Defying the Odds

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Defying the Odds A Case Study of a Title 1 Middle School's Sharp Increase in Reading and Writing Proficiency for Free and Reduced Lunch Students
Goff, Lauren C
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University of Florida
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Doctorate ( Ed.D.)
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University of Florida
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Curriculum and Instruction
Teaching and Learning
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achievement -- literacy -- reading -- writing
Teaching and Learning -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
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Curriculum and Instruction thesis, Ed.D.


While all students can achieve at high levels, high poverty schools tend to be associated with low achievement across the nation. This qualitative case study sought to identify the factors that led to one Title 1 school's significant increase in reading and writing proficiency for their students who received free and reduