviews among the teacher participants at low performing schools. Thes e teachers talked about how they used the

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86 state-developed Assistance Pl us Plan and the mini-less ons. These participants emphasized the importance of standardized te sting, Assistance Plus assessments and related topics. Additionally, teachers reported a high level of frustration in dealing with these extra mandates. Low performing school teacher participants also discussed the concerns they held about their schools having received an F grade in 2004. Teachers at the high performing schools em phasized the importance of providing students with choices in the teaching a nd learning process and giving students opportunities to lead classroom learning activitie s. These teachers saw the curriculum as a flexible, reciprocal entity. They made changes when stude nts’ learning needs required accommodations. Consistent with the stat e oversight in the low performing school curriculum, both teachers in this study viewed the curriculum as more top-down. Teachers at high performing schools assert ed that students were the biggest influence in their curriculum planning. In contrast, students’ need s were not mentioned as an important factor in curriculum planni ng by low performing school teachers. One of the low performing school teachers mentione d the FCAT benchmarks were a driving force in the curriculum. Teachers at high performing schools had a hi gh degree of efficacy. They believed that they were effective teach ers and capable of teaching what ever skills are needed. One of the teachers at low performing schools e xpressed similar sentiments; however the other teacher suggested that he r effectiveness was limited. Teachers at the high performing schools he ld a practical view of teaching and learning. They hoped to make the curriculum st udent-friendly, as well useful to students’ present and future needs. Three of the four participants emphasized getting to know their

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87 students as quickly as possible, including both teachers at hi gh performing schools. In contrast, both low performing school teacher s described the cultural differences among their student body and how cultural divers ity made it difficult to overcome having received a failing grade. Additionally, teachers at the low performing schools talked about the specialized instruction need ed to reach low level learners. Two themes were shared by all four teach ers in their interv iews. All of the participants mentioned the pressure that the tenth grade FCAT placed on students and teachers. Additionally, they discussed the nature of administrative involvement in classroom curriculum, although each teacher char acterized the extent and nature of this involvement differently. Congruence Between Teacher Practices and Teacher Beliefs Emergent themes from both the inte rviews and the observations showed a consistency between teachers’ belief and practices among each of the participants. However, teachers at high performing and low performing schools demonstrated particularistic differences in their belief s and practices. Teachers at high performing schools stated they placed importance on stude nt-centered instructi on and learning. Their actions in the classroom reflect these beliefs In contrast, teache rs at low performing schools indicated more of a preference for t eacher-centered teaching and learning. Their classroom instructional actions were consistent with these beliefs. Participant teachers at high performing schools also emphasized the need to teach reading and writing skills for their intrinsic va lue. Their classroom instructional practices were consistent with thes e beliefs. Low performing school teachers described the importance of teaching to ensure improved FCAT outcomes. Their classroom instructional practices reflected this emphasis.

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88 Implications In the current environment of high-stakes testing in Florida, teaching tenth grade English in a public high school in Florida is ri fe with pressure and opportunity for teacher and student alike. Using the information obtained through intervie ws, observations, and surveys there were clear differences in inst ructional practices betw een teachers in the high performing schools and the low performing schools. The wide range of instructional practice may shed light on why there were wide ly different levels of performance on the same test, by students from similar racial a nd socio-economic backgrounds, in the same district. In the high performing schools, teachers emphasized the use of outside reading activities in the curriculum. Teachers in th ese settings reported little direct, outside influence into their classroo m curricular decisions. These teachers found ways to involve students in curriculum design and implem entation, arguably making reading more enjoyable and fun for students, without losing sight on developing their literacy skills. These activities were not developed with the FCAT in mind, nonetheless students achieved the benchmarks set by the state and measured on the FCAT. Students are held accountable for completing these reading assign ments. The findings suggest that in both high performing school classrooms that the outside reading assignments and other projects related to language ar ts are significant factors in de termining student grades. The findings in this study confirm the theo ry that the presence of the FCAT has affected the curriculum. Low performing school teachers demonstrated the impact of the FCAT and its benchmarks in their daily teaching in the interviews and classroom observations. Some influence was probably due to outside pressure placed on these schools to increase performance. Additionally, both the state and the school district had

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89 taken some control of the curriculum away from classroom teachers and mandated them to focus on assessments and mini-lessons. This practice might have been counterproductive because of limited teacher freedom to engender student interest. In essence, as state-imposed mandates increased, student s at low performing schools were less likely to develop literacy skills ba sed upon their intrinsic value. External mandates do not help students internalize the motivation to learn to read and write or deve lop literacy skills as fully or successfully as students who can en joy reading and writing for its own intrinsic value (Davis & Weber, 1998). The observations confirmed the second and th ird theories presented in Chapter 1. First, teachers in high performing schools are more likely to utilize learner-centered teaching models. In both of the high pe rforming schools, the teachers gave students opportunities to plan and carry out lesson pl ans related to the curriculum. These assignments fostered higher order thinki ng skills among students because they were required to analyze, interpret and synthesize information on their own before presenting it to the class. Second, the methods of teach ing utilized by high performing school teachers corresponded with the social and personal models of teaching described by Joyce and Calhoun (1996), unlike the behavioral methods of teaching utilized by low performing school teachers. The curriculum in the hi gh performing schools was co-constructed with the students. In the low performing school s, the curriculum was teacher-directed and explicitly tied to the benchm arks measured by the FCAT. The findings suggest that the st ate and school district would be better served if they focused their efforts on developing the literacy skills of low performing school students. This is not to say that teachers and student s in low performing school s should not be held

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90 accountable for their test scores. The impli cation is that the state’s decision making authority, with regards to classroom less on planning, is more likely to produce the improvements in literacy among low perfor ming schools if the schools themselves had greater freedom to plan and develop curriculum, as exists in the high performing schools. This suggestion is consistent with Ross’ (2003) finding that an e mphasis on testing results actually lowers student academic performance and increases dropout rates. Teachers at low performing schools should em phasize outside reading activities to develop student literacy. Teachers in such se ttings should strive to get students more involved in lesson planning and curriculum activ ities. Generating inte rest in reading and writing on their own, without emphasizing the FCAT would engender student-centered instruction and learning in low performing school s. This practice w ould likely lead to more developed literacy skills and improved standardized test scores (Davis and Weber, 1998; Gay, 1994; Kordalewski, 2000; Luker, Cobb and Luker, 2001; Stiggins, 2002). Teachers at low performing schools should be given access to, and training in instructional strategies that focus on ways to get student s motivated and excited about reading and writing. Perhaps it is ironic that the classes whic h have the history of better performance on the FCAT are those classes in which instruction is less focused on the benchmarks or the test itself. The pressure of the FCAT, a recurring theme of this study, might be alleviated in the low performing sc hools if all stakeholders in low performing schools, including students, teachers, admi nistrators, and policymakers, placed less emphasis on the test and more emphasis on teaching and learning literacy skills (Allington, 2004; Lewin, 2003).

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91 Suggestions for Further Study The results of this study suggest that in part, stud ent performance on the FCAT Reading test can be explained partially by th e amount and nature of reading assignments given to students, the amount of attention st udents and teachers spend directly focused on the FCAT, and student input on teaching and lear ning decisions made in their classrooms. Recommendations for further study include: 1. Examining the amount and nature of readi ng assignments given to tenth graders by their teachers in a variety of classroom settings in Florida, 2. Examining the relationship between student-directed teaching and learning and student literacy, 3. Examining the efficacy of policy decisions made by states with low performing schools, with an eye towards increasing th e success rates at “turning those schools around,” and 4. Examining what factors, apart from outsi de factors such as race and SES, and classroom teaching and learni ng, impact FCAT scores. Teaching Reading The results of this study suggest that th e methods teachers use to teach reading and writing have a great impact on students’ FCAT scores. Further investigation of the teaching practices specifically related to te aching literacy skills is recommended. This study focused exclusively on tenth grade classr ooms because of the weight of the tenth grade FCAT. Further studies in Florida could examine teaching methods of teachers from grades 3 through 10, and correlate thes e methods with the performance of students on the FCAT. Further studies should incl ude a correlation of these teaching methods with performance on other standardized measures such as the SAT.

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92 Student-Directed Teaching and Learning Findings of this study suggested that st udents in classroom environments where student-led activities were normative were mo re likely to perform better on the tenth grade FCAT reading test. Further research should examine the relationship between classroom teaching and learning practices that emphasize student-led activities and performance on the standardized tests. Further studies should look beyond the tenth grade FCAT Reading test, to other standardi zed tests, including the FCAT math test, other grade levels, and other tests. Policy Decisions Aimed at Helping Low Performing Schools In this era of educational accountabilit y, many states are making funding decisions for schools based on test scores just like Florida does. States have different methods for holding low performing schools accountable. Wh at measures do other states take to approach the problems faced by schools like Jackson High School and Pine Crest High School in Florida? What kinds of results are these states having with their reform efforts? These kinds of questions could guide policy level analysis studies as to the extent to which states get involved in cu rriculum decisions at struggling schools. Other factors impacting FCAT scores In this study, factors outside the classroom (SES and race ) were controlled for, and factors inside the classroom were examined. Aside from the differences in instructional practices observed in this study there may be other factors which impact FCAT scores of students on the tenth grade FCAT Reading te st. Further studies could examine school and district level factors to determine what influence, if any, these variables hold on FCAT scores of these students. Organizationa l culture and climate are other factors that impact the success of any group including schoo ls (Deal & Peterson, 1998; Ouchi, 1993;

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93 Peters & Waterman, 1993; Sashkin & Walberg, 1993). Further studies that explore the same questions raised in this study should examine the nature and influence of school culture and climate, and explore what differences exist between the cultures and climates of high performing and low performing schools. Summary and Conclusion In this chapter, a review of the fi ndings of this study was provided. The implications of the results of this study were discussed, specifically related to classroom teaching and learning. Suggestions for further research, at various levels, including the classroom, school, community, and po licy level, were given. Based on the results of this study, there we re differences between the extent and nature of reading activities in the language arts classroom at high performing and low performing schools, notably w ith respect to student-led vs. teacher-led activities. Although the findings were not correlated with FCAT outcomes, it is likely that differences in instruction might result in the variance of outcomes, when race and SES are held constant. Better communication between high and low performing schools can be established. Teachers of students who pe rform poorly on the FCAT Reading test can be given opportunities to develop and implem ent curricula that fo cus on teaching literacy skills with an emphasis on getting student s enthused about reading and writing.

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94 APPENDIX A TEACHER OBSERVATION INSTRUMENT (Teacher name, School, Period, Time Date, Observation Number) Observation Questions 1. Describe sequentially the tasks that students are asked to do. a. What is the model of teaching? 2. Describe the student and teacher roles and their respective in volvement in the lesson. a. What are the teacher’s instructional activities? b. What are the student’s instructional activities?

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95 c. What are the teacher’s instructional roles? d. What are the student’s instructional roles? e. What is the instructional grouping for the lesson? f. Who is leading the in structional group? g. Describe the behaviors that indicat e the student’s sense of academic efficacy. 3. Describe the teacher’s response to students’ questions and answers. a. What are the characteristics of th e teacher’s responses to students?

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96 b. What are the characteristics of teacher discipline? 4. Describe how instructional suppor ts are used throughout the lesson. a. What are the instructional supports for the lesson? b. What is the source of th e instructional supports? c. Describe how the instructional s upports are used in the lesson. Other observations/notes

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97 APPENDIX B TEACHER INTERVIEW PROTOCOL 1. How long have you been teaching? How l ong have you taught at this school? How long have you taught 10th grade English/language arts? 2. Describe your present beliefs about teaching and learning. What are the factors that influence how you teach? How do you work with students who are below grade level? (Probe for type of strategies used or learning activities, recognition of learning styles) How do you work with stude nts who are at or above grade level? (Probe for type of strategies used or learning activities, recognition of learning styles) Do you believe that you can help all of your students learn whether they are below, at, or above grade level? (Pr obe for self-efficacy beliefs or educational philosophy). 3. How have your beliefs about teaching and learning changed since you began teaching at this school? 4. Just to clarify our terms, what do you mean when we talk about curriculum? (Probe for some subdivision of curriculum that makes sense to the informant. Ways to talk about curriculum or subd ivide the conversation into domains of curriculum knowledge. For example: phi losophy, theory, history, research, change, development, design, implementation, evaluation, policy, and field of study.) 5. Using the description of the informant, how do teachers effectively influence curriculum? (Probe for process th at may be linear or reciprocal) 6. What resources have the greatest influe nce on your thinking when it comes to curriculum? (Probe for a variety of res ources like: college courses, research reading, popular texts, othe r teachers, professional deve lopment specific training, beliefs, and mentors that may link to the informant’s definition curriculum and its subdivisions or domains of knowledge. Th e objective is to identify the relative importance of these resources to acts of curriculum development, design, and implementation) 7. Describe the extent to which others at your school, such as the principal, assistant principal(s), department chai rperson, etc., are involved in curriculum decisions made for 10th grade English/language arts. Probe to determine if this includes regular meetings, memos, observations, and other informal discussions about curriculum. 8. Describe the extent to whic h district level personnel are involved in curriculum decisions made for 10th grade English/language arts. Probe to determine whether this includes meetings, memos, training, and workshops. 9. Describe any school-wide, district-wide, or state-wide mandates related to the curriculum you teach. Explain how th ese mandates influence teaching and learning in your classes. Probe to de termine if supplementary materials are provided, and if guidelines for teaching are provided.

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98 10. Describe the extent to which the FCAT influences curriculum decisions you make for 10th grade English/language ar ts classes. Has it had a positive or negative impact on teaching and learning in your classes? Explain. 11. Describe the extent to which FCAT sc ores of your students impact your annual evaluations..

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APPENDIX C IRB APPROVAL AND CONSENT FORMS

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102 LIST OF REFERENCES Albion, P. R. (1999) Self-efficacy beliefs as an in dicator of teachers' preparedness for teaching with technology. In J.D. Price and J. Willis and D.A. Willis and M. Jost & S. Boger-Mehall (Eds.), Technology and Teacher Education Annual 1999 (pp.1602-1608). Charlottesvill e, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education. Allington, R. (2002) Big brother and national reading curriculum : How ideology trumped evidence. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Allington, R. (2004). What research says a bout reading: Setting th e record straight. Educational Leadership 61, 22-25. Antinarella, J., & Salbu, K. (2003). Tried and true: Lessons, strategies and activities for teaching secondary English. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Anusavice, S. H. (1999). Differences in academic achievement, school affiliation, student and teacher efficacy beliefs, parents’ pe rception, and teacher instruction between highly mobile students placed in stable or traditional schools Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Florida, Gainesville. Applebee, A. N., Langer, J. A., Nystrand, M., & Gamoran, A. (2003). Discussion-based approaches to developing understandi ng: Classroom instruction and student performance in middle and high school English. American Educational Research Journal 40, 685-730. Attride-Stirling, J. (2001). Thematic networks : An analytic tool for qualitative research Qualitative Research 1, 385-405. Ayers, W. (2000) The standards fraud. In D. Meier (Ed.), Will standards save public education? (pp. 64-69). Boston: Beacon Press. Behar-Horenstein, L., & Seabert, D. (2002). Looking at classroom teaching: A missing component in studies of school performance. Curriculum and Teaching 17(1), 2138. Benson, B. P. (2003). How to meet standards, motivate st udents, and still enjoy teaching! Four practices that im prove student learning Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

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103 Bertrand, J. E. (1995). Children at risk of school failure. In J. E. Bertrand & C. F. Stice, (Eds.), Empowering children at risk of school failure: A better way (pp. 1-16). Norwood, MA: Christophe r-Gordon Publishers. Bertrand, J. E., & Stice, C. F. (2000). Teaching at-risk students in the K-4 classroom: Language, literacy, learning. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon Publishers. Black, P. (1998). Testing: Friend or foe? Theory and practice of assessment and testing Washington, DC: Falmer Press. Borman, S. (1992). Report finds objective testing hurts educational process. Chemical & Engineering News 70, 21. Burns, E. (1979). The development, use, and abuse of educational tests Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas. Childress, M., & Stice, C. F. (1995). I can read so good ‘cause I write so much: One inner-city teacher’s students show her a better way. In J. E. Bertrand & C. F. Stice, (Eds.), Empowering children at risk of school failure: A better way (pp. 39-64). Norwood, MA: Christophe r-Gordon Publishers. Cook-Sather, A. (2002). Authoriz ing students’ perspectives: Toward trust, dialogue, and change in education. Educational Researcher 31(4), 3-14. Corley, M. A. (2003). Poverty, racism a nd literacy. ERIC Digest #243, Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education, Columbus, OH. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED99CO0013). Retrieved November 18, 2004, from http://www.cete.org/acve/doc gen.asp?tbl=digests&ID=129 Cunningham, W. G., & Sanzo, T. D. (2002). Is high-stakes testing harming lower socioeconomic status schools? NASSP Bulletin 86 (631), 62-75. Curtis, M. E., & Longo, A. L. (1999). When adolescents can’t read Cambridge, MA: Brookline Books. D’Arcangelo, M. (2002). The challe nge of content area reading. Educational Leadership 60(3), 12-16. Davis, E. E., & Weber, B. A. (1998). Linki ng policy and outcomes: A simulation model of poverty incidence. Growth and Change 29 423-444. Deal, T. E., & Peterson, K. D. (1998). Shaping school culture: The heart of leadership San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Denti, L., & Guerin, G. (2004). Confronting the problem of poor literacy: Recognition and action. Reading and Writing Quarterly 20 113-122.

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104 DeStephan, T. (1995). Making connections: A teach er and her rural at-risk students. In J. E. Bertrand & C. F. Stice, (Eds.), Empowering children at risk of school failure: A better way. (pp. 65-98). Norwood, MA: Chri stopher-Gordon Publishers. Dieker, L., & Little, M. (2005). Secondary reading: Not just for reading teachers anymore. Intervention in School and Clinic 40 276-283. Errington, E. (2004). The impact of teacher beliefs on flexible learning innovation: Some practices and possibilities for academic developers. Innovations in Education & Teaching International 41 (1), 39-47. Finn, C.E. (2002). Making school reform work. Public Interest 148, 85-95. Fisher, D. (2001). Cross age tu toring: Alternatives to the reading resource room for struggling adolescent readers. Journal of Instructional Psychology 28 234-240. Flores, B. B. (2001). Bilingual education teac hers' beliefs and their relation to selfreported practices. Bilingual Research Journal Retrieved May 25, 2005, from http://brj.asu.edu/cont ent/vol25_no3/html/art3.htm Florida Department of Education (online). Last retrieved May 31, 2005, from http://www.fldoe.org/ Gay, G. (1994). At the essence of learning: Multicultural education West Lafayette, IN: Kappa Delta Pi. Glesne, C. (1999). Becoming qualitative researchers: An introduction (2nd Ed.). New York: Longman. Gonzales, L. D. (2002). Sustainability of teacher leade rship beyond the boundaries of an enabling school culture Unpublished doctoral dissertati on, University of Florida, Gainesville. Greene, J. P. (2001). An evaluation of the Florida APlus accountability and school choice program. Tallahassee, FL: Florida State Univ ersity, Florida Department of Education. Greenleaf, C., Schoenbach, R., Cziko, C., & Mueller, F. L. (2001). Apprenticing adolescent readers to academic literacy. Harvard Educational Review 71 79-129. Haney, W. (2000, August 19). The Texas miracle in education. Education Policy Analysis Archives 8, Retrieved November 30, 2004, from http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v8n41/ Hasselbring, T. A., & Goin, L. I. (2004). Lite racy instruction for ol der struggling readers: What is the role of technology? Reading and Writing Quarterly 20 123-144.

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105 Howell, W., & Peterson, P. (2002). The education gap: Vouchers and urban schools Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press. Johnson, J., & Duffett, A. (1999). Standards and accountability : Where the public stands National Education Summit. New York: Public Agenda. Joyce, B., & Calhoun, E. (1996). Creating learning experiences: The role of instructional theory and research. Alexandria, VA: Association for Curriculum and Development. Joyce, B., & Weil, M. (1996). Models of teaching (6th Ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Klein, S. P., Hamilton, L. S., McCaffrey, D. F., & Stecher, B. M. (2000, October 26). What Do Test Scores in Texas Tell Us?, Education Policy Analysis Archives 8, Retrieved November 30, 2004, from http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v8n49 Kohn, A. (2001). Fighting the tests: A pract ical guide to resc uing our schools. Phi Delta Kappan 82 349-357. Kordalewski, J. (2000). Standards in the classroom: How teachers and students negotiate learning. New York: Teachers College Press. Kozol, J. (1991). Savage inequalities: Child ren in America's schools New York: Crown Publishers. Lam, Y. L. J. (2001). Economic rationa lism and education reforms in developed Countries. Journal of Educati onal Administration 39 346-358. Lewin,L. (2003). Paving the way in reading and writi ng: Strategies and activities to support struggling students in grades 6-12 San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Liljedahl, P. (2005). Changing beliefs, changi ng intentions of practices: The re-education of preservice teachers of mathematics. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from: http://stwww.weizmann.ac.il/gmath/icmi/Liljedahl_Pete r_ICMI15_propShorten1.doc Linnenbrink, E. A., & Pintrich, P. R.(2003). Role of self-efficacy beliefs in student engagement and learning. Reading and Writing Quarterly 19 119-137. Luker, B., Cobb, S. L., & Luker, W. A. (2001). Discrimination, inequality and the competitive model of US education. International Journal of Social Economics 28 987-1002. Mahler, M. S. (1968). On human symbiosis and the vi cissitudes of individuation New York: Int. Univ. Press.

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106 McCombs, B. L., & Whisler, J. S. (1997). The learner-centered classroom and school: Strategies for increasing student motivation and achievement San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. McQuillan, J. (1998). The Literacy Crisis, Fals e Claims, Real Solutions Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Miller, K., & Stice, C. F. (1995). Trial and error: ESL children and their teacher grow together in a language and literature rich cla ssroom. In J. E. Bertrand & C. F. Stice, (Eds). Empowering children at risk of school failure: A better way (pp. 119-142). Norwood, MA: Christophe r-Gordon Publishers. Minchew, D. (2004). Science teachers’ belief s about classroom mana gement practices. Paper presented at Annual Conference of the Southeastern Association for the Education of Teachers in Science, Gainesville, Florida. Moje, E. B. (1996). I teach students, not s ubjects: Teacher-student relationships as contexts for secondary literacy. Reading Research Quarterly 31 172–195. National Council of Teachers of English ( 2004, November). NCTE beliefs about teaching writing: By the writing study group of th e NCTE executive committee. Urbana, IL: NCTE. Northeast and Islands Regional Educationa l Laboratory at Brown University (2001, September). Student-centered high schools: Helping schools adapt to the learning needs of adolescents. Perspectives on Po licy and Practice, Providence, RI: Brown University. Olson, C. B. (2003). The reading/writing connection: Strategies for teaching and learning in the secondary classroom Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Ouchi, W. G. (1993). Theory Z: How American busin ess can meet the Japanese challenge New York: Avon Books. Pajares, F. (2003). Self-efficacy beliefs, motiv ation and achievement in writing: A review of the literature. Reading and Writing Quarterly 19 139-158. Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research and evaluation methods (3rd Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Peabody, D. (2004). Is the FCAT biased? A look at race, socio-economic status, school grades and standardized test scores in Florida. Unpublished manuscript, University of Florida, Gainesville. Peters, T. J., & Waterman, R. H. (1993). In search of excellence New York: Warner Books.

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107 Popham, W. J. (2000). Not happy with Florid a’s school-grading system? Then fix it! Florida Educational Leadership 1 12-21. Popham, W. J. (2001). The truth about testing: An educator’s call to action. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervisi on and Curriculum Development. Popham, W. J. (2004). All about accountability / “Teaching to the test”: An expression to eliminate. Educational Leadership 62 82-83 Posner, D. (2004, May 25). “What’s wrong with teaching to the test?” Phi Delta Kappa International Online. Retrieved November 30, 2004, from http://www.pdkintl.org/kappan/k0406pos.htm Port, R. J. (1979). The relationship between the achievement of students on the HSTEC and specific student background and school-related variables Educational Perspectives, 18 18-22. Ravitch, D. (1984). The value of standardized tests in i ndicating how well students are learning. In C. W. Daves, (Ed.), The uses and misuses of tests (pp. 59-68). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Raymond, A. (1997). Inconsistency between a beginning elementary school teacher’s mathematics beliefs and teaching practice. National Council for Teachers of Math, 28 550-576 Raywid, M. A. (2001, May). We can’t beat acco untability, so join them. Paper presented at a conference on assessment sponsored by the Hawaii Charter School Resource Center, Honolulu, HI. Romberg, T., Zarinnia, A., & Williams, S (1989). The influence of mandated testing on mathematics instruction: Grade eight teachers’ perceptions. Madison, WI: National Center for Research on Mathema tical Science Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Ross, E. (2003). School segregation redux: Desegregation orders being abolished Z Magazine Online Vol. 16(3), Retrieved May 25, 2005, from zmagsite.zmag.org/Mar2003/ross0303.html Salamanca, I. (2005). Teacher and principal be liefs as predictors of effective teaching practices for English language learne rs. Paper to be presented at the 12th International Conference on Learning, Univ ersity of Granada, July 2005. Abstract retrieved May 26, 2005, from http://105.cgpublisher.com/proposals/332/index_html Sashkin, M., & Walberg, H., (Eds.). (1993). Educational leadership and school cultures Berkeley, CA: McCutchan.

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108 Seabert, D., Pigg R., Weiler, R., Behar-Horenst ein L., Miller M., & Varnes J. (2002). The influence of preservice instruction in health education methods on the health content taught by elementary teachers in Indiana. Journal of School Health 72 422-428. Shepard, L. (1989). Why we need better assessments. Educational Leadership 46: 4-9. Shulman, B. (2003). The betrayal of work: How low-w age jobs fail 35 million Americans. New York: New Press. Spradley, J. P. (1980). Participant observation New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Stecher, B. M. (2002). Consequences of larg e-scale, high-stakes testing on school and classroom practice. In L. S. Hamilton, B. M. Stecher, & S. P. Klein (Eds.), Making sense of test-based acco untability in education (pp. 79-100). Santa Monica, CA: Rand. Stice, C. F. (1995). Whole language: Creating a context for shared meaning. In J. E. Bertrand & C. F. Stice, (Eds.), Empowering children at ri sk of school failure: A better way. (pp. 17-38). Norwood, MA: Chri stopher-Gordon Publishers. Stiggins, R. J. (2002). Where is our assessm ent future and how can we get there from here. In R. W. Lissitz & W. D. Schafer, (Eds.), Assessment and educational reform: Both means and ends. (pp. 18-49). Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Taylor, E., Dirkx, J. and Pratt, D. (2001). Personal pedagogical systems: Core beliefs, foundational knowledge, and informal theories of teaching. Paper presented at the Adult Education Research Conference, Raleigh, NC. Retrieved May 23, 2005, from www.edst.educ.ubc.ca/ae rc/2001/2001taylor.htm Walker, B. J. (2003). The cultivation of student self-efficacy in reading and writing. Reading and Writing Quarterly 19 173-187. Winnicott, D. W. (1988). The emoti onal development of the human being. Human Nature Review, 33-64.

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109 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Dayle Scott Peabody was born in Melbour ne, Florida. Dayle lived in the Washington, D.C., area and in Germany for th ree years as a child before his father retired, and the family returned to Florida. Dayle received a bachelo r’s degree in political science with honors from the University of Fl orida in 1990. Dayle then moved to Tampa, where he worked for the National Labor Relati ons Board as a labor re lations examiner for two years. In 1992, he married Bonnie McBride, and the couple moved to Arizona. He received a master’s degree in political scie nce from Arizona State University in 1994, and an educational specialist degree from the Un iversity of Florida in 1997. He has nine years experience teaching secondary social studies in the Alachua County, Florida schools. Currently, he is employed by th e Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Florida. He plans to conti nue his career in educational ad ministration in central Florida with his wife Bonnie and th eir daughter Kathryn.


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Title: Teachers' Beliefs and Instructional Practices within Selected High Performing and Low Performing Florida High Schools
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Copyright Date: 2008

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TEACHERS' BELIEFS AND INSTRUCTIONAL PRACTICES WITHIN SELECTED
HIGH PERFORMING AND LOW PERFORMING FLORIDA HIGH SCHOOLS
















By

DAYLE SCOTT PEABODY


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


2005

































Copyright 2005

by

Dayle Scott Peabody


































For their unconditional love and support, to Bonnie, Katy, Mom, Dad, Zary, Paco,
Zahyra, and Carlos.















ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to thank my wife Bonnie and our daughter Kathryn for all the love,

support, patience and understanding they have given me as I have pursued this project. I

would not have been able to come this far without them. I would like to thank my

parents for always believing in me, and for having the confidence in me to let me grow at

my own pace. I must also thank Michael Thorne, Brad Burklew, Diane Archer-Banks,

Mary Louise Wells, Angelina Irizarry, Cristen Krugh, and Meg Deering for giving their

support, time, energy, and suggestions, all of which helped me in this endeavor.

I must also thank my committee Dr. James Doud, Dr. James Button, and Dr. Fran

Vandiver for providing me valuable guidance during this project. Each one of them was

a constant source of support and encouragement to me throughout this process. My

chair, Dr. Linda Behar-Horenstein, has been a wonderful advisor, mentor, listener, and

friend for me these past four years. Her dedication to her students is inspiring.
















TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................................................................. iv

LIST O F TA B LE S ................. .............................................. ... ............ .. vii

A B S T R A C T .......................................... .................................................. v iii

CHAPTER

1 IN TR OD U CTION ............................................... .. ......................... ..

T heoretical F ram ew ork ............................................. ........................................4
R research Q u estion s........... .............................................................. .. ...... ..... ..5
S ig n ifican ce ....................................................... 6
D definition of T erm s ................. ................................ ........ ........ .................
L im itatio n s ...................................... .................................. ................ 8

2 LITER A TU R E R EV IEW .............................................................. ...................... 9

FCA T as an A accountability M measure ........................................ ............................. 9
T teacher B eliefs and P practices ............................................................... ................ .. 15
Research-Based Literacy Teaching Methods in Secondary Schools..........................20
Teaching Literacy Skills to At-risk Students.......................................................25
C conclusion ............................................................... .... ..... ........ 30

3 M E T H O D S ........................................................................................................3 1

T h e S e ttin g ............................................................................................................ 3 1
P a rtic ip a n ts ........................................................................................................... 3 2
D ata C o lle ctio n ..................................................................................................... 3 4
D ata A nalysis................................................... 35
R research er B ias ................................................................37
V alidity an d R eliab ility ......................................................................................... 3 8

4 FINDINGS AND ANALYSIS ..................................................40

Research Question 1) To What Extent Are FCAT Scores based on Outside
Factors such as Race, SES and Size of the School? ............................................40









Research Question 2) What Are the Instructional Practices among Teachers of
Students in High Performing Schools and among Teachers of Students in Low
Performing Schools? ............. .... ...... ......... ...................................40
H igh-Perform ing Schools...................... ................................. ............... 41
Low -Perform ing Schools ...................... ....... ................................. 48
Research Question 3) What Are the Instructional Beliefs among Teachers at High
Performing and Low Performing Schools?............................................... 58
H igh Perform ing Schools ............................................................................. 58
Low Perform ing Schools............................................................................... 65
Common Themes at Low and High Performing Schools..................................71
Research Question 4) What Is the Correspondence among Teachers' Beliefs and
Instructional Practices at the High Performing and Low Performing Schools? ....75
H igh Perform ing Schools ............................................................................. 77
L ow P perform ing Schools............... ........................... .. .................... ... 77
Research Question #5) What Is the Correspondence Between Teacher Self-
Reported Beliefs, Interview Responses and Instructional Practices at the High
and Low Performing High Schools?............... ............................... 78
S u m m a ry ............. ......... ... .. .............. ...................................... 8 1

5 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION ............................................. ............... 83

S u m m ary ...................... .. .............. .... ............................................ 8 3
Relationship between FCAT scores and outside factors ...................................83
Instructional Practices ..................... .......... ............... .... ........83
Instructional B beliefs ........ .... ....... .......... .. .......................... .. .. .............. 85
Congruence Between Teacher Practices and Teacher Beliefs ............................87
Im plication s ........................................................................... 88
Suggestions for Further Study ............................................................................. 91
Teaching Reading ........... ........... .. .. ...................... 91
Student-Directed Teaching and Learning..................... ..... ............... 92
Policy Decisions Aimed at Helping Low Performing Schools .........................92
Other factors impacting FCAT scores...........................................92
Summary and Conclusion......................................... 93

APPENDIX

A TEACHER OBSERVATION INSTRUMENT...................................................94

B TEACHER INTERVIEW PROTOCOL................................ ....................... 97

C IRB APPROVAL AND CONSENT FORMS....................................... ...............99

L IST O F R E FE R E N C E S ......... .. ............... ........................................................... 102

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .............. ............ ............. 109
















LIST OF TABLES


Table pge

3-1 Percentage of students who passed the 2003 Reading FCAT, percentage of
minority students, percentage of low-income students, and school grade at
participating schools.......... ..... ...................................................... .. .... .... ... .. 32

3-2 Number of respondents to the TBPS from each school .....................................37

4-1 Amount of time spent engaged in student-directed activities .............................48

4-2 Mean number of reprimands issued by teacher per period observed....................52

4-3 Emergent themes from analysis of observations and interviews ...........................76















Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

TEACHERS' BELIEFS AND INSTRUCTIONAL PRACTICES WITHIN SELECTED
HIGH PERFORMING AND LOW PERFORMING FLORIDA HIGH SCHOOLS

By

Dayle Scott Peabody

August 2005

Chair: Linda S. Behar-Horenstein
Major Department: Educational Leadership, Policy and Foundations

Student performance on standardized tests correlates with demographic factors

such as race and socio-economic status. On standardized tests, minority and low income

students often perform below average. Previous analysis of 10th grade Florida

Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) Reading scores demonstrated that students at

some schools with a majority at-risk population perform significantly below the state

average, whereas students at other, similar schools perform significantly above the state

average on this test. This study examined the differences between classroom factors,

such as teacher beliefs and instructional practice, that might help explain these

differences in performance among similar students on the 10th grade FCAT Reading test.

Teachers at four schools with a majority of at-risk students were observed, interviewed

and surveyed. This study found that teachers at high performing schools emphasized

learner-centered teaching in both belief and practice, de-emphasizing the FCAT and the

benchmarks tested. In contrast, teachers at low performing schools emphasized teacher-









centered behaviors, both in belief and practice, and focused specifically on the FCAT as

well as specific benchmarks tested.














CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

For the past 25 years, studies of the SAT and Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) have

shown that there is a relationship between test scores and students who are poor or

minorities. Cunningham and Sanzo (2002), Howell and Peterson (2002), Kohn (2001),

and Port (1979) also found a correlation between race and/or socio-economic status

(SES) of students with their performance on state-administered standardized tests. In

these studies, performance on state-administered standardized tests has yielded the same

result; that students of minority backgrounds, as well as students from low SES

backgrounds, perform poorly on these tests, when compared to white, middle and upper

income peers.

There are several reasons why poor and/or minority students perform poorly on

standardized tests; however, often, the underlying reason relates to literacy. Literacy,

according to Lewin (2003), is defined as being able to read and write functionally. The

relationship among literacy, poverty, and educational attainment has been well

documented by researchers (Denti & Guerin, 2004; Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2003).

Some researchers have pointed to institutional or systemic differences between the poor

in America and others. Kozol (1991) provides a striking picture of the differences

between students enrolled in poor, inner city schools and those enrolled in wealthy,

suburban schools. Examining class differences illustrates that the poor face obstacles in

acquiring a public education that most public school students do not face, including high

unemployment, drugs, gangs, crime and exposure to acquired immunodeficiency









syndrome (AIDS). Bertrand (1995) argued that many students today are considered "at-

risk." Included among those students that he would classify as "at-risk" are individuals

who are of normal intelligence, who come from broken homes, and have witnessed or

suffered from parental loss of employment or have experienced undue burdens that are

typical for the American underclass.

Another causal factor as to why low SES/minority students perform poorly in

school generally is immigration. Bertrand (1995) observed that Hispanic/Latino

immigration has made that group the fastest growing minority group in the U.S. since the

1970's. This growth in Hispanic immigration, coupled with growth in Asian

immigration, has increased the need for multi-lingual education because typically these

students are not able to speak English fluently when they enter the American public

educational system (pp. 8-9). In California, this issue has been controversial between

proponents who advocate for providing for native language instruction in public schools,

and the "English First" proponents, who seek to limit non-English instruction in the

public schools (McQuillan, 1998). As a result, many school districts in states with large

numbers of immigrant populations find themselves unable, or unwilling, to provide the

resources necessary to provide instruction to immigrant students in their native

languages.

At the same time that the number of poor and/or minority students entering public

schools has grown (Ross, 2003), many U.S. states have increased their reliance on

standardized test scores. If there are not interventions to increase the achievement and

pass rates on standardized tests among poor and minority students, public education in

America is likely to become more class-based. Concurrently, there is a likelihood that









the number of low SES/minority dropouts will increase. Many of the students at risk will

face difficult economic decisions, some of which are likely to be shared with taxpayers.

While the problems of poor and minority Americans do not necessarily begin in school,

these issues do impact learning and standardized test performance.

In many communities across America, poor and/or minority students face barriers

to successful educational attainment from the circumstances of their lives outside of

school (Shulman, 2003). The government has tried to intervene in the learning process

for poor and/or minority students. For example, since the late 1980's and early 1990's,

when the National Governors Conference, and Presidents Bush and Clinton began

advocating for standards-based education, other states began to follow this lead. Florida

developed and implemented the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) in the

mid-1990's. After Jeb Bush was elected Governor in 1998, the FCAT became part of the

Governor's "A +" plan for public education. Under this mandate, schools are assigned

grades based on the performance of students on the FCAT, making the FCAT a "high-

stakes" test. States throughout the nation are beginning to follow Florida's practice, and

use standardized test scores to determine funding decisions and students' graduation

rates. In 2003, for the first time, students in Florida were required to pass the 10th grade

Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) in order to graduate.

The FCAT is composed of two criterion-based tests, a math test and a reading test,

and a norm-referenced test that is composed of reading and math questions. Statistical

analysis of the 2003 FCAT reading scores shows that a significant portion of variance in

10th grade FCAT scores was due to student's race and socio-economic status (SES),

confirming, at least in part, Popham's thesis. In a study of the relationship between low









SES/minority students and the FCAT using statistical data retrieved from Florida's

Department of Education website (www.fldoe.org/), the researcher found that 52% of the

variance in FCAT reading scores among 10th graders in 2003 was due to student race and

SES. Using the same statistical data, the researcher found that school size accounts for

less than 0.1% of the variance in FCAT scores.

Although race and SES are immutable factors, 48% of the variance in FCAT scores

remains unaccounted for in this particular data set. Thus, there appear to be other factors,

such as students' and educators' behaviors, that influence FCAT scores. Among Florida

high schools that have large numbers of poor and/or minority students, less than 40% of

students passed the 10th grade reading test. However, in some of these schools, at least

two-thirds of the students pass the FCAT. What makes these schools different from other

schools that have large numbers of poor/minority students? If variables such as race and

SES are held constant, other factors must account for this difference in performance. One

factor might be teaching practices; also, the amount of time teachers spend teaching to

the test might be critical (Shepard, 1989; Romberg, Zarinnia & Williams, 1989).

Theoretical Framework

How teachers think about and practice teaching has a profound affect on learning

among students (Applebee et al., 2003; Fisher, 2001; Greenleaf et al., 2001). Many

researchers have noted that the practice of high-stakes testing affects teaching practices

(Benson, 2003; Popham, 2001; Stecher, 2002), causing some to "teach to the test." The

existence of the FCAT as a high-stakes test has affected the curriculum, but not

uniformly. The fact that students from schools with similar demographic backgrounds

perform so differently on the FCAT suggests that factors internal to the classroom and/or

school are affecting student performance on the 10th grade FCAT Reading test. Recent









research into the effects of teaching on learning, notably in the language arts, finds that

use of more student-centered or student empowered teaching models produces more

effective learning, and is more likely to contribute to higher test scores (Applebee et al.

2003; Cook-Sather, 2002; McCombs and Whisler, 1997; Northeast and Islands Regional

Educational Laboratory at Brown University, 2001).

Accordingly, three theories based on this research will be tested in this study:

1. The existence of the FCAT as a high-stakes test has affected teaching beliefs and
practices in 10th grade English classes,

2. Teachers in high performing schools are more likely to employ learner-centered
methods in curriculum design and implementation, than are teachers in low-
performing schools, and

3. Teachers in high performing schools are more likely to use the social and/or
personal family of teaching models (Joyce and Calhoun, 1996), and are less
inclined to "teach to the test," in comparison with teachers at low performing
schools.


The purpose of this study is to examine how teacher beliefs and instructional

practice might influence FCAT scores. Classrooms in high performing schools and in

low performing schools will be examined in this study to test these theories. This study

seeks to understand and interpret how classroom practices affect the performance of

students on standardized tests. Contextualization, interpretation and understanding are

the domain of the constructivist/interpretivist paradigms of research (Glesne, 1999).

Using an interpretivist framework will allow for developing a better understanding of the

complexities of classroom practices among teachers that may have an impact on the

performance of their students on the FCAT.

Research Questions

The following questions are investigated in this study:









1. To what extent are FCAT scores based on outside factors such as race, SES and
size of the school?

2. What are the instructional practices among teachers of students in high performing
and low performing schools?

3. What are the instructional beliefs among teachers at high performing and low
performing schools?

4. What is the correspondence among teachers' beliefs and instructional practices at
the high performing and low performing schools?

5. What is the correspondence between teacher self-reported instructional beliefs,
interview responses and instructional practices at the high performing and low
performing high schools?


Investigating these questions will require use of quantitative research methods for

question number 1, both quantitative and qualitative methods for question number 5, and

qualitative research methods for the remaining questions. Utilization of quantitative

methods provides evidence of a relationship between demographic factors and FCAT

scores. However, in order to develop a further understanding of the factors that influence

student performance on the FCAT beyond demographic factors (that are easily tabulated),

qualitative methods provide a possible explanation that would otherwise be inaccessible

through the use of a strictly empirical study, by providing a rich data set that allows for

comparison between high performing and low performing schools.

Significance

The findings from this study will provide educators with information about ways

"at-risk" students can succeed on standardized tests such as the FCAT. Educators and

educational policy makers are likely to have a better understanding of the kind of

instructional practices which distinguish a successful classroom environment that

prepares low SES/minority students from less successful classroom environments.









Educational researchers will be able to identify those factors beyond race and SES that

impact performance on standardized tests. This study focused on what factors within the

control or influence of educators help poor/minority students succeed on the FCAT. This

study will illuminate what educators at schools with large numbers of poor/minority

students can do to diminish disadvantages that such students face. Additionally, other

studies in the field have looked at the impact of teaching styles on student performance in

literacy and reading (Antinarella & Salbu, 2003; Bertrand & Stice, 2003; Lewin, 2003;

and Olson, 2003). This study will help to determine what educators can do to enhance

achievement outcomes for poor and/or minority students by illustrating how techniques

used to teach "at-risk" secondary students literacy skills can be applied to helping these

students prepare for high-stakes tests such as the FCAT. By looking beyond the

relationship between race and SES with standardized test scores, it is hoped that factors

unique to certain schools that have positively impacted standardized test scores for poor

and/or minority students can be revealed. The unit of analysis within this study will be

teachers' instructional practice.

Definition of Terms

At-risk schools refers to schools with either a majority of students who are of

minority descent, receive free/reduced lunch benefits, or both.

Criterion-referenced test refers to a test in which students are expected to

perform at a pre-established standard, achieve a passing grade, or demonstrate

proficiency.

FCAT Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. A standardized test developed

by the state of Florida and administered to students each year from grades 3-10. Students

who graduate with a standard diploma in the state of Florida must pass both sections of









the FCAT (reading and math) in order to graduate, regardless of other state/district

criteria.

High-performing schools refers to schools in which at least two-thirds of

students tested passed the 10th grade FCAT reading test.

High-stakes test refers to tests such as the FCAT; in which outcomes guide

funding decisions for schools.

Low-performing schools refers to schools in which no more than 40% of

students tested passed the 10th grade FCAT reading test.

Minority refers to individuals who are African-American, Hispanic/Latino,

Asian/Pacific Islander, or Native American.

Norm-referenced test refers to a test in which students' scores are compared

with each other and not against some fixed standard.

Poor/low SES refers to the percentage of students at each school who receive

free/reduced lunch benefits.

Limitations

6. Only data within Florida at one point in time were examined; only the FCAT and
only Florida were examined herein.

7. Only scores on the 2003 10th grade reading FCAT test were examined.

8. The generalizability of this study will be restricted to the context where it was
performed.

9. Only a sample of the relevant schools was selected for study.

10. Only a small sample of teachers met the criteria for participation.

11. Students' perceptions of instruction were not collected and analyzed although it is
likely that they impacted the findings.l














CHAPTER 2
LITERATURE REVIEW

The purpose of this study is to develop an understanding of what factors beyond

race and SES impact student achievement among "at-risk" students. The purpose of this

chapter is to review relevant research studies. An overview of the following topics will

be presented: 1) FCAT as an accountability measure, 2) teacher beliefs and practices, 3)

research-based practices for teaching literacy in secondary schools, and 4) teaching

literacy skills to "at-risk" students.

FCAT as an Accountability Measure

The use of standardized tests in K-12 education in the United States is long

standing. Since the 1970's, there has been a proliferation of standardized tests developed

by the states and others. Standardized tests are utilized for a variety of purposes in

schools today. Some tests, such as the now defunct Florida High School Competency

Test (HSCT), are used as minimal competency tests, to assess whether or not students are

learning certain basic skills. Others, such as the SAT, are used for college admission

decisions.

How does the presence of high-stakes testing affect literacy development among

secondary students? Literacy, according to Lewin (2003), is composed of adequate

development of both reading and writing skills so that the learner can communicate

effectively.

Accountability in K-12 education has become an emerging trend among policy

makers. Florida is among the leaders in this regard, states Greene (2001). Not only has









Florida created its own standardized test (the FCAT), but the results of this test are used

to determine a grade for each school. These grades, in turn, carry consequences for

funding public schools in the state. The funding aspect of Florida's A Plus accountability

plan gives it teeth, notes Greene. Whereas other states have developed their own

standardized tests and accountability measures, none include the financial incentives that

Florida law currently mandates. Greene describes similar accountability programs in

Texas and in North Carolina, in which high-stakes tests are used to determine both

student graduation and school-wide evaluation criteria by the state. However, neither of

these plans includes the financial incentives of Florida's A Plus plan. The state of Florida

gives money to schools based on the letter grade earned. The highest graded schools earn

more state money. Schools are financially rewarded if they achieve gains of at least one

letter grade. "F" schools are penalized financially, and they are not able to receive the

performance-based money. The state's monetary award is used at the discretion of each

school's staff. Prestige or embarrassment may be felt by a school's stakeholders

depending upon the grade a school receives. As schools are rewarded or penalized based

on students' test scores, the intensity of the debate has heightened. Thus, in this capacity

the FCAT is viewed as a "high stakes" test.

Greene contends that the FCAT, combined with the school grading formula in

Florida, has led to "catching up" by poor and minority students, noting that FCAT scores

among poor and minority students are improving from year to year at a faster rate than

they are among other groups of students. According to the state Department of

Education, the FCAT assesses high and low order thinking skills by posing challenging

questions that require students to think, not just memorize answers. Additionally, the









state argues that one benefit of the FCAT is that it indicates when a school needs more

resources and teacher training. Another benefit of the FCAT, according to the state, is

that it clearly outlines expectations for teaching and learning (Florida Department of

Education online, 2005).

Two significant changes were recently made to the FCAT. In 1999, a writing test

was added. Also, students' performance on the FCAT was used to determine a letter

grade for each school. Any school that receives an F grade during two consecutive years

is now managed by the state Department of Education. Students are given options about

which school they attend. They are free to take "vouchers" and seek enrollment in any

public or private school. The dollar amount of the voucher is equivalent to the state

contribution to the district for educating these students. By 2002, every public school

student in grades 3-10 was required to take the FCAT.

Two important steps took place in the development of the FCAT in 2003; all high

school seniors were required to pass the 10th grade FCAT in order to graduate, and all 3rd

graders were required to pass the 3rd grade reading FCAT in order to be promoted to 4th

grade. FCAT scores, then, have become the primary mechanism that is used to measure

success within Florida's schools.

Policymakers in Tallahassee and in Washington argue that the FCAT makes

educators focus on teaching the skills students need to succeed. Indeed, since 1999,

when school grading became a reality, many schools around the state managed to achieve

and maintain high (A-B) grades. Now that school grades are public knowledge, the

public can acquire a better picture of which schools are and are not meeting these









standards. In this way, it is believed that the FCAT has made schools more accountable

to the public.

However, there are serious problems in using the FCAT as an accountability tool.

FCAT scores correlate strongly with race and SES, which suggest that the instrument is

racially biased. Also, there is a high potential for using less effective teaching practices,

especially teaching to the test in schools that struggle to achieve satisfactory grades.

Basing FCAT scores on the Sunshine State Standards, a system of benchmarks devised

by the state has lead to the development of a top-down model of curriculum, in which the

state's needs take precedence over those of individual students. As Popham (2000)

pointed out, the FCAT is not a valid or reliable measure of student learning. For example,

the criteria used to determine a school's grade have been inconsistently applied since the

grading system began in 1999. Popham argued that it should not be the single factor that

determines a school's grade because it is not a fair representation of what students have

learned.

Accountability seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon. However, the debate

over the merits and pitfalls of standardized testing predates discussions of accountability.

Finn (2002) identified three kinds of accountability related to the school improvement:

1) trust the experts, 2) trust, but verify, and 3) market-based reforms. Florida's emerging

system seems to be a combination of "trust, but verify" and market-based reforms.

Grading the public schools is a top-down, government-based reform program, coupled

with penalizing poorly performing schools. Market-based competition is illustrated by

controlling the disbursement of state monies. Lam (2001) argued that many of the current









reform efforts are driven by competitiveness, and states that such reforms could have

consequences for racial, ethnic and socio-economic segregation.

Raywid (2001) cautions us to watch how we use the term "accountability." She

states that this term is often confused with the "standards based" movement. For

example, Florida uses the term "standards based" education. The Sunshine State

Standards provides goals and benchmarks, while the FCAT is the tool that assesses

students and schools. Yet, performance is not going to be accessible simply through a

single observation of a school. She advocates the use of formative evaluations. In her

view, paper and pencil tests are only capable of measuring selected school goals.

Ravitch (1984) asserted that standardized tests can be useful for educators,

students, and parents. In particular, they can serve as an early warning for subject areas

(such as reading comprehensions, or math skills) and provide evidence that some students

may need improvement before they progress too far in the K-12 system. Yet, Ravitch

argues that standardized testing, as used by policymakers, negatively impacts the

curriculum in schools.

Borman (1992) argues that the emphasis on standardized testing in public schools

negatively impacts teaching math and science skills, because low-level skills are

emphasized rather than high-level skills. Tallahassee policymakers assert that the FCAT

was designed to assess lower order and higher order skills. The notion that educators are

"teaching to the test" causes angst among educators and policy makers. Popham (2004)

distinguished between "item teaching" and "curriculum teaching" as alternative

definitions of teaching to the test. "Item teaching" refers to teaching specific items as a

way to prepare students for tests. Such teaching does not allow students to master the









curricular aims represented on the test. "Curriculum teaching" refers to a broader

conception of "teaching to the test" in which teaching does target the larger curricular

aims. Popham stated that curriculum teaching is desirable, while item teaching is not.

"Item teaching" to the test shortchanges students by not teaching them how to process,

analyze or synthesize information, and by promoting test taking skills and strategies over

content mastery (Haney, 2000; Klein et al., 2000). Students' critical thinking skills are

neglected. Posner (2004) warned that an obsession with testing simply promotes the

acquisition of trivial knowledge, rather than those skills that students need in order to

function in a global society. Using test data exclusively to assess student learning

provides an incomplete picture of what teachers teach and what students learn. Behar-

Horenstein and Seabert (2002) argued that quality instruction is a necessary factor in

quality learning. They noted that: "Unless quality instruction can be documented, goals

and mandates cannot be evaluated. Factors that are not and cannot be measured are the

nature of instruction. The validity of testing is grounded in a positivist paradigm, in

which reality is objective and measurable" (p.23). The quality of teaching and learning

becomes hard to gauge when the processes of teaching and learning involve the

construction of knowledge. This argument reinforces the need to employ qualitative

methods in studying classroom factors that impact student performance.

Another issue regarding standardized testing concerns comparing schools and test

data against each other. Black (1998) cautioned that comparing schools' performance on

standardized tests against each other can generate "unfair and misleading" comparisons.

This practice can be harmful, Black added, if policymakers do not factor in

considerations of a school's resources. In other words, test scores alone are not a









sufficient indicator of performance within a school; other, more context-specific factors

should be considered.

The FCAT has been criticized as a valid measure of what students learn (or should

learn) in school. Popham (2000) argued that the FCAT is biased in favor of white,

upper/middle class students. According to Popham, the FCAT is a measure of SES, not

achievement. He claimed that basing a school's grade largely on FCAT scores results in

rewarding or punishing schools based on the SES of their students. Behar-Horenstein

and Seabert (2002) added that accurate assessments of teaching and learning must focus

on factors inherent to the classroom. They argued, "Before educators can propose a plan

aimed at improving educational effectiveness, they must obtain an accurate picture of the

quality of classroom teaching that takes place across all classrooms within school sites"

(p.25).

Teacher Beliefs and Practices

If the quality of classroom teaching is a factor in educational effectiveness, then

research should focus on this factor as an influence in student performance. Behar-

Horenstein and Seabert (2002) noted that research on school improvement largely has

focused on school-level factors, with little emphasis on pedagogy. They argued that

examining instructional practices as a central element in teacher development would help

students achieve more and standards would rise (p.22). Teachers vary in their approach

to teaching, and these individual differences should not be discounted in analyzing

student performance.

What teachers believe and the decisions they make in class are not necessarily

congruent (Raymond, 1997). In a year-long study of one math teacher, Raymond found

that the teacher's practices were more closely related to her beliefs about content, and









tied to her own experiences as a student, rather than to her beliefs about pedagogy.

Raymond also concluded that this teachers' pre-service program had a negligible effect

on her beliefs as a teacher. In another study of math teachers, Liljedahl (2005) concurred,

noting that teachers' beliefs about mathematics teaching and learning come from their

own experiences as a learner of mathematics. Liljedahl noted that if a math teacher

believes that learning mathematics is "all about learning algorithms," then that teacher is

likely to perceive that teaching math is "all about teaching algorithms." If a teacher

believes that "all problems have one solution," then this teacher is likely to approach

teaching math with the attitude that "all problems must have one solution." Liljedahl

concluded that pre-service teachers' beliefs about what mathematics is, and what it means

to teach and learn mathematics, varied depending on the environment within classrooms,

and the extent to which problem solving was important to that classroom environment in

the pre-service setting. Liljedahl reported that through their own experiences with

mathematics, pre-service math teachers came to believe, in the value of teaching

mathematics through "doing", and through "thinking," suggesting a hands-on approach to

teaching and learning.

Albion (1999) reported that teachers' self-efficacy beliefs are critical in

determining the extent to which teachers incorporate instructional technology into

decisions related to curriculum. Minchew (2004), in an in-depth study of two high school

science teachers, argued that how teachers view their own effectiveness as teachers, or

their self-efficacy, as a key variable in their effectiveness as teachers. Minchew argued

that pre-service and in-service teachers bring to the classroom experiences and beliefs

about their abilities to handle both their classroom environment as well as their career









responsibilities. What teachers believe about teaching generally, as well as their ability to

teach, affects approach different situations and issues that arise in the classroom, from

classroom management to curriculum-related issues, according to Minchew. A teacher's

beliefs are extremely important to that teacher's ability to effectively implement

classroom management. If teachers have a positive image of themselves as teachers, then

they will develop more effective classroom management skills, and are more likely to

create an enriched and active learning environment, Minchew added. She goes on to note

that many teachers feel overwhelmed by what teachers perceive to be extensive

responsibilities that are mandated by school boards and state governments. Minchew

argued that this increasing workload can affect the success and attrition rate of teachers.

She reported that participants in her study began their careers as teachers believing that

their goal as a teacher was to be an advocate for science. They became teachers so that

they could positively influence students. This belief and many of their other outlooks on

teaching have slightly changed during their teaching career, Minchew reported. After

several years in the profession, Minchew notes that they still believe in influencing

students and helping them take their science knowledge and use it outside of the

classroom, regardless of whether or not that influence is used strictly for scientific issues,

or to broader social and/or life issues. Minchew added that teachers perceive society's

image of teaching as quite different from the reality of teaching, especially related to

issues of student ownership in education. She noted that the participants in her study give

their students ownership in certain classroom responsibilities while keeping final

authority for themselves.









Other researchers found that teacher beliefs and how they construct their classroom

environments are interrelated and direct their pedagogical actions as teachers.

(Salamanca, 2005). While Minchew focused on teacher efficacy, Salamanca added that

teacher beliefs, principal beliefs, and teacher efficacy are factors in the nature of

classroom instruction provided by teachers. Salamanca argued that skilled teachers who

manipulate their classroom environments can affect the quality and variety of students

oral language use, engagement in literacy behaviors and story composition.

While teacher beliefs clearly are a factor affecting teacher attitude and

performance, it is one of three such critical factors, according to Taylor, Dirkx, and Pratt

(2001). These researchers noted that as teachers gain experience in the classroom, their

attitudes and beliefs change. Over time, they argued, teachers, develop a kind of personal

compass which helps them make decisions and reflect effective actions and practices, as

well as the reasons behind why a practice is effective or ineffective in the classroom.

Additionally, they noted that this compass is what distinguishes those who persist and

flourish as teachers from less successful teachers. Taylor, Dirkx and Pratt elaborated

that teachers who do not create a cohesive pedagogical system often are subject to the

whims and influences of others. When such 'compass-less' teachers are challenged by

students, colleagues, or administrators, these teachers experience difficulty explaining or

defending their approach to teaching.

Having a pedagogical system is an essential aspect in the development of effective

teaching, they concluded. Teacher beliefs are only one of three factors inherent in the

development of this teacher 'compass.' The other two factors are foundational

knowledge and informal theories of teaching. Together, these three factors helped









support these teachers in the pursuit of their work. Each of the three factors was

dependent upon the other two for its meaning and activation. When all three were in

agreement, the teacher had a coherent personal pedagogical system by which to conduct

and govern the work of teaching, concluded these researchers.

Moje (1996) argued that the relationship established between teachers and students

is a critical factor in getting secondary students to engage in literacy-based activities. She

concluded that teachers' beliefs about literacy, their content areas, their students, and the

contexts in which they teach all have an impact on how students learn reading and

writing. Errington (2004) argued that teachers' beliefs about teaching and learning are

key factors in what they manage to achieve as teachers. In other words, if teachers do not

believe that students can read, write or achieve, then, according to Errington, this belief,

whether expressed or not, is likely to impede student learning in the classroom. Dieker

and Little (2005) advocated a more interdisciplinary approach to teaching reading and

writing. They argued that in order to better prepare secondary students for the challenges

inherent in standardized testing, more cooperation between and among teachers is

necessary in developing curriculum, so that reading and writing are taught throughout the

day, not just in English class.

The National Council of Teachers of English, (NCTE) offered its perspective on

what teacher beliefs are necessary in order to effectively teach writing (NCTE, 2004).

Eleven core beliefs were offered. Those are:

1. Everyone has the capacity to write, writing can be taught, and teachers can help
students become better writers.
2. People learn to write by writing.
3. Writing is a process.
4. Writing is a tool for thinking.
5. Writing grows out of many different purposes.









6. Conventions of finished and edited texts are important to readers and therefore to
writers.
7. Writing and reading are related.
8. Writing has a complex relationship to talk.
9. Literate practices are embedded in complicated social relationships.
10. Composing occurs in different modalities and technologies.
11. Assessment of writing involves complex, informed, human judgment.

Together, these beliefs suggest that English teachers, at least in the area of teaching

writing, should provide a variety of opportunities for students to develop and sharpen

their writing skills, that they should realize the complex aspects of teaching writing, and

that they should realize that opportunities to teach writing skills are embedded in literacy

skills as a whole and should be included in efforts to teach reading as well.

Other researchers advocate that the substance of pre-service teacher training may

need to be evaluated to ensure that graduates can teach critical thinking skills. Behar-

Horenstein and Seabert (2002) found that more thoughtful curriculum planning may be

needed at the graduate level of education. They found an emphasis of teacher-directed

instruction was normative in a situation where students were preparing for a high-stakes

test. In a study of elementary teachers, Seabert et al. (2002) found that pre-service

instruction in health education teaching methods resulted in significant differences among

learner comprehension. In a study of bilingual teachers, Flores (2001) found that

participants held certain beliefs about how bilingual students learn, and that the teachers'

prior experiences affected their beliefs about learning. Flores argued for the need to

develop philosophically grounded pre-service teacher education programs in order to

produce effective teachers.

Research-Based Literacy Teaching Methods in Secondary Schools

Lewin (2003) observed that secondary teachers feel intense pressure to meet state

standards or benchmarks in curriculum, although many teachers know that a significant









number of their students have reading comprehension difficulties. Lewin stated that

reading and writing are the "twin pillars of literacy." Building them into the secondary

curriculum is vital.

Lewin (2003) outlined a four step plan that he suggested was essential to building

literacy skills among struggling secondary students. He suggested to prepare, first dare,

repair and share. Each step applies whether the teacher is teaching writing or reading

skills. Prepare means getting ready to read or write by making a conscious effort.

Suggested activities involve brainstorming or interviewing. First dare means to attempt

the task at hand. For writing, it means to write a first draft. Repair involves correcting

mistakes that occur during the first effort. Share involves higher order thinking skills and

application of one's work to some larger purpose.

To build literacy among secondary students, Lewin (2003) argues that teachers

need to work together among subject areas. To be truly successful, reading and writing

instruction must be interdisciplinary and cross-curricular. Developing the confidence of

struggling readers and writers is important, as well as building students' self-efficacy.

Lewin proposed the use of instructional strategies that are common in secondary

education, such as KWL (Know, Want to know, Learn), stop signs, sticky notes, and

scaffolding.

To "repair," Lewin (2003) recommended that students critically reevaluate their

own work. Lewin also advocated using literary texts and activities such as Story Webs,

Open Mind, Character Analysis Sheets, Interpretive Cards and visualization activities to

develop literacy among struggling adolescents.









Finally, Lewin (2003) recommended an increased emphasis in teaching writing

skills across the curriculum. When students write about a topic within social studies,

science, math, language arts, or any other subject area, they process the relevant content

more deeply and apply that knowledge in ways beyond what is necessary. A concerted,

school-wide effort at developing writing skills among adolescents provides benefits to

students that extend well beyond their schooling.

Olson (2003), like Lewin, also stressed the need for secondary teachers to provide

scaffolding to students struggling. He described five components of effective

instructional scaffolding: ownership, appropriateness, structure, collaboration, and

internalization. Use of scaffolding in reading and writing provides students with a variety

of cognitive strategies that give them the freedom to approach texts in ways that make

sense to them. Creating a climate within the classroom that values students as individuals

is essential in building a sense of student ownership. Olson suggested "getting to know

you" activities to promote a feeling of belonging; setting the tone of learning, while

getting students to develop self-efficacy.

Olson (2003) suggested that secondary teachers use a multiple intelligence (MI)

approach to teaching and learning, in addition to traditional linguistic approaches. She

recommended a method whereby students write reactive first drafts to a text read in class.

Getting students to interpret texts required teachers to teach literature in such a way that

helps students see reading and writing as an aesthetic experience, not a chore. Olson

suggested exposing students to a wide variety of texts to help students develop their

thematizing skills. She recommended using multicultural perspectives to teach reading

and writing. As the percentage of students becomes less white, incorporating literature









from other cultural perspectives becomes imperative. The use of multicultural literature

promotes ownership among struggling minority students (Gay, 1994).

The efforts of educators notwithstanding, many of the problems at-risk students

face in school, and particularly in development of literacy-based skills, stem from a lack

of encouragement to read and write at home. Researchers (Mahler, 1968; Winnicott,

1988;) have shown that the developmental characteristics needed to produce literate

students begin at a very early age. Often, at-risk students come from backgrounds where

they are not given the support or encouragement needed, even before starting school, to

become effective readers and writers.

"Effective writing teachers apply what they know, make cognitive strategies

visible, and encourage students to practice different types of writing. They balance the

use of teacher-prompted and student-selected writing tasks, they foster internalization,

and finally, focus on process and products," argues Olson (2003) (pp. 225-226).

Effective writing teachers utilize small group assignments that give students opportunities

to collaborate. This type of teacher considers the audience, provides peer-generated

feedback, and helps students develop the commitment to refine their writing abilities.

Olson (2003) also recommended the use of rubrics that clearly outline what is

necessary to achieve success in reading and writing. These criteria become a teaching

tool because it helps students recognize what standards are used to assess their work.

Also, he recommended that teachers involve students in self-evaluation.

Antinarella and Salbu (2003) stressed the importance of creating an environment

conducive to learning, like identifying student and teacher roles and responsibilities.

They also advocated cooperative learning activities, and use of heterogeneous groupings.









Many of the activities suggested by Antinarella and Salbu are designed to give

students an opportunity to foster their own creative skills and develop a sense of

ownership in the process of acquiring the skills of literacy. They recommend using

autobiographical poems, writing memoirs, and first-person narratives to promote student

ownership for their own literacy skills. Antinarella and Salbu, as well as Olson (2003),

advised teachers to arrange lessons into "workshop" formats to encourage students to

write and read regularly on their own during class time.

Effectively teaching reading and writing involves personalizing learning, and

getting students actively involved (Antinarella & Salbu, 2003; Curtis & Longo, 1999,

D'Arcangelo, 2002; Lewin, 2003; Olson, 2003). Students must have a strategy to

approach reading and what they want to get out of it. To do that, teachers need to build

background knowledge and vocabulary among students, so that class texts are more

likely to have some connection or meaning to students.

Allington (2004) asserted that policymakers' actions make teachers' efforts to build

literacy skills more difficult. Rather than relying on scripted programs, he claimed that if

legislators are serious about building literacy skills, then they must provide more one-on-

one teaching in the schools. Elsewhere, Allington (2002) has argued that current policy

trends, such as the No Child Left Behind Act, favor a federalization of teaching and

curricular methodologies. The danger in such an approach is that Washington

policymakers neglect relying on a professional consensus in developing methodologies.

He cited the differences between the research-based Preventing Reading Difficulties in

Young Children Report (PRD) and the recommendations of the National Reading Panel









(NRP). Allington argued that the NRP's recommendations for reading instruction ignore

or contradict many of the research-based findings in the PRD.

Teaching Literacy Skills to At-risk Students

Cunningham and Sanzo (2002) argued that "education is more highly

prioritized...in high-income homes, and they... see school as the means by which

qualification, acquisition, and socialization are achieved... school is not an essential

vehicle for working class life" (p. 360). They asserted that testing adds pressure without

addressing educational inequities. As a result, the gap between what poor students and

non-poor students get out of schooling continues to compound.

Luker, Cobb and Luker (2001) observed many poor children are deprived of the

basic requirements for success in a competitive society, such as intellectual deprivation.

Intellectual deprivation, as these authors define it, is a result of:

"The absence of minimal verbal and quantitative educational resources,

commitments and stimulants such as books, periodicals, encyclopedia and computers. All

of these conditions affect the motivation, performance and success of poor children in

school...they often come to school with large academic deficits that place them far

behind their more privileged schoolmates" (p. 989).

This idea of intellectual deprivation has been addressed by others, and might help

explain why poor students do not perform as well in school generally, and on

standardized tests specifically. Bertrand (1995) noted that students from poor and/or

minority backgrounds are especially "at-risk" for many of the same reasons which Luker,

Cobb and Luker mention. Ayers (2000) concurred and argued that the standards

movement itself is fraudulent and renders the poor victims.









Ayers (2000) also argued that American schools are in a crisis that selectively

impacts the poor, inner city and minority students. These schools, he pointed out,

struggled to educate children who were at risk with fewer human and material resources

than other schools. Burns (1979) stated these same concerns over 20 years earlier.

Several researchers have raised questions about the physical, social and economic

differences between rich and poor schools in the United States, and about whether

standardized testing, accountability, and standards-based education exacerbates

differences between the poor and everyone else (Ayers, 2000; Burns, 1979; Kozol, 1991).

Allington (2002) argued that since the 1970's, federal mandates have placed a greater

impact of standardized testing on poor children, as a condition for their eligibility for

federal education dollars.

In Savage Inequalities, Kozol (1991) vividly described the physical differences

between affluent, suburban public schools and poor, inner-city schools, noting the

funding disparities. Nonetheless, the standards-based education movement, despite much

room for improvement, has received widespread approval from the public (Johnson &

Duffett, 1999).

Corley (2003) argued that race and poverty are linked. He also stated that African-

Americans and Hispanic/Latino Americans are much more likely to be classified as poor

than white Americans. She pointed out that the cycle of poverty is tied explicitly to

lower levels of literacy. Additionally, minority students coupled with majority teachers

results in cultural dissonance.

Perhaps the most significant factor in this discussion is that self-efficacy among the

poor and/or minority students is somewhat lower than it is for other students. Pajares









(2003) reported that studies of student efficacy and race produce mixed results, but that

there was ample evidence to suggest that Hispanic/Latino students had lower self-

efficacy about writing skills, a key element of literacy. This same skill was a key element

tested on the FCAT as well as other standardized tests (Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2003).

In a review of empirically-based research, Linnenbrink and Pintrich argued that there was

an important link between students' self-efficacy and their motivation to learn in school.

Walker (2003) concurred. He pointed out that student self-efficacy promoted student'

desires to engage in literary activities, which translated into increased performance. If

students do not see themselves as worthy learners, then they will not actively pursue an

education. He concluded that the research on student motivation has provided evidence

that self-efficacy is the key to promoting students' engagement and learning in the

classroom.

Some researchers have argued that students' attitude towards testing also is

important to consider. Stiggins (2002) asserted that policymakers do not realize that not

all students face the challenge of state assessment efforts with the same degree of

confidence. Thus, states risk damage to a significant percentage of their students.

Stiggins concluded that this may, in fact, cause students to learn less, not more.

Kordalewski (2000) found that poor, urban high school students were more likely

to resist state-mandated assessments than other students. Davis and Weber (1998)

reported that some students viewed some subject matter as irrelevant to their future career

needs. This can be especially true among lower SES students, whom, as Luker, Cobb

and Luker (2001) illustrate, often come to school less 'equipped' for the rigors of school,

standards, and testing, compared to other students. When students lack particular









experiences outside of school, they may be unable to see the relevance of what they are

learning. Teachers of low income students may have to do more to convince their

students that there is relevance to what they are learning in school.

The issues of poverty, student self-efficacy and lack of adequate materials each

influence how teachers teach and students learn. Once students have a stake in learning,

they are more apt to apply themselves to the fullest of their abilities. In looking at the

questions surrounding teaching "at risk" students, Stice (1995) advocated using a whole

language curriculum. Whole language instruction is not without its critics, either.

McQuillan (1998) suggested that whole language instruction has been identified as the

scapegoat for lower student test scores in California. Also, students in classrooms

utilizing whole language instruction did not perform differently from their peers on

standardized tests of reading in California.

Childress and Stice (1995) argued that literacy is the key to breaking the cycle of

poverty. They reported that a program which is learner-centered, literature-based and

integrated across the curriculum helps students move beyond the minimal levels that so

few "at-risk" students achieve. Others, such as DeStephan (1995), and Miller and Stice

(1995), claimed that at-risk students thrive in environments in which they are able to

develop a sense of community and ownership.

Corley (2003) stressed that teachers must teach critical literacy skills to their

students in order to break the cycle of poverty. He asserted that teachers must connect

learning to learners' lived experiences; give voice to learners and create forums in which

they can tell their stories, help learners view knowledge as something that they can









produce; and give learners the tools to critique frames of reference, ideas, and

information (p. 2).

In order to reach at-risk students, we first must embrace the growing diversity in

our schools, argued Gay (1994). Educators should ask themselves how they plan to

reconcile the growing cultural pluralism inherent in American schools. She advocated a

multicultural focus, a way of thinking and acting in the classroom that accepts cultural

differences among students and places value in these differences. Multicultural thinking

has a profound effect on the developing and implementing curricular objectives, and if

embraced by teachers, can lead to greater learning generally by at-risk students. Gay

pointed out that: 1) basic literacy skills should be learned within the context of cultural

diversity, 2) learning requires the application of critical thinking and problem solving to

ethnic and cultural diversity issues, 3) education content and processes should incorporate

culturally pluralistic contributions, 4) equity and excellence are impossible without

sensitivity to cultural diversity, 5) teaching styles should be accepting of different cultural

learning styles, 6) understanding cultural traits of students makes teaching more effective,

7) ethnic and cultural factors should be used in determining students' readiness for

learning, and 8) some motivation for learning is culture-specific.

While many of the same teaching techniques are successful in teaching literacy

skills to at-risk students, teachers must be able to recognize the special needs of at-risk

students. The typical "below basic level" reader in high school does his/her best to hide

from teachers, avoids eye contact, conveniently "forgets" classroom materials, and seeks

help from friends, not the teacher (Denti & Guerin, 2004). Often, teachers aggravate the

problems of at-risk learners by sitting them farther away and expecting less from them.









The needs of at-risk adolescent readers include physically well-organized classrooms,

firm schedules, clearly expected behaviors, required participation in class, risk-free

environments, respect for students, and problems addressed as they occur. Hasselbring

and Goin (2004) advocate using video and audio programs associated with the Peabody

Learning Laboratory at Vanderbilt University, a program which was used with much

success by the Orange County Public School system in Florida.

Conclusion

Standardized testing and accountability have become commonplace in American

public education. Most states utilize standardized test scores to determine student

progress in school. More states are following Florida's example. A significant body of

research cautions that a single measure, such as standardized test scores, cannot

adequately measure performance. The correlation between standardized test scores and

students' race and SES has been well documented.

Research demonstrates that students from low SES backgrounds face significant

challenges in their acquisition of an education in public schools that differ from other

peer groups. Many low SES students perceive themselves as less "worthy" learners, and

act accordingly in the classroom. As a result, literacy rates for poor and minority

students are often significantly below average for the population as a whole.

There are a variety of strategies that can be used to teach reading and writing in the

secondary classroom. All of them are designed to build a sense of community and

ownership among secondary students, and to develop students' desire to become better

readers, writers and learners.














CHAPTER 3
METHODS

An overview of the following topics will be presented in this chapter: 1) the setting,

2) participants, 3) data collection, 4) data analysis, 5) researcher bias, and 6) reliability

and validity.

The Setting

The population for this study is 148 high schools that administer the 10th grade

FCAT reading test for a majority of its students who are considered to be "at-risk." In

order to be classified as "at-risk," a simple majority of students at these schools must be

classified as of a minority background, from a low SES background, or both. Of the 148

"at risk" schools the mean percentage of students who passed this test was 49%.

However, within these 148 schools there are great disparities in performance. In 2003,

65% or more of their students passed the 10th grade Reading FCAT in 10% (N=15) of

these schools, compared to 25% (N=37) of the schools where 40% or fewer of the

students passed the same test.

The 148 at-risk high schools are scattered throughout the state, in urban and rural

areas from Miami to the Panhandle. A significant number of these schools are found in

south Florida; 45% (N=67) of these schools, are in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach

counties, the three largest metropolitan counties in Florida. The disparity between the 15

high-performing, at-risk schools and the 37 lowest performing, at-risk schools is of

interest. Four of these schools were selected and teachers were interviewed and observed

to gain a better understanding of how educators teach literacy skills and prepare students









for the FCAT. The passage rates of students on the 2003 FCAT Reading test for each of

the four participating schools, the percentages of students who receive free/reduced lunch

benefits, the percentage of students reported as minority and school grades assigned by

the state for 2003 are presented below in table 3.1:

Table 3-1. Percentage of students who passed the 2003 Reading FCAT, percentage of
minority students, percentage of low-income students, and school grade at
participating schools
Athens HS Hamilton HS Jackson HS Pine Crest HS

Passing % 66 72 21 40

Minority % 51 71 99 81

Free Lunch % 19 46 50 37

School Grade B B F D



Due to logistical constraints only schools in the north or central part of Florida

were selected for study. Schools selected for this study met the following criteria: (a)

each is classified as a public high school, (b) student population is comprised by a

majority who are non-Caucasian, low SES, or both, and (c) the school is located in the

central part of Florida.

Participants

Two of the "high performing schools" and two of the "low performing schools"

were selected for this study. One English and/or language arts teacher at each of the

participating high schools was observed and interviewed. Additionally, all

English/Language Arts teachers at each of the four schools were asked to complete the

Teacher Behavior Preferences Survey (TBPS). This survey is a research-based

instrument that assesses teacher attitudes and efficacy. At each school, one 10th grade









English/language arts classroom was observed on five separate days for a minimum of 50

minutes per observation. Interviews of each teacher occurred after all five observations

had been completed.

Before contacting schools, the researcher contacted the district director of research

and evaluation to request permission to conduct this study in the district. Next, the

researcher contacted the principals of the selected high and low performing at-risk school

and asked for permission to observe 10th grade English/language arts classes. Once the

principal of each school gave permission to participate in this study, individual teachers

at each school were contacted and informed about the purpose of this study. After their

permission was obtained, interviews and observations were scheduled.

Only teachers who teach English or Language Arts classes to tenth graders were

observed and interviewed in this study. Efforts were exercised to select teachers for

observation who shared certain demographic characteristics, such as race and gender.

Each of the four participants in this study is a Caucasian female, whose ages ranged from

early 30's to early 60's. The participants' experience teaching ranged from four to 35

years. One of the four participants is in her first year of teaching in Florida; each of the

others had at least four years experience teaching at their respective schools. Two of the

four were teaching tenth grade English/Language Arts for the first time this year, whereas

each of the other two had four years experience teaching tenth grade English/Language

Arts.

Interview questions focused on curriculum planning, design, development and

implementation decisions made by each teacher, and the influence of the FCAT in these









decisions. Teachers' instructional practices were observed to better understand if there

were differences in the nature of teaching at the high and low performing schools.

Data Collection

Participant teachers were interviewed, observed and surveyed. Data from

observations was gathered through extensive field notes taken using a teacher observation

protocol developed by Anusavice (1999) and modified for this study. Field notes were

typed and submitted to each participant for review. Portions of a teacher interview

protocol relevant to curriculum design, development and implementation questions used

by Gonzales (2002) guided interviews. Interviews were tape recorded and transcribed.

Running notes were documented while teachers provided instruction in reading and

writing.

A semi-structural observation protocol based on Joyce and Weil's (1996)

instructional models framework and used by Anusavice (1999) guided observations.

Notes that describe what the teacher said or did across the following dimensions were

recorded: 1) The sequential tasks students are asked to do (syntax), 2) Student/teacher

roles and their respective involvement in the lesson (social systems), 3) Teacher

responses to students' answers and questions (principles of reaction), 4) Methods for

using instructional supports (support system), 5) Social interaction among students as

well as between students and the teacher (social interaction). A total of 20 observation

sessions, five at each school, were conducted. Four interviews were conducted, one with

each participant. Field notes were recorded to document interactions in each observation

among students as well as between students and teachers.

Participating teachers were observed in February 2005, before the FCAT Reading

Test was administered, and interviewed after the FCAT in March 2005. Each interview









was conducted on March 15, 2005 at the participant's school. These interviews lasted

from 30 to 50 minutes in length. To provide member checks, interviews and running

notes were transcribed and sent to the teacher. Participating teachers were asked to read

the transcript to ensure its accuracy and to mark any necessary changes. Two of the four

participants returned observation notes with few, if any, comments. None of the four

participants returned interview transcripts to the researcher with any comments, or

provided the researcher with any other feedback subsequent to the interviews.

Additionally, the Teacher Behavior Preference Survey (TBPS), developed by

Behar-Horenstein, was given to English/Language Arts teachers (including the four

participants named above) at each of the four schools. Each participant volunteered to

coordinate administration of the TBPS to their fellow teachers. Teachers from all four

schools responded to the survey. Using a five point scale, the TBPS measures the range

of teacher preferences on 60 items. These items are arranged in 30 pairs; where one item

assesses agreement from a student-centered perspective and the other assesses agreement

from a teacher-centered perspective. The items comprise four subscales including:

methods of instruction, classroom milieu, assessment techniques, and use of questions.

Data Analysis

Transcribed interviews and observations were analyzed inductively, guided by

Spradley's (1980) domain analysis method, and Attride-Stirling's (2001) thematic

networks method. After all observations had been completed, the field notes were typed

and coded using an open coding system based on methods of participant observation

described by Spradley. Emergent themes were coded along the margins of each set of

typed field notes. Afterwards, these codes were listed in a separate document

chronologically. Next, codes were tabulated for frequency of appearance and listed









accordingly for each set of observational notes. Finally, themes among the codes were

identified based on the categories of codes listed, as well as the frequency of each code in

the notes.

Emergent themes were identified from each set of teacher observations and then

compared with themes and trends observed across the four teachers. In order to assess

the differences in instructional beliefs among the four participants in this study,

interviews of each were conducted and tape recorded. The interviews were transcribed

by the researcher, who then sent copies of each transcript to each participant for review.

The transcripts were each coded and analyzed using the same methods regarding analysis

of field notes taken from the twenty observations conducted. Using these methods of

analysis, several themes emerged from each interview. Differences in attitudes and

beliefs between the participants from high performing schools and low performing

schools were recorded.

In order to analyze the results of the TBPS, mean scores for each item were

calculated. In order to assess reliability, alpha coefficients were calculated for the

teacher-centered questions as well as the student-centered questions. Additionally, alpha

coefficients were calculated for each of the four subscales: methods of instruction,

classroom milieu, assessment techniques and use of questions. An item analysis of

results from the TBPS was conducted in order to determine statistically significant

differences among items while controlling for school site. Forty-four percent (N=31) of

teachers responded to this survey, from a population of approximately 70 teachers. The

number of respondents representing each school is shown here in Table 3.2.











Table 3-2. Number of respondents to the TBPS from each school
Athens HS Hamilton HS Jackson HS Pine Crest HS

N 10 5 12 4



Each of the 60 items measured by the TBPS was sorted by school in order to

determine the extent to which answers varied by school, as well as between high

performing and low performing schools. For each variable, a Pearson's R correlation

coefficient was calculated.

Researcher Bias

The researcher is in his ninth year of teaching secondary social studies to public

school students in Alachua County, Florida. Each school year he has taught large

numbers of students who are at-risk. He has participated in a variety of school and

district level initiatives that have been aimed at improving high school FCAT reading

scores. Based on his experiences as a teacher, this researcher is acquainted with the

struggles and efforts among at-risk students to achieve literacy skills, and their efforts

(and feelings) regarding the FCAT.

Monitoring researcher subjectivity is a constant process, and one that must be

pursued consciously by qualitative researchers in order to present more valid findings

(Glesne, 1999). To monitor subjectivity properly requires that researchers "see what you

are not seeing" and "be aware of instances in which a researcher might make less of

something than could be made" (p. 109). Since the researcher is a high school teacher

who has had substantial experience working with students who are at-risk in reading and

writing, his experience is likely to impact his interpretation of the data. Thus, several









steps were taken to ensure that the interpretation of data was not a reflection of the

researcher as instrument. Use of the selected protocols helped minimize researcher bias,

as did field testing use of the protocols. Awareness of his role as a participant-observer

helped minimize the impact of researcher bias in this study. In his graduate coursework,

the researcher has learned and practiced many of the relevant skills needed to conduct

qualitative research, including: observation, domain analysis, designing and conducting

interviews, and transcription of interview data. Additionally, applying the research

protocols, and lessons learned from their usage prior to commencing this study, helped

the researcher use the protocols systematically during the observations and interviews.

Finally, a dependability audit was conducted by another graduate student in order to

further minimize researcher bias. This student viewed one of the four interview

transcripts, and 4 of 20 sets of observation notes. Considerable agreement existed

between the researcher and the graduate student regarding analysis of this data.

Validity and Reliability

Several steps were undertaken to help establish validity in this study. First, the

selection of participants was stratified to minimize the potential effect of confounding

variables such as race and SES. To the extent possible, teacher participants were selected

and matched across several variables including race, experience level, gender and age.

Second, by including two schools each that were "high performing" and "low

performing," different sources of data were used, and different groups (high and low

performing) were sampled, each with more than one source of data. Third, because this

study was designed to gather data through a series of observations, multiple observations

establishes triangulation by giving the researcher enough data to observe similarities and

differences in observations over time (Patton, 2002). Fourth, conducting interviews and









observations, as well as collecting survey data from other teachers at the same schools,

provided multiple sources of data. Fifth, before selecting schools to study, each of the

four schools selected met a pre-established criterion level of "high performing" or "low

performing" characteristics (with respect to percentage of 10th grade students passing the

reading FCAT) for more than one year. The criteria selected for "high performing" was

that at least 65% of students had to have passed the 10th grade FCAT reading test. The

criteria selected for "low performing" was that no more than 40% of students could have

passed this same test. Sixth, the TBPS, a research-based study, was administered to each

of the four participants as well as to other language arts teachers at each of the four

schools. This provided an additional data set corresponding to each school, yet beyond

just the experiences of one teacher in each school. Alpha coefficients of reliability were

calculated and reported among the different subsets of questions on the TBPS; each of the

alpha scores showed moderate to strong reliability. Use of the TBPS further establishes

triangulation, as data was gathered through observation, interview and by survey.

To further insure reliability, the researcher used observation, interview, and survey

protocols that are research-based, and that have been used (teacher observations and

interviews) on multiple occasions. The researcher pilot tested use of the protocols by

observing a teacher who is not a part of this study. A transcription of the observation

session was provided to this teacher. Feedback was solicited from the teacher in order to

ensure that the researcher has generated an accurate portrait of this classroom session.














CHAPTER 4
FINDINGS AND ANALYSIS

The purpose of this chapter is to present the findings related to each research

question.

Research Question 1) To What Extent Are FCAT Scores based on Outside Factors
such as Race, SES and Size of the School?

Analysis of 2003 10th grade FCAT Reading (Peabody, 2004, unpublished) showed

that race and SES of students accounted for 52% of the variance in the scores, and an

insignificant relationship between size of the school and FCAT scores. Subsequently,

that data was used to identify high performing and low performing schools on the FCAT,

for the purposes of conducting this study. Students' performance on the 2004 FCAT

Reading test at each of the four participating schools is consistent with the level of

performance measured and utilized with the 2003 FCAT data. Fewer than 40% of

students at Jackson HS and at Pine Crest HS, low performing schools, passed the 2004

FCAT Reading test, while over 65% of students at Athens HS and at Hamilton HS, high

performing schools, passed this same test. Analysis of 2004 10th grade FCAT Reading

scores confirmed the relationship between race, SES and FCAT Reading scores.

Research Question 2) What Are the Instructional Practices among Teachers of
Students in High Performing Schools and among Teachers of Students in Low
Performing Schools?

Data gathered from each of the four selected schools illustrate characteristic

instructional strategies that were observed at the low performing and high performing









schools. (Italicized material contained in this text is taken directly from field notes or

interviews.)

High-Performing Schools

At both of the classrooms in high performing schools, the researcher observed

several instances of student-led activities, the provision of student choice in the

curriculum, and an emphasis on reading-related activities and assignments, both in and

out of the classroom. In both settings, higher order thinking skills were emphasized.

Talking specifically about the FCAT was rare among the teacher or the students.

Student-directed learning was part of the normal daily routine in these classrooms.

For example, notes from an observation in Ms. Kelly's class at Athens High School

illustrate this point: The class begins n i/lt student presentations using PowerPoint and a

projector. Two to three students are working together on their presentation. One student

from the first group conducts the PowerPoint presentation. She is talking about phrases.

The teacher is sitting at a student desk, listening to the presentation. The rest of the class

is listening to the presentation silently. Their attention seems to be focused on the dry

erase board in the front of the room, where the projector is projecting the slide show.

The presentation lasts about five minutes.

Book talk activities were common in Ms. Kelly's class at Athens HS, as well as

Ms. Davis' class at Hamilton HS. During Ms. Kelly's 10th grade Honors English class:

The teacher announces that it is time to resume "Book Talks." After she goes to her desk

at the back of the room and sits down, one student walks to the front of the room, stands

next to the overhead. First, he briefly summarizes the book "Hitchhiker 's Guide to the

Galaxy. He discussed the setting of the book, alohg n i/t literary concepts such

allusions and foreshadowing. Other students remain quiet during the student's









presentation, and they ask him questions about the book. Several students are observed

writing down information about the book in their notebooks.

Both teachers provided rubrics, as a means to assess students' work and provided

them with a framework for conducting student-led activities within class. Ms. Davis'

rubric for the "Book Talk" assignment was straightforward: One student walks up to the

front of the room to present his "Book talk" on "Secrets of the .\/hlb/i'. He stands next

to the overhead talking about the book. Meanwhile, the teacher is seated at her desk in

the back of the room. She is sorting materials, as well as asking the presenter questions

about his book. The rest of the class listens quietly to the presentation, some of them are

writing. The teacher asks the student presenter information about the author. Next, the

teacher instructs him to pick a passage and read it to the class. He opens the book and

reads aloud for about two or three minutes. The class listens. When he concludes, they

applaud. Several students in the class, ahlo n i th the teacher, talk about where this book

is in relation to a series of books. The student presenter sits down. The teacher calls on

several students and asks them specific questions about the bookjust presented, such as

the title, the setting, and literary terms discussed by the presenter. The teacher's use of

questioning during and after this presentation demonstrated what information she

expected students to convey through these presentations.

Scaffolding and providing opportunities for students to engage in active learning

were present in work assigned in Ms. Davis' class: The teacher, standing by the

overhead at the front of the room, tells students to get out their Caesar folders and six

sheets of blank paper, as she turns off the overhead quiz. The teacher explains that the

six pieces ofpaper will be used asfoldables. She tells the students that they will be









responsiblefor 30 vocabulary terms from Julius Caesar by the end of the unit. Next, she

turns the overhead back on, and on a blank transparency, begins writing words from the

play down in groups offive. She writes down six groups, for a total of 30 words. She

tells students to draw four lines on their six pieces ofpaper, creating five columns on

each piece. Students begin doing so amidst chatter.

The teacher announces to the class that she will determine when the class is done

ii ith this by looking at who can be done first. The class works faster at finishing.

Students write the terms down in lthir notebooks. As both teacher and students write, the

teacher asks the class to state the meanings of these words, and/or gives them clues as to

the definitions of these terms. She tells students that each student will be responsible for

presenting a word to the class from the list. Several hands go up at once, as students

volunteer to choose words they would like to present. The teacher tells them to pick

words they do not already know well. The teacher writes down in her folder which

student is presenting each word.

After each student has been assigned one word, the teacher tells the class that the

remaining words will be extra credit, but that she won't give any extra credit to students

that don't need it. There is substantial chatter in the room during this activity, most of it

revolving around who will choose what terms. All of the students are writing, some of the

students are teasing each other or joking about the vocabulary terms, using them out of

context or in funny sounding ways. The teacher calls on several students by name, and

tells them that they are going to be responsible for presenting their words on Thursday to

the class. She gently teases them, ,,vi ng. "We're counting on you. This activity lasts

about 25 minutes.









Students in both settings appeared knowledgeable regarding their student-led

activities. They often went beyond the boundaries of an assignment in the preparation of

student-directed activities, as evidenced in Ms. Kelly's class: The next group begins

setting up. The chatter resumes as they set up their presentation. Two students conduct

this presentation; they are wearing matching red shirts. One shirt says "Upper case S, "

the other, "lower case s. They point this out to the class, when they announce that dlwir

presentation is about capitalization. The teacher is sitting at the same student desk as

before, listening to the presentation. The class audience is attentive and listening to this

PowerPoint presentation. One student asks a question about capitalization, which the

presenters answer.

The presenters explain that their game will involve correcting capitalization errors

in a PowerPoint presentation, using one of two "magic wands" they created. The

function of one wand is to fix errors that need capital letters, while the other wand willfix

errors in words that are capitalized when they should not be. Volunteers come up two at

a time toplay the game. Players point i//h their wand at the error on the board Once

they have spotted all the errors, one of the presenters changes the slide to reveal the

corrected (and highlighted) errors. Each of the slides they use contains a quote from,

and a scene from a movie.

Making learning fun was emphasized in both settings. A representative example

from Ms. Kelly's class follows:

A second student from the group sets up a game for the class to play. Using

masking tape, he taped foldedpieces ofpaper across an open doorway in the back of the

room. The teacher helps the student presenters explain the concept of "extended









p/hl, Ie, "as the rest of the class listens, and the second student set up for the game. While

he was setting up for the game, there was a lot of chatter in the room. Once the taping

was finished, he explained that students were to use a plastic toy dart gun to shoot darts

at the hangingpapers. Students volunteered to play. As students were called on by the

student running the game, they came, one at a time, to the middle of the room a few feet

away from the targets in the back of the room. Students were attentive and seemed to

enjoy playing the game or watching others play. The entire class seemed to be engaged in

the activity. A total offour students played as they grabbed the gun and shot the targets.

When one was hit, the student running the game would grab the paper that was hit by the

player, read aloud a phrase and asked the class to identify the type ofphrase read.

Students would raise thwir hand to give the answer. One student played a noisemaker

when other students answered questions correctly. The student running the game called

on other students to answer these questions. The teacher was sitting on a counter on the

side of the room during this game while the students took turns playing the game. The

class laughed when each student aimed at the targets. The teacher was heard telling one

student, jokingly, "Don't go to the police academy." After 20 minutes, the teacher

instructed the class, "Give these two applause."

Students in Ms. Davis' class seemed to have fun as well, while engaged in

literature-based activities: After assigning students to read Acts 3-5 ofJulius Caesar,

Ms. Davis told her students that the class would divide parts of the play by group and

that they will be responsible for putting scenes from the play in students' own language.

"Turn to page 776," the teacher says. She conducted a "walk through" of selected scenes

from the play. After getting a student to volunteer to be Julius Caesar, she handed him a









laminated piece of notebook size paper that says "Caesar." She walked across the room

to a storage area, pulled out a purple sheet, and handed it to Caesar for his toga. The

student puts the "toga" on as the class laughs. Next, she handed him a purple bike

helmet, and explained that Caesar should also have a purple crown. Next, the teacher

asked students to volunteer for the roles of Calpurnia and the ,,,ith,\i) ei. She gave

Calpurnia a purple sheet and bike helmet. She handed the \,,rir1\her an orange sheet.

She explains that the v,,rith1\oer should be somewhat "creepy." The student acted the

part. The class laughed. She assigned the role ofBrutus to another student and handed

him a blue sheet. She assigned the role ofMarc Antony to another student and gave him

a cap to wear. She assigned other students to serve as some of the other conspirators

against Caesar. They received sheets or towels which the students served as togas.

Students laughed at each other as the actors tried on their costumes. One student actor

said "Ay Carramba!" when he looked at his costume. Each of the actors has a script

card in hand, similar to the one that was given to "Caesar."

Both teachers consistently displayed a high level of rapport with their students.

Technological innovations, such as PowerPoint presentations, or other, more traditional

props, were utilized by both teachers to foster learning and interest in language arts.

Both classrooms were positive learning environments. Students were generally

attentive to, and participated in, the lesson or activity, regardless of whether such

activities were student-led or teacher-led, as evidenced by the above excerpts. Both

teachers planned creative and entertaining lessons for their students on a regular basis,

activities that gave students ample opportunities to develop their reading and writing

skills, such as "Music Journals:" At the beginning of class, Ms. Kelly instructed students









to get their journals out. The teacher and one student joke about how the teacher almost

tripped and fell. Next, the teacher walked over to the stereo andput in a CD,

"Loveshack" by the B-52 's. As the students listen to the song they remain silent. A few

students are writing. The teacher remained at the front of the room during this time. She

took roll silently, and then got a small book off of her desk. The entire songplayed. At

the end of the song, the teacher told the students to start writing. She played the song a

second time, yet she turned the volume down slightly. Students began writing in their

journals.

The teacher walked over to a student desk, sat down, and began writing in her

book. The class remained quiet. Most of the students continued to write in their journal

while the song isplayedfor the second time. Towards the end of this activity, afew

students begin quietly mouthing the words of the song. As the secondplaying of the song

ends, two students raise their hands. The teacher calls on one of them. The student reads

aloud what she wrote in her journal as the music played. The class listens quietly. The

teacher gets up, goes over to the stereo and takes the CD out. She hands it to another

student seated at her desk. The student called upon by the teacher talks about going to a

"Mega Comn" convention. The teacher calls on the second student volunteer. This

student talks about the beat of the song and quotes lines from it. Several hands go up.

The teacher calls on three more students. The first student jokes about how another

student has a girlfriend. The class laughs. The next student tells the class that she

remembers "Loveshack" as the first song she ever danced to.

The teacher tells the student who brought in the CD that this song was a good

choice for their Music Journal activity on that day. The class applauds. The next student









talks about whales and how he remembered another story. The class laughs. More

students volunteer to speak. The teacher calls on afew more. One student talks about

the song how he free associated thoughts and ideas during the song. Another student

talks about how the song seems to always be played at weddings. The class is attentive;

occasionally there are comments on what students said in relation to their music

journals. The topic of school dances comes up, and the teacher jokes in ith the class about

how students act at school dances. While standing at the front of the classroom, the

teacher reads from her music journal. Meanwhile, the class listens quietly. This activity

lasted about twenty five minutes.

Classroom management or discipline-related issues were rare in both classes, and

never consisted of more than a few minutes of chatter. In both classes, students were

easily redirected towards the class activity by the teacher.

Low-Performing Schools

In the low performing schools, there was a high level of teacher-directed activity.

Students were given no opportunity to lead the class or to conduct any significant,

curriculum-related activities in class. Table 4.1 shows the difference between high and

low performing schools with respect to the amount of time spent in teacher-directed vs.

student-directed activities.

Table 4-1. Amount of time spent engaged in student-directed activities
High Performing Schools Low Performing Schools
Athens HS Hamilton HS Jackson HS Pine Crest HS
Minutes in student-directed 150 80 0 0
activities
Percentage of class time in 60% 32% 0% 0%
student-directed activities









At the low performing schools, none of the instructional time was student-directed.

About 60% and 32% of the instructional time at the high performing schools consisted of

student-directed activities. Ms. Wallace announces to her students that the benchmark

for this week is inferencing. She asks the students to explain how the plot of a story is

like a roller coaster. She draws a bell curve on the board at the front of the room as she

explains. She writes the different parts of a plot in corresponding places along the curve,

and then she returns to the middle of the room. She explains the different elements of a

plot, and compares it to a Lifetime movie. Next, she asks students what it is called when

they learn about characters and the setting. One student replies, "exposition." Next, she

talks about conflict and climax. She hands out a worksheet to the students, and tells them

to draw a graphic organizer before reading. Students listen, give out answers, and write

graphic organizers during this time.

Next, the teacher reads the story "Bedtime Story" aloud (on the worksheets she just

handed out to the class). She reads the story aloud while the students listen and read

along silently. The teacher asks the students about the story. She asks them, "Where do

you picture the story?" A discussion of the story begins, led by the teacher. Students

continue to listen, and answer questions. The teacher is breaking down the elements of a

story generally and this story specifically. She asks them when the climax of this story

occurs. When no one provides a correct answer the teacher talks about the movie

Halloween as an example of another horror story. One half of the class remains attentive

while they try to figure out the elements of this story. One student is wearing headphones

and a hood on. Another has his head down on the desk while the teacher is talking. The

teacher tells students to answer questions about the story (characters, setting, the









problem and the resolution) in their journals. She directs them to get out their Holt

Readers when they have finished writing. The teacher circulates around the room and

collects worksheets from students. One at a time, students finish writing, close their

journals, and then get out a textbook.

Reading activities unrelated to the FCAT were not stressed in either setting, the

FCAT itself was mentioned frequently by both teachers as well as the students.

As Ms. Wallace walked around the room, at one point she asked students, "How

long until the FCA T? In response, several students began talking about the FCA T

During this discussion, the teacher explained what a norm-referenced test is, and

described the relationship between testing and the No Child Left Behind Act. She told

her students when the FCAT was going to be administered. She also told her students

that their last benchmark activity will be on Friday. Students begin getting their journals

and start writing. One student hands out snacks to a couple other students. One student

asks the teacher what to do if he has lost his journal. One student who is listening to

headphones does not appear to be working. Next, she hands out to students copies of an

article (ii ith questions) titled "When Teachers are Cheaters. The article is about

teachers helping students cheat on standardized tests. She divides the class into groups

of three or four students and assigns each group part of the reading and related

questions. The teacher tells them she will read the first paragraph aloud to get them

started and begins reading.

Although most of the students in Ms. Fernandez' class have already left, the

remaining students begin to lk n ith one another. One student says that she hates

school. Others say that they hate preparingfor the FCAT. The teacher returns to the









front of the room after hanging up the phone. Students begin talking to her in a mix of

Spanish and English. One student talks about the stress of getting ready for the FCAT in

Spanish.

Many of the classroom learning activities stressed lower order thinking and

learning skills. In both settings, there was a low level of interest or participation in the

learning process by students.

Ms. Wallace reviews the T chart created last week as well as the story and the

questions that were placed in the margin. She asks students to discuss the significance of

the story's elements. The students are quiet and some remain attentive. However, two

students are looking at CD's. Another student (different than above) has his head down.

Another student is looking at a magazine. The teacher begins by reading questions out of

the Holt textbook and tries to get students to talk about or relate to iiheme, in the story.

She uses the example of laughing at a funeral. One student describes similar examples of

having laughed at church.

Low student interest in learning was apparent. Ms. Fernandez re-reads the passage

to the class about stew. She asks the students if they know what stew is. Students laugh

as the teacher is talking; much of the laughter does not seem to involve the lesson. Two

or three students are pounding on their desks, simulating a drum beat. Several students

are p lying ni ith their locks. The teacher continues to stand at the overhead in the front

of the room. She tells the class that the setting of the story is a kitchen. Next, she asks

the students to determine what season the story was set in. The teacher asks the class to

identify words in the passage that point out the story is set in the winter. Chatter and the

beating on desks continue throughout this discussion.









The teacher reads the questions on the overhead regarding the setting of the story.

Next, she puts a second transparency on, and tells the class how to determine the

characters in a story. Chatter continues. Some students begin yawning loudly. The

teacher asks the class generally what characters are in a story. One student answers that

characters are people. Another says they could be animals. The teacher says that

characters could be animals, people, monsters, etc. The teacher states that all characters

have feelings. At this point, five students have their heads down. Chatter continues. The

teacher goes to the five students n i/h their heads down one at a time, taps them on their

shoulders, and says, "guys." Two of them pick up their heads. The teacher reads a

secondpassage. There is a lot of chatter in the room as the teacher reads. This passage

is about moving and the feelings it generates. The teacher circulates, talks to individual

students, and reads questions regarding the passage. The teacher gets some of the

students to describe the characters' emotions based on the reading.

The teacher reads and re-reads questions on the overhead transparency about the

story. Laughter among students continues. The teacher stops talking and looks at one of

the students that have been laughing intermittently throughout this portion of the class.

She does not say anything to him. "Sorry, Miss" he says, as the laughter continues.

Seven students have their heads down. One student raises his hand and talks about

mixed feelings he has had about moving. The teacher talks about inferring information

from a passage. She turns the lights on and hands out a worksheet. Chatter, yawning

and the beating on desks continue.

Table 4-2. Mean number of reprimands issued by teacher per period observed
Athens HS Hamilton HS Jackson HS Pine Crest HS
N 0.8 1.8 2.6 2.0









Table 4.2 above shows that in low performing schools teachers were more likely to

reprimand their students than were teachers in high performing schools. Students in high

performing settings seemed to be more engaged than the students observed in low

performing school settings. Classroom management issues impeded instruction

frequently during Ms. Fernandez' Pine Crest High School classes: Throughout this

discussion, several students listened silently, while others talked among 1theinel\ 'e

About four students had their heads down early in this activity while later there were as

many as six heads down. Another student yawned. Other students displayed off-task and

inattentive behavior while the teacher reads from the book. When one of the three

students volunteering answers said, "It's on page 193. Another student, who had not

been paying attention up to that point, said loudly, "Who said that? Many students

appear to tune out the discussion of the reading. One or two were seen listening to

portable CD players while another was looking through his CD's. One checks her hair

in a small mirror. Another student plays i/ ith a hair brush. Another one quietly

rearranges books on a shelf next to his seat. Two or three students wrote andpassed

notes back and forth. Another student looked at some of the cash in his hands. On at

least six occasions during this activity, the teacher announced that there was too much

noise in the room. Ms. Fernandez stopped and talked i iith one student at length about

his inattentive behavior.

As demonstrated by the vignettes above, students frequently were off-task. Acts of

defiance towards the teacher were commonplace. For example, Ms. Fernandez asks

students general questions about setting in stories. One student began talking about the

teacher and she stated that the teacher "is getting on my case." The teacher looks at her,









but did not say anything. A minute later, the same student again stated that the teacher

was getting on her case. The teacher calls this student outside. "Bye guys; I'll see you

later, the student stated as she was leaving the room.

In another instance, students banded together in an act of group defiance, fostered

by a sense of confusion on campus that morning: The teacher then reads the directions

contained in the overhead aloud. She asks students what words will identify the setting of

a story. Students chatted and some began hissing. Two students shout out for passes,

one of them for the fourth time. The teacher re-states that students are to be called to

their lockers. Students argued i i/h the teacher and stated that they need to go to their

lockers. Next, an announcement came on again, telling teachers that they could send as

many as five or six students at a time to their lockers, if they have lockers in building 100.

Before the announcement was finished, about 20 students stood up and left the room

1 ithlnut a word from the teacher.

Student outbursts, usually unrelated to the lesson, were frequent in number, as

reflected by the number of teacher reprimands listed in Table 4.2. Several students came

to class late on each of the five days when observation occurred. Participation in these

lessons frequently consisted of students randomly shouting out answers to questions

posed by the teacher. After reading a sentence, Ms. Fernandez asks the class what the

sentence means. Then she begins to read again. After reading a passage for

approximately three or four minutes, she reads a question in the booklet based on that

reading and the multiple choice answers. Several students offer answers A, B, C, andD

aloud. The teacher asks, "How many agree on A? A few hands go up. "Is that what it

says? asks the teacher, "B? Next, she calls on a particular student for the second









question. She re-reads the question. Students (including the one called upon) give two

different answers. "Let's look back at the l itil,'. the teacher says. The teacher re-

reads that portion of the text. The passage is about the gi ,n th ofphotocopying and the

environmental hazards associated i ith photocopying.

In both settings students acted as passive recipients of knowledge. Student interest

in learning, and in the classroom activities, was observed to be very low. Students often

were inattentive. The teacher frequently had to redirect students' off-task behavior. In

Ms. Wallace's class at Jackson High School chatter continued over the teacher's verbal

directions. The teacher called one off-task student by name and said "Alright. She

pointed to another student and motioned for her to sit down. She told another student to

"concentrate and turn around." The teacher distributed a packet and a separate

worksheet to each of the students. One student asks the meaning of the bell work quote.

The teacher read and explained it. The chatter continues among several students. The

teacher said, "One, two, three, four, five, six people talking. Stop." On another

occasion, she spoke to a student who had not begun working several times. Students

were instructed to read the packet and answer the questions based on the reading.

In classrooms, at least one student, and often more than one, was observed with

his/her head down for substantial amounts of time during instruction. This activity was

often overlooked by both teachers. Students in both classrooms frequently were seen

playing with cell phones, CD players, and other gadgets, rather than completing assigned

work. Student chatter, unrelated to the content or lesson, was commonplace in both

settings. Ms. Wallace redirected off-task behavior more frequently than Ms. Fernandez.









In Ms. Fernandez' ESOL class, students often appeared frustrated with the learning

process: Ms. Fernandez asks students what the conflict in the story is. Students guess.

Next, she asks them when the turning point occurs in the story, and what is the resolution.

Students pass notes during this discussion. One student replies that, "... the bears were

smoking weed." Students laugh. Other students yawn loudly. One states, "This is

boring." One of the students asks loudly, "What's the whole point of this?" At this point,

the teacher has already told the students to listen twice. She tells another student, "You

can't continue talking." He replies, "whatever."

The teacher removes the first overhead and replaces it n ith another that showed a

graphic outline of the elements of a plot. Next, she leads a discussion about a poem that

appears on the secondpage of the packet. She asks the class what a eulogy is. Several

students guess at once, out loud. None of them are correct. The chatter continues. "Let

her teach! one student says. One student tells another, "Stop talking, idiot! "

The teacher tells the class to read the poem silently to themselves, and underline

any words in the poem that they do not recognize. Some of the students read the poem

while others do not. The chatter continues. The teacher asks the class to tell her what

words they underlined. One student says "shrunken." Another student says, "You don't

know what shrunken means?!?" The teacher tells them it's based on the word "shrink."

Several students identify "sphinx" as an unfamiliar word. The teacher asks the class if

they know what it means. Several students guess a variety of answers and blurt them out

loud. The teacher tells them to visualize witilh'ilig

The teacher asks the class what the poem means. One student raises his hand, asks

what sphinx means. The teacher says again, just visualize v,,iiie/ing She asks the class









what the poem is about. Chatter and laughter among the students continues. Among the

chatter, one student asks another who the main character is in the poem. Students guess

out loud about the meaning of the poem. The teacher reads the poem out loud. Some

students do not read aloug n ith her. One student says, "I still don't know what sphinx

means." Two students in the back of the classroom begin to playfully slap one another.

The other student tells the first one to leave her alone. Students tell each other to "shut

up" several times during this activity.

Teaching and learning activities in the low performing school classrooms were

mostly teacher-directed. However, the teachers tried to engage their students in the

lesson or activity by posing questions that were designed to encourage their participation.

Ms. Wallace frequently connected elements of the curriculum to things the students could

relate to.

Ms. Wallace tells students that they will read an article from their text and answer

questions based on it just like they will do on the FCAT. She tells them to turn to page

nine of their workbooks, rip out the page, and then get their textbooks from the shelf She

tells them to turn to page 105 in their texts. As students complete these tasks, she asks

them if any of them have lived in New York. She asks them if any of them know what PS

stands for in New York. With afew hints from the teacher, students eventually figure out

that it stands for "public school."

The teacher rings the bell on her desk a total of three times during this activity

when students provide correct answers. The teacher is setting the context for the story

the class is about to read. She explains what PS and IS mean. She tells students about

the New York middle school that is the subject of the story they are about to read. She









discusses the concept of a "melting pot" and its significance in American culture. She

contrasts the meltingpot idea i i/th the idea that America is a "salad. Students listen to

the teacher and guess answers to questions she asks them.

The teacher asks them if they know anyone whose parents or grandparents came

here from another country, and how the parents or grandparents speak their ancestral

language, while their kids speak English. A few students nodded in agreement. She

explained how the middle school they will read about might be considered a "melting

pot. She talked about how students moving to Florida from the Midwest might find a

friend in thewi new school and how they might get that friend to show them what kinds of

clothing styles to wear. At one point during this discussion, the teacher said, "I know,

I'm old and slow." A student responded, "No, you're not. "

Frequently students in the low performing classroom settings did not actively, or

appropriately, participate in the lesson. Assignments in both classrooms consisted often

of seatwork that explicitly related to the Sunshine State Standards benchmarks and the

FCAT.

Research Question 3) What Are the Instructional Beliefs among Teachers at High
Performing and Low Performing Schools?

High Performing Schools

The interviews revealed that Ms. Kelly, at Athens High School, and Ms. Davis, at

Hamilton High School, each hold an open and dynamic view of the curriculum and

believe that curriculum is a reciprocal rather than a linear process. Both teachers stressed

their belief that the curriculum should be tailored to the students' needs. They also

mentioned that the curriculum decisions they make do not consider the FCAT

specifically. They also asserted that they do not "teach to the test." Ms. Davis states, "I









want them to have attached language, againfor themselves, have those basic skills, so

they can attack any piece of literature, (whatever) anybody decides all of a sudden is the

tenth grade book. I think right now, a lot of teachers are getting bogged down thinking

that language arts is all about FCAT, and it's not, that'sjust a basic myth. Um, my

biggest compliment, now I've heard a second student tell another teacher, that I don't

teach FCAT, I teach. And, they've really enjoyed that this year, because they're not

doing drills."

Ms. Kelly stated that, "Teachers sometimes lose sight of the fact that it's skills

we're IteA hi lug. it's not necessarily teaching to a test. I think this is a misconception.

We're teaching them the skills they should be able to do in any situation, if it's the SAT or

the FCAT orjust a test in their class, or some type of assessment in chorus, there are

certain skills that they need to be successful."

Both teachers emphasized that teaching and learning in the language arts classroom

should be student-centered. According to Ms. Kelly, "Students... are my biggest

influence. What are they interested in? What do they watch? What do they listen to?

What do they read? They are my number one influence because I can take what they

need to know, and apply it to what they want to know, and therefore they're going to

remember it a lot better. "

The teachers reported that their learning did not remain static over time and that

they made adjustments as needed on an annual, monthly, or even daily basis. Ms. Kelly

states that, "Here's this lump of clay that Florida gave me, and I'm going to mold it into

\i, ethlling that's going to work for the kids I have this year. Every year, you get a

different set of kids, I don't know that I've ever, even the years that I taught ninth grade









English four years in a row, I never taught it the same way twice. You don't know what

you're going to get, and so I think, in terms of influencing curriculum, I think it's the

teacher's individual willingness to be an active part of creating that curriculum, molding

it to fit their needs."

These teachers reported that they were proponents of giving students real choices,

decision-making power, and ownership over aspects of curriculum planning. Ms. Kelly

had a "Novel of the Month" assignment for her students. She explained that: "I have

them read a novel of the month outside of class, to foster independent ending. [and]

hopefully a love of li ig. I give them a genre, but I let them pick [the actual title] in

that genre. Usually, like right now they're doing poetry, so they have to read ten poems

by the same poet, or ten poets about the same subject, or theme. I've had [topics such

as]published from 2000 or newer, science fiction fantasy month, children's books, I

actually have them read a number of children's books and talk about the lessons you can

learn. Projects range from making a movie poster about your book, to actual analysis of

literary elements: character, plot, conflict, setting, and those types of things.

The projects that I got for the last one, they had to read a self-help book, or a

cookbook, or a how-to book, or ii,,mthinig like that, so I got lots offood items that I think

that, for the self-help books, they connected iith whatever it was they were assigned to

get help on, ii shelter it was ADD, um, Linda, the noisemaker (laughs), she read a book

about, almost a Seven Habits kind of book, but a little bit different, she created two photo

essays of this is when you 're doing all the positive things that it tells you to do, and she

used it as a model, and when you turned the poster over, her sister did all of the opposite

thing% ... her being able to put that much creativity and thought into it, she really liked









being able to express herself that way, so I may try that next year, also letting them have

a month, 'OK, you pick the topic, whatever. In retrospect, I want some type ofproposal,

in i ilig. from them, because it's almost a little scary, to not know what I was going to

get from someone, but I want to say, 90 percent of them were appropriate."

Ms. Davis requires students to read outside of class every week. The benefits of

this assignment are many. She explained that: "Every child is required to read 50 pages

a week for regular, 75pages a week for honors, a book of their choice, and every Friday

in my classroom, they write me about it and I bring in literary terms... they might write a

paragraph about whatever they read that week. And then, I bring in some fun things like,

illustrate a book cover, or add a symbol to the cover, um, I'll ask about the author. I try

to give them a couple of questions they can choose between that are open-ended, and I'll

have a pretty good idea, by the time they 've finished answering it, ii heiher or not they're

really reading. [After] they finish the three pages of iI i ting. which is expository ii, ng.

they do a summary of what they read that week. And, they get pretty excited about it, so

that they go from thinking that they can't write three pages to thinking that they can't

read 50, to coming in andfinding out that they sometimes have read a couple of novels

during the week. They 've found one author that they really love, it spreads like wildfire

through the classroom that 'this guy is really cool, read him. So, they get very excited

about it, and it's all based on their choice, because I don't read fantasy anymore, but

there's a whole group that's into fantasy, a whole group that's into action, a whole group

that's into realistic, whole groups that are into what they call pimp books, which are a

little bit on the racy side, but as long as their parents approve, they go for it. So, they 're

reading what are really 350 to 400 page adult novels, happen to have maybe a bit of a









teenage, maybe college flair to them. Lots of sex, lots of relationships, but it's a

beginning. Because you can lead them from that very easily to Grisham and on to

i in,,etilng else that has maybe a little less sex (laughs), and they have to use their

imagination a little bit more. So, they take all these skills and that's where I basically see

most of my gi fil th/. That's what I attribute to most of the gi fll I/i in heir t li///.

because they've been duped into eit li//. and then moving into a higher level i ith the

writing, so the literature that we do in class is where I teach the strategies." During their

interviews Ms. Davis and Ms. Kelly reported that an emphasis on teaching and learning

literacy skills weighed heavily in their curriculum planning.

These teachers made statements that suggested they had a high level of efficacy.

Ms. Kelly stated that: "I believe that I can teach any subject that needed to be taught.

Because really, I teach life skills. I use English as my vehicle to help them think. I

create, no I foster, thinking. And, being lifelong learners, and always going back out

there and retraining yourself and I always tell them that even at my age, I'm still

learning new things, and you know, I could teach math and still have the same

philosophy about wanting them to be lifelong learners and I can tell them they're going

to use any class that they take in life, they think that they 're not. When am I ever going to

use this, but, they do, they just, it's not a literal translation of the Odyssey into my

regular job at Burger King."

Ms. Davis had a practical perspective on teaching and learning in her class. She

stated that she wanted students to be able to use and develop literacy skills that would

serve them in the marketplace. "I think I'm a very practical teacher, I'm finding that out

more as I l, lk i/ ith other teachers who are really into teaching literature. Having been in









the business world, I know that no one will ever ask you to write a Haiku, so all those

lessons were lost. I could have given them a great Haiku, but no, they never asked me for

it, nor wanted to pay me for it. So my stress is always on can you effectively

communicate. So, every lesson is geared towards that. If I can'tjustify the lesson in

terms of if he's going to end up being a mechanic, why they need it, then I usually don't

teach it, so I won't teach in the abstract. I teach pretty concrete, how to write, how to

communicate, how to make sure you're reading at a level that will be appropriate. "

Neither teacher plans their curriculum around texts, although both utilize texts to

suit their needs. Ms. Davis suggested that: "The whole guidance here is away from

textbooks, away from 'everybody in ninth grade has to read ninth, everybody in tenth

grade has to read,' I don't even know what you have to read in tenth grade. I guess you

have to read Julius Caesar. That's as close as my 'have to. So, I'm allowed to bring in

a lot ofpractices I've seen work in other places. I'm able to incorporate a lot. "

Ms. Kelly communicated genuine affection for her students, and stated that she

loves teenagers. Both teachers mentioned the importance of getting to know their

students, and doing so as early as possible. Ms. Kelly stated that: "I've spent a lot of time

getting to know my students and really it ties back to what... motivates my curriculum

planning, the students do. Whatever they are interested in; I know what I have to cover.

I'm point blank honest in lh them, 'We have to do this. I know that there are thing% you

want to do, and I'll try to make them mesh together as well as I can, Being able to have

a certain level of sarcasm and fun ii ith them goes so far. They sometimes say, 'Iwish all

my teachers were like you. And then I remind them that if all their teachers were like

me, then I would 't be so special. And I think that I've spent a lot of time, since I started









Ate' hing,,. becoming that person that I'm always available to them, they can email me,

because that's where my teachers were for me. I had great teachers like that, and so I

just think I try to emulate them a lot. And they 're fun. I love teenagers. I really do. All

the potential is right there. Some of them haven't been trained in how to use it, so

sometimes you have to manipulate that a little bit, but I really I think they're great kids."

She stressed that she remained available to students outside of class time to help

them with research projects and homework.

Both teachers reported that their school-based administrators are supportive of their

efforts, but they added that administrators still keep a close eye on teachers because of the

importance that FCAT scores hold. Ms. Davis and Ms. Kelly reported that inherently

tenth grade language arts teachers feel pressure from this high stakes test. Despite the

success her school has had with students passing the FCAT, Ms. Davis shared that there

was a new emphasis this year on teaching to the test and utilizing district-generated

assessments. Ms. Davis asserted that these assessments are more of a hindrance than a

help and pointed out that they do not necessarily correspond to the FCAT or the

benchmarks assessed on the FCAT. "Because of the failing schools, it's supposed to be a

requirement that as ofAugust, but then it got blown out of the water. We were supposed

to do monthly assessments, and then teachers complained because, they were like, OK,

monthly assessments, how do you know they 're the same as that assessment and they

wanted us to be breaking it down by, so it looked very much FCA Tish, so we could say

words and phrases go here, comparison and contrast go there, reference and research go

there, and we could analyze every student by their four categories. So most teachers

freaked out, the county decided that they would provide the test, don't worry, but then we









had more to worry about, because as I mentioned, they (the district) never could do it.

They never did it. "

Low Performing Schools

The FCAT itself received much more consideration from Ms. Fernandez at Pine

Crest High School and Ms. Wallace at Jackson High School, the two participants from

low performing schools. Both of these teachers discussed the pressure they felt from the

FCAT, coupled with the historically low scores associated with their students. In 2004,

both schools received F grades from the state. As a result, the state and district had

gotten involved in curriculum decisions made for language arts classes at their schools.

Ms. Fernandez reported that: "They (the district) have to analyze the data, the data that

we have from all the testing, analyzing the data, you can use that data to develop

activities, and it's a lot, it's so much for us, at least I, maybe because I'm new here, but I

heard other teachers say, 'Wow, this is too much.' I don't know if it's the same in other

schools, I guess it's not that, I guess it's the pressure of the test, because we have the F

grade. I think it has a lot to do i//h it. "

Ms. Wallace characterized the extent to which the FCAT, and the state, are

involved in the language arts curriculum at Jackson High School as: "working at Jackson,

the FCAT has had a direct influence on what we are asked/required to do in a language

arts class. It was, 'you will do this small focus thing to work specifically on FCAT

because that is how, you the school, will be judged. You will do it this way. And it was

put very nicely, but these messages, you will do it this way. In that case, FCA T has had a

direct effect on what we do here and how we teach." Perhaps as a result of this outside

involvement, both of the low performing school teachers viewed curriculum as being

more linear, or top-down, than did Ms. Kelly or Ms. Davis.









Both Ms. Wallace and Ms. Fernandez stressed the importance of teaching the

benchmarks. For Ms. Fernandez, the benchmarks were the key factor in lesson planning,

"The benchmarks that we have to teach to, we have to teach that in order to, it follows

that. Anything else, you're wasting you 're time, because they're going to be tested on

that. You know, the FCAT, it puts a lot ofpressure. Bilingual standards, state standards.

Well, it (the benchmarks) keeps you on track. It influences you, and you have to keep

track of what you 've done, and what needs to be done still, and where you are. (You)

cover them in the lessons you teach the students. No matter what you 're teA tl hing,. that

has to be covered. It keeps you on track, as what needs to be done."

Ms. Wallace reported that other teachers, professional development workshops,

and the students are the biggest influences on her regarding curriculum. "Well I like to

steal from other people, who are doing thing\ that I ihinlk i /Atk ith students that help

them, things that are really solid lessons, different teachers that teach different courses

than mine, and some of that is student knowledge, ifI were, the coursework that I've

taken is so far in the past, that I think I have, all the coursework is your foundational

stuff that you have to grow beyond that or, you're not going to be at the student's level,

so I do belong to the NCTE. Ms. Wallace stated that she believed it was important to

account for individual differences among students when planning curriculum. Her

teaching philosophy incorporated personality theory. She stated that she gave students a

personality inventory and considered student personalities when designing lessons.

Ms. Wallace and Ms. Fernandez both discussed the importance of the Assistance

Plus Plan, and/or the mini-lessons associated with this state-based plan for failing

schools. Ms. Wallace lamented about the amount of instructional time lost to Assistance









Plus, noting that teachers must incorporate it into their curriculum somehow, "Jackson in

particular, because of the multiple F grades, is basically under mandate from the state to

perform under the Assistance Plus program. And so, because we are a school that has

adopted Assistance Plus, school wide, there are curricular mini-lessons that go i/th the

benchmarks that we have to do everyday. So there's a mini lesson at the beginning of

each period, so that's \,inehiiig you have to incorporate into whatever you're doing.

And so, you also have to be cognizant of that, and you don't want it to be a ten minute

vacuum at the beginning of class, you have to be able to connect it ii ith other thing\ that

you've planned, so that they can see how it all works together. So, specifically, at

Jackson, at this time and place, that's \,inwethiig that we're having to work consciously

at, integrating that... in order to teach the mini lesson, it's supposed to be ten minutes at

the beginning of class, so what that leaves me is ten minutes, 180 days, OK, that's 1800

minutes of instruction are specifically on the benchmark lessons, and that is time I do not

have to do other stuff Now, I'm not saying it's not valuable time, but it does impact how

you have to arrange the rest ofwhat you plan. So, you may have to cut out a short story,

or sometimes the benchmark assessment will bring up questions the students don't

understand and you have to go beyond your ten minutes, especially ifyou're trying to

integrate those mini lessons, trying to make them meaningful iith what you're doing

everyday, so there's going to be a lot of cross talk between here's what we do the first ten

minutes, and then here's what we're doing now, as opposed to just slicing off ten minutes

at the beginning of class, and saying that'sfor this program, and the rest of it is for what

we do, I don't think that's very smart teaching"









Because of the state's and district's emphasis on the Assistance Plus program, Ms.

Wallace uses assessment data to motivate her students, "With the mini lessons, the

benchmarks, we, in fact, I was showing them before they took the (FCAT), 'Look here are

the results from the benchmark test you took the beginning of the year, here are the

benchmarks, the first marking period, here they are at the second marking period, and

here you are now. Look how high some of these have gotten, 'and so sending them off

feeling at least that they, you know, asking them after the test, how did you feel about it,

and a lot of them, a couple of kids said, 'Well I probably didn 'tpass, but I think I did

much better than I did last year.' So, they weren't coming in all gloom and doom

thinking that they were going to die, I won't graduate high school, and some just felt

really confident. "

One recurrent theme in Ms. Fernandez' interview was the pressure and frustration

experienced by both students and teachers. Some of the frustration related to the

language barrier many of Ms. Fernandez' students faced: "And the problem was, that we

didn't get enough time for us to master the skills, and they were tested on it. So, they

were tested before they were ready, and as a result, they aren't gettingpassing scores,

because they didn't have enough time to really get it, and that touches a little bit, that

ESOL teachers are not satisfied, because you have to cover thing\ so rapidly, it was like,

boom! In a week, sometimes, and to test ESOL students on that after a semester, no way.

And we 're supposed to do those mini lessons to go parallel iith the FCA T, but it's so

hard, but now, after the FCAT, we're not just doing mini lessons, we're going to

incorporate everything in the I e i ing. going to do the literature readings, and in the









tenth grade it's easier to do that than in the ninth grade, because there's a lot of

pressure."

Both teachers stressed the challenging nature of their school environments. They

focused on the need to understand and accommodate students of different cultural

backgrounds. Both schools have experienced a growth in recent years in the number of

students from a Haitian Creole background, while Pine Crest also has a large Hispanic

student population. Ms. Wallace argues that prejudice at Jackson High School is not

based on race, but on ethnicity, "This is a school that has a very large Haitian Creole

population, where we went from one ESOL teacher to two who teach all day long, and

both of them have to be Creole speakers. We do not have a large ESOL group that

speaks Spanish; they all speak Creole, which is different. That has brought some

interesting kind of dynamics to the kids here... So when you see prejudice at Jackson, it's

native versus islander prejudice, more than it is any racial, black/white or Hispanic.

That has changed the way that you approach certain things\ because you've got kids

coming from different countries, their context is completely different than what these kids

are from. Jackson High School has a long and proud tradition in its community,

however, as it has been a fixture in the city for over 80 years. Race itself was an

important topic for Ms. Wallace, as a Caucasian teacher in a largely African American

school setting.

Ms. Fernandez, a 35 year teaching veteran in her first year teaching at Pine Ridge,

emphasized the need to focus on how to work with low level learners. Ms. Wallace also

discussed strategies for working with low level learners. Ms. Wallace, a 17 year teaching

veteran at Jackson discussed her role in what she termed the 'mama factor' at length.









"Well, many of our [students] are below grade level. So, several things. One is

personality. Sometimes kids below grade level have self-confidence issues. They've been

plowed over by their classmates. Some of it is the Mama factor. We have access in this

county to all kinds of testing information, so test score information is \ineihilig I try to

look at before I start a class. What does this class of students look like ? There are

distinct personalities in classes. That particular tenth grade class is very low. Most of

them are level one, a lot of kids came in as very low level ones. Many of them came in

way below grade level. It takes more, if you have to, ifyou're building context, you may

have to go three or steps further than a class that has more high level, two level students.

You have to build more contexts for them. You have to break down more stufffor them.

They will say, you need to break it down for us... So, in classes that are low level, I've

developed that habit over having years of low level performers, and so I try to break stuff

down, not to, 'Here's all the information you need,' but asking a lot of open, leading

questions that will get, if one of them will come through the door, because a lot of the

time, they 're very reticent to talk. Low level learners don't talk a lot in class, especially

in this class, because then you're stupid, so they've learned to shut up and be quiet. They

just don't talk, so you have to break it down and give them an opening, and once you get

one of them through the opening, then more of them are likely to jump in and say, OK

that's not a scary place, I can do that."

Getting to know her students is important to Ms. Wallace. She explained that: "A

lot of it is bedrock stuff that I always try to do i/th classes. Get to know them as

individuals, let them see me as an individual, who wants to help them, and someone that

is trying to grow them, and basically to feeding them, and kicking them out of the nest.









When they do this, it's not my job tofly them. You've got tofly on your own. I'll show

you what you need to do to help develop your wings, but those are your wings. I'm not, I

can't be ni iih you. Your parents can't be i iih you. You have to do some things on your

own." Additionally, her teaching philosophy emphasizes visual learning, consistent with

the preferred learning styles of her students.

Ms. Fernandez stated that she could only do fun and interesting, student-centered

activities after the FCAT was done: "I would say it's [planning] different. We're going

to do more (laughs). You want to do all these literature related activities, we want to be

able to have the students participate more, more hands-on activities, they can present a

play, or write \,viehi,,,iig. that you have not had the chance to do so, because you were

getting them ready for the FCAT. There is a lot of stress there."

According to Ms. Fernandez, the FCAT drives the curriculum; "I would say it [the

FCAT] has the most influence. There 's a lot ofpressure on tenth grade teachers, you

need to be prepared for that test, you want to make sure, they know that this is going to

be on the test, but yeah, I think it has a big influence. I think it's the most important one

when you're developing curriculum."

Common Themes at Low and High Performing Schools

While there are many significant differences in teaching beliefs and perspectives

among these two groups of teachers, there were notable similarities between Ms.

Wallace, Ms. Kelly and Ms. Davis. For example, Ms. Wallace, like Ms. Kelly and Ms.

Davis, views the textbook as just one tool available to teachers. "And, I use a lot of

hiung\ from Sports Illustrated, from newspapers, so they can see thing\ in their

environment, so it's nice to have a textbook as a resource, it'sjust one tool, and so

looking for other thing\ that will help make thing\ fresh. I also like to use... the Alpha









Smart keyboard, which they have responded to beautifully, and in fact, watching them

I I, Ik i ilth them, since I've kind of leaned on them hard, knowing that they had FCAT

writing coming up, and I saw how positively they responded to it... And so, I found that

letting go of the death grip of the textbook is helpful, letting go, the kind of at least for

English teachers, 'Thou shall start at the front of the chronology of whatever literature

you're doing andproceed towards the end, 'you know, getting rid of that and \, /ing.

screw that, let's look at it thematically, so thematic stuff is just very helpful. So again,

there are changes in practice and changes in philosophy. Like Ms. Kelly, she

incorporated technology into the classroom. She expressed a strong confidence, or

efficacy, in her abilities as a teacher, whereas Ms. Fernandez expressed very moderate

confidence in her abilities as a teacher, "You can always help [students learn]. How

much you help, it's hard to tell. There are a lot of students [who] are passive, but they

are gaining a lot of knowledge, they just don feell comfortable in ,par -tiLilpting. so it's

hard for you to tell how much you have influence, but you do, I think you get through to a

certain level. "

Ms. Wallace stressed the need for teachers to make the curriculum relevant to

students' needs. In order to do this, she ties every lesson or activity she can into some

context that her students can relate to. "There are some thing\ that they [students] don't

have. In many cases, they don't have a context for what we're discussing, especially

when we get into literature, and sometimes as they come in from other places, and so, if

there's dead air there, I can't make the assumption that whatever I present to them is

\,iieth'ling they can immediately connect to. So, I'm often having to do a lot of analogies,









I teach a great deal by analogy, trying to relate what we're / iit li/,,. what we're

discussing, /i ith thing that will be familiar to them in their regular, everyday context."

Each of the four participants referred to the pressure placed on teachers and

students because of the FCAT. Each of the participants described the extent of school

administrators' involvement with curriculum, annual evaluations, and the FCAT. Ms.

Wallace, at Jackson, characterized her administration and others at the school as very

involved in curriculum decisions, "As principal, (he) is one of the first principals I've

worked i iith who is very clear about instruction being job one, and having that be the

focus of what we talk about at faculty meetings, which is a different flavor in a principal,

because I know a lot ofprincipals, you go to a faculty meeting, and it's all about

discipline, stuffyou got to do, he, he's in a difficult position because of the multiple F

grades, and so, unfortunately, he has to do, he gets called off campus a lot, which is one

of the great ironies of being an F school, is that it's vital to have a strong instructional

leader, but they spend most of the time taking your instructional leader off campus to go

to meetings, so OK, this makes sense in what universe, please? So, um, as far as

curriculum goes, he sets the overall tone and expectations. The API (Assistant Principal

for Instruction) is the person who puts a lot of that stuff to work in how the classes are

scheduled, which teachers are assigned which groups based on assessment of \n 'gth\,

etc, as far as what goes on in the actual classroom, there's discussions all up and down,

11 ith that group, u i th input from people, like the learning resource specialist, and we also

have a reading coach, a math coach, and so the reading specialists are there to put out

information about reading... Expectations are set out from the principal and that's

verbal. You 'll see a lot coming from Betty, the API, about we're going to do this, she and









I have conversations, I go in there as department chair asking questions, how do you

want to look at how we do X Y, and Z, in terms of a group of students or a particular

course? Sometimes, teachers have discussed who is the strongest to help develop this

particular kind of thiig in ith the students. So, a lot of conversations, but some of it is

informal, some of it is actual planning. "

Ms. Fernandez referred to pressure coming from the school's administration, "It's

the school, the administration. Because they have responsibilities to do that, and they

pass it to us, and we are the ones who have to carry it out i/ ith the students, and then the

pressure is, OK, what if they don't do well, they can blame me (laughs). You know, you

feel kind of trapped, but we do the best we can."

Ms. Davis, at a high performing school, echoed these sentiments, adding the threat

of job loss for another teacher at her school, "We try at our school, each department is

responsible for one benchmark area that would tie nicely into what they teach, so that

social studies is responsible for the kids in reference and research, science is responsible

for reasoning and the main idea, so we have more of that push here, and again, I'm not

sure if it will be evaluated, but um, a very stern look came across the principal a couple

weeks ago i/ ith an English teacher, explaining to this person that if they didn't show

improvement in FCAT, no matter how much they disagree i/ ith the test, no matter how

much they thought standardized tests are baloney, no matter how much they were

irritated by the fact that they have to have students [who] cannot read, um, when

springtime comes, they will not find ajob anywhere in the county. So, that was kind of an

eye opener.









Ms. Kelly characterizes administrative involvement in the curriculum at her school

as based on: "a lot of teamwork, and a lot of trust to make sure that, I think that's how it

all trickles down. The department head will translate it down to us, but they rely a lot on

him to have the same expectations for curriculum that they have as well. It works for

us. At the same time, administrative expectations at Athens High School are not

completely devoid of FCAT influence, "Do I think that it's (teacher evaluations) solely

based on FCATscores? No, but I think n hai t they're looking at is the teacher 's

performance throughout that entire year, and then here's where 1teir FCA T scores are,

and then maybe they need to change ,oimhing up for next year. In that respect, I know

that we have a teacher here whose students performed well on the FCAT, and so they

wanted him to teach all tenth grade regular this year because he would do the same thing

i ilth them. And you wouldn't be making me feel great, by asking me to teach five classes

a day of tenth grade regular students who are unmotivated. It's scary... I think ifyou ask

administration, they would tell you, not very much. I think from my own personal,

wanting to have done well, and feeling as though I reached them in a way that I need to

reach them, I think it does (make) a big deal. "

Research Question 4) What Is the Correspondence among Teachers' Beliefs and
Instructional Practices at the High Performing and Low Performing Schools?

Emergent codes generated from analysis of observations corresponded with the

attitudes, beliefs and perspectives that emerged during interviews with the teachers at the

high performing schools, as reflected in transcripts of these interviews. Among these

four participants, teacher beliefs and instructional practices generally corresponded

(Table 4.3). However, there were differences between the emergent themes among high

and low performing school teachers. Both high performing school teachers believed in,









and modeled student-centered teaching and learning than teacher centered approaches.

Both low performing school teachers believed in, and modeled more teacher-centered

teaching and learning styles more often than student-centered practices.

Additionally, the emphasis on the FCAT evident, both in belief and practice,

among both participants from low performing schools, stands in contrast to the lack of

emphasis on the FCAT, again both in belief and practice, among both participants from

high performing schools.

Table 4-3. Emergent themes from analysis of observations and interviews
Observations Interviews
Athens HS *Student-directed activities *Open view of curriculum
*Positive environment Student-centered teaching
*Student choice and learning
*Emphasis on reading *Little focus on FCAT
*High teacher efficacy
*Use of technology
*Rapport with students

Hamilton HS *Student-directed activities *Practical teaching
*Positive environment *Literacy and language
*Student choices skills emphasized
*Emphasis on reading *Student influence on
*Teacher provides guidance, curriculum
scaffolding *Move away from texts
*Rapport *County assessments seen
*Little discussion of FCAT as a hindrance
Observations
Jackson HS *Teacher-directed activities *Mama factor
*Emphasis on FCAT *Nature of, and changes to,
*High efficacy the school environment
*Low level of student participation *FCAT
*Assistance Plus Program

Pine Crest HS *Teacher-directed activities *Emphasis on low level
*Emphasis on FCAT learners
*Low level learning activities *Cultural differences
*Negative classroom environment *Top-down curriculum
*F grade for the school









High Performing Schools

Both Ms. Davis at Hamilton HS and Ms. Kelly at Athens HS frequently included

students into the curriculum design and implementation process, as noted in the number

of minutes engaged in student-directed activities in Table 4.1 earlier. During their

interviews, these teachers described why it was important to incorporate students'

interests and needs in the curriculum decisions they make. Another theme that emerged

during observations and their interviews was a practice and a belief that reading skills

should be emphasized during classroom instruction but that the FCAT should be de-

emphasized.

Low Performing Schools

There was a correspondence among low performing school teachers'. Both of the

teachers reported and practiced teacher-centered teaching and learning. As indicated in

Table 4.1, there was no time spent in student-directed activities. Teaching and learning

were exclusively teacher-directed. This practice was reflected in their beliefs, as Ms.

Wallace referred often in her interview to what she termed the "Mama factor," the need

to guide and direct teaching and learning based on what she perceived to be her students'

needs. During the interview, Ms. Fernandez reported that she believed in using a top-

down curriculum. Her belief was consistent with her lesson planning activities.

Additionally, the FCAT, as well as the school grading formula, were significant

influences on both beliefs and practices among both teachers at low performing schools.

Both mentioned the FCAT, the Assistance Plus Program, and/or its mini lessons,

frequently during interviews. Much of their classroom activities centered on planning for

the FCAT, focusing on the benchmarks, and discussing the FCAT itself with students

somewhat regularly.









Research Question #5) What Is the Correspondence Between Teacher Self-Reported
Beliefs, Interview Responses and Instructional Practices at the High and Low
Performing High Schools?

By incorporating the TBPS in this study, the attitudes and beliefs of other teachers

at each school, apart from the four participants, were measured. Survey findings from the

TBPS helped establish the extent to which certain attitudes and beliefs regarding teaching

and learning are present within schools.

Reliability measures for each of the four subsets of questions on the TBPS yielded

moderately strong alpha scores, ranging from .50 to .75. The reliability coefficient for

the 30 teacher-centered items yielded alpha = .83; for the 30 student-centered items, the

alpha score was .80. The range of mean scores reported for the teacher centered items

was 3.28; with a minimum of 1.22 and a maximum score of 4.5. For the student-centered

items, the mean score was 1.71. The minimum score was 3.08 and the maximum score

was 4.79.

The item analysis revealed four questions which yielded statistically significant

differences in scores, when controlling for school. For each of these measures, a

Pearson's R correlation coefficient was calculated. These correlation coefficients ranged

from 0.36 to 0.54. Those four questions are: 17) "I assess student learning because

teaching and assessing are intertwined." 25) "I believe that my expectations for learner

outcomes are implicit." 35) "When I ask learners questions, their responses typically

require a short, factual answer." and 42) "My teaching is guided by instructional

strategies that emphasize what learners should know." The R scores for each of these

questions are shown here in Table 4.4:









Table 4-4. Pearson's R correlation coefficient scores for statistically significant items
between respondents from different schools on the TBPS
Pearson's R Significance

Item 17 0.434 0.05

Item 25 0.408 0.05

Item 35 0.406 0.05

Item 42 0.542 0.05

Examination of respondents scores to each of these five questions broken, sorted by

school illustrates the nature of differences. Item 17, "I assess student learning because

teaching and assessing are intertwined" reveals teacher attitudes towards the relationship

between teaching and assessment. On the TBPS, this was one of the student-centered

questions. All of the respondents from Hamilton HS, a high performing school, and Pine

Crest HS, a low performing school, answered this item "highly agree." The respondents

from Jackson HS and Athens HS were less cohesive in their answers, all of them ranging

from "neutral" to "highly agree." This suggests that the relationship between teaching

and assessing is more strongly perceived among language arts teachers at Hamilton HS

and Pine Crest HS than it is perceived among language arts teachers who teach at Jackson

HS and Athens HS.

Item 25, "I believe that my expectations for learner outcomes are implicit," was

indicative of significant differences between respondents from high and low performing

schools. This teacher-centered item was rated by 79% of the respondents from the high

performing schools as somewhere between "highly disagree" and "neutral." Whereas,

80% of respondents from low performing schools rated this item either "agree" or

"highly agree." This suggests that language arts teachers at high performing schools do









not believe in making learning expectations implicit, but rather that they believe in

explicitly stating their expectations for student learning.

For item 35, "When I ask learners questions, their responses typically require a

short, factual answer," there was a slight difference between high performing and low

performing schools. This teacher-centered question was rated as "highly disagree" by

71% of respondents from high performing schools, whereas only 25% of respondents

from low performing schools rated it the same. A majority of respondents from low

performing schools, however, did rate this item "disagree." Given the low number of

responses to this survey, especially from Athens HS and Pine Crest HS, this anomaly

may not be meaningful, although it is statistically significant. Yet, it does suggest that

language arts teachers at high performing schools place greater emphasis on generating

higher order thinking skills among their students.

Item 42, "My teaching is guided by instructional strategies that emphasize what

learners should know," showed significant differences in responses among teachers from

high and low performing schools. For this teacher-centered question, 71% of respondents

at high performing schools rated this item either "disagree" or "neutral." In contrast,

93% of respondents from low performing schools rated this item either "agree" or

"highly agree." Given differences based on observation and interview data, this type of

disagreement between teachers at high and low performing schools is consistent, in that

teachers at low performing schools were more heavily influenced by outside factors

(notably, the State) with respect to curriculum and instructional decisions.

For the vast majority of TBPS items, there were not statistically significant

differences between teachers at high and low performing schools, suggesting that teacher









attitudes and beliefs were not significantly different. With few exceptions, the teachers'

ratings of TBPS items did not seem to be indicative of the differences observed in

instructional practices or expressed during the interviews among teachers in high

performing and low performing schools.

Summary

Classroom observations, teacher interviews, and selected results of the TBPS

showed that the practices and beliefs of teachers at high performing schools differ from

the practices and beliefs of teachers at low performing schools. Classroom observations

showed that participants at high performing schools utilized more student-centered

instructional practices and learning methods, and emphasized outside reading among

their students. Teacher interviews showed that these practices were reflected in teacher

beliefs among high performing schools. Analysis of emergent themes from both

observations and interviews showed that teacher beliefs and practices among participants

from both high performing and low performing schools held somewhat consistent,

although there were significant differences between these two groups of teachers, both in

teacher beliefs and teacher practices. Additionally, teacher interviews showed that

teachers at low performing schools consider the FCAT much more heavily in curriculum-

related issues than their counterparts at high performing schools.

Results of the TBPS were less conclusive, in that teachers from all four schools

responded similarly across most items on this questionnaire. However, two items on this

survey did generate statistically significant differences in responses that fell along the

lines of high and low performing school. These two items were, "I believe that my

expectations for learner outcomes are explicit" and "My teaching is guided by

instructional strategies that emphasize what learners should know." These differences






82


indicate that teachers at high performing schools are more explicit in stating their

learning expectations for their students, and that teachers at high performing schools

might be less driven by outside influences regarding curriculum in their classrooms. This

last finding is consistent with data gathered from both observations and interviews, in that

teachers at high performing schools emphasized practical teaching and learning, and de-

emphasized testing, the FCAT, the Sunshine State Standards, and other assessments..














CHAPTER 5
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION

The purpose of this study was to understand how teachers' instructional beliefs and

practices differed among at-risk students in high and low performing schools. The

purpose of this chapter is to provide a summary of the findings, to describe the

implications of this study, and to provide suggestions for further study.

Summary

Relationship between FCAT scores and outside factors

An analysis of data from the 2003 tenth grade FCAT Reading scores shows that

student race and SES account for 52% of the variance in these scores statewide (Peabody,

2004, unpublished). This analysis also revealed that there were wide variances in FCAT

performance among schools with large numbers of low income and/or minority students.

In 2004 this performance gap between low performing schools and high performing

schools was similar among the four schools that participated in this study.

Instructional Practices

Student-led activities were common during the observations in classrooms at high

performing schools. Overall, student-led activities were observed on average 46% of the

time in the high performing schools. In contrast, observations of learning activities in

low performing school classrooms revealed that instruction was exclusively teacher-led.

In the student-directed activities at the high-performing schools outside reading

assignments were emphasized. At the low performing schools there was a heavy

emphasis on FCAT-related learning activities. At high performing schools the FCAT was









rarely mentioned by teachers or by students. Learning activities stressed teaching and

learning higher order thinking skills. Also, students frequently appeared to be having fun

while learning in high performing schools. Students in low performing schools appeared

to be passive recipients of knowledge. Most of the assigned work that was observed in

low performing schools consisted of seat work that was explicitly tied to the FCAT and

its benchmarks. Teachers in low performing schools attempted to engage their students

in the lessons and activities by asking thought-provoking questions or by trying to relate

the lesson materials to some context of interest to students. Their efforts were met with

mixed success, because several students were tuned out and/or did not participate in the

lesson.

In high performing schools, students remained attentive. As show in Table 4.2 on

page 52, the average number of teacher reprimands was 1.3 per observed period, across

the two high performing schools. Off-task behavior was more pervasive in low

performing schools; the average number of teacher reprimands was 2.3 per observed

period. Teachers in high performing schools demonstrated more rapport with their

students when compared to teachers in low performing schools. Students in high

performing schools were demonstrably more involved in the day to day operations of the

class. Many of them had opportunities to speak before the class or lead the class in some

other meaningful way. Similar opportunities did not occur in low performing classrooms.

Student behavior in low performing schools alternated between quiet and passive

and loud and disruptive. Inattentive or other off-task behavior, such as putting one's head

down occurred with greater frequency among students in low performing schools than

among students in high performing schools. Cell phones, CD players, and other









electronic devices were utilized with greater frequency for non-instructional purposes

among students in the low performing schools. However, these devices were not used

among students in high performing school classrooms.

Teaching beyond the textbook was a normative practice in high performing

schools. The teachers utilized resources, such as computer technology, and/or outside

props, to relate the content in ways that catered to students' interests and/or made

learning more fun and interesting.

Instructional Beliefs

The TBPS was given to all English/Language Arts or ESOL teachers at each of the

four participating schools. Almost half (n=31) of the eligible respondents completed the

survey. Across many of the TBPS items there were no statistically significant differences

between high performing and low performing school teachers. However, a majority of

teachers in high performing schools held some significantly different attitudes in

comparison with teachers at low performing schools. These findings showed that

teachers at high performing schools are (a) more likely to eschew abstract and/or outside

forces when making curriculum decisions for their students and instead focus on practical

teaching and learning, and (b) more likely to make their expectations for student learning

explicit, rather than implicit.

The interview data revealed that teachers in high performing schools viewed their

role as more inclusive than preparing students for the FCAT. These teachers and their

students rarely mentioned the FCAT in class. During their interviews the teachers

reported that the FCAT was not a focal point of their curriculum. In contrast, the FCAT

was a common topic during classroom instruction and in interviews among the teacher

participants at low performing schools. These teachers talked about how they used the









state-developed Assistance Plus Plan and the mini-lessons. These participants

emphasized the importance of standardized testing, Assistance Plus assessments and

related topics. Additionally, teachers reported a high level of frustration in dealing with

these extra mandates. Low performing school teacher participants also discussed the

concerns they held about their schools having received an F grade in 2004.

Teachers at the high performing schools emphasized the importance of providing

students with choices in the teaching and learning process and giving students

opportunities to lead classroom learning activities. These teachers saw the curriculum as

a flexible, reciprocal entity. They made changes when students' learning needs required

accommodations. Consistent with the state oversight in the low performing school

curriculum, both teachers in this study viewed the curriculum as more top-down.

Teachers at high performing schools asserted that students were the biggest

influence in their curriculum planning. In contrast, students' needs were not mentioned

as an important factor in curriculum planning by low performing school teachers. One of

the low performing school teachers mentioned the FCAT benchmarks were a driving

force in the curriculum.

Teachers at high performing schools had a high degree of efficacy. They believed

that they were effective teachers and capable of teaching whatever skills are needed. One

of the teachers at low performing schools expressed similar sentiments; however the

other teacher suggested that her effectiveness was limited.

Teachers at the high performing schools held a practical view of teaching and

learning. They hoped to make the curriculum student-friendly, as well useful to students'

present and future needs. Three of the four participants emphasized getting to know their









students as quickly as possible, including both teachers at high performing schools. In

contrast, both low performing school teachers described the cultural differences among

their student body and how cultural diversity made it difficult to overcome having

received a failing grade. Additionally, teachers at the low performing schools talked

about the specialized instruction needed to reach low level learners.

Two themes were shared by all four teachers in their interviews. All of the

participants mentioned the pressure that the tenth grade FCAT placed on students and

teachers. Additionally, they discussed the nature of administrative involvement in

classroom curriculum, although each teacher characterized the extent and nature of this

involvement differently.

Congruence Between Teacher Practices and Teacher Beliefs

Emergent themes from both the interviews and the observations showed a

consistency between teachers' belief and practices among each of the participants.

However, teachers at high performing and low performing schools demonstrated

particularistic differences in their beliefs and practices. Teachers at high performing

schools stated they placed importance on student-centered instruction and learning. Their

actions in the classroom reflect these beliefs. In contrast, teachers at low performing

schools indicated more of a preference for teacher-centered teaching and learning. Their

classroom instructional actions were consistent with these beliefs.

Participant teachers at high performing schools also emphasized the need to teach

reading and writing skills for their intrinsic value. Their classroom instructional practices

were consistent with these beliefs. Low performing school teachers described the

importance of teaching to ensure improved FCAT outcomes. Their classroom

instructional practices reflected this emphasis.









Implications

In the current environment of high-stakes testing in Florida, teaching tenth grade

English in a public high school in Florida is rife with pressure and opportunity for teacher

and student alike. Using the information obtained through interviews, observations, and

surveys there were clear differences in instructional practices between teachers in the

high performing schools and the low performing schools. The wide range of instructional

practice may shed light on why there were widely different levels of performance on the

same test, by students from similar racial and socio-economic backgrounds, in the same

district.

In the high performing schools, teachers emphasized the use of outside reading

activities in the curriculum. Teachers in these settings reported little direct, outside

influence into their classroom curricular decisions. These teachers found ways to involve

students in curriculum design and implementation, arguably making reading more

enjoyable and fun for students, without losing sight on developing their literacy skills.

These activities were not developed with the FCAT in mind, nonetheless students

achieved the benchmarks set by the state and measured on the FCAT. Students are held

accountable for completing these reading assignments. The findings suggest that in both

high performing school classrooms that the outside reading assignments and other

projects related to language arts are significant factors in determining student grades.

The findings in this study confirm the theory that the presence of the FCAT has

affected the curriculum. Low performing school teachers demonstrated the impact of the

FCAT and its benchmarks in their daily teaching in the interviews and classroom

observations. Some influence was probably due to outside pressure placed on these

schools to increase performance. Additionally, both the state and the school district had









taken some control of the curriculum away from classroom teachers and mandated them

to focus on assessments and mini-lessons. This practice might have been counter-

productive because of limited teacher freedom to engender student interest. In essence,

as state-imposed mandates increased, students at low performing schools were less likely

to develop literacy skills based upon their intrinsic value. External mandates do not help

students internalize the motivation to learn to read and write or develop literacy skills as

fully or successfully as students who can enjoy reading and writing for its own intrinsic

value (Davis & Weber, 1998).

The observations confirmed the second and third theories presented in Chapter 1.

First, teachers in high performing schools are more likely to utilize learner-centered

teaching models. In both of the high performing schools, the teachers gave students

opportunities to plan and carry out lesson plans related to the curriculum. These

assignments fostered higher order thinking skills among students because they were

required to analyze, interpret and synthesize information on their own before presenting it

to the class. Second, the methods of teaching utilized by high performing school teachers

corresponded with the social and personal models of teaching described by Joyce and

Calhoun (1996), unlike the behavioral methods of teaching utilized by low performing

school teachers. The curriculum in the high performing schools was co-constructed with

the students. In the low performing schools, the curriculum was teacher-directed and

explicitly tied to the benchmarks measured by the FCAT.

The findings suggest that the state and school district would be better served if they

focused their efforts on developing the literacy skills of low performing school students.

This is not to say that teachers and students in low performing schools should not be held









accountable for their test scores. The implication is that the state's decision making

authority, with regards to classroom lesson planning, is more likely to produce the

improvements in literacy among low performing schools if the schools themselves had

greater freedom to plan and develop curriculum, as exists in the high performing schools.

This suggestion is consistent with Ross' (2003) finding that an emphasis on testing

results actually lowers student academic performance and increases dropout rates.

Teachers at low performing schools should emphasize outside reading activities to

develop student literacy. Teachers in such settings should strive to get students more

involved in lesson planning and curriculum activities. Generating interest in reading and

writing on their own, without emphasizing the FCAT would engender student-centered

instruction and learning in low performing schools. This practice would likely lead to

more developed literacy skills and improved standardized test scores (Davis and Weber,

1998; Gay, 1994; Kordalewski, 2000; Luker, Cobb and Luker, 2001; Stiggins, 2002).

Teachers at low performing schools should be given access to, and training in

instructional strategies that focus on ways to get students motivated and excited about

reading and writing. Perhaps it is ironic that the classes which have the history of better

performance on the FCAT are those classes in which instruction is less focused on the

benchmarks or the test itself. The pressure of the FCAT, a recurring theme of this study,

might be alleviated in the low performing schools if all stakeholders in low performing

schools, including students, teachers, administrators, and policymakers, placed less

emphasis on the test and more emphasis on teaching and learning literacy skills

(Allington, 2004; Lewin, 2003).









Suggestions for Further Study

The results of this study suggest that in part, student performance on the FCAT

Reading test can be explained partially by the amount and nature of reading assignments

given to students, the amount of attention students and teachers spend directly focused on

the FCAT, and student input on teaching and learning decisions made in their classrooms.

Recommendations for further study include:

1. Examining the amount and nature of reading assignments given to tenth graders by
their teachers in a variety of classroom settings in Florida,

2. Examining the relationship between student-directed teaching and learning and
student literacy,

3. Examining the efficacy of policy decisions made by states with low performing
schools, with an eye towards increasing the success rates at "turning those schools
around," and

4. Examining what factors, apart from outside factors such as race and SES, and
classroom teaching and learning, impact FCAT scores.

Teaching Reading

The results of this study suggest that the methods teachers use to teach reading and

writing have a great impact on students' FCAT scores. Further investigation of the

teaching practices specifically related to teaching literacy skills is recommended. This

study focused exclusively on tenth grade classrooms because of the weight of the tenth

grade FCAT. Further studies in Florida could examine teaching methods of teachers

from grades 3 through 10, and correlate these methods with the performance of students

on the FCAT. Further studies should include a correlation of these teaching methods

with performance on other standardized measures such as the SAT.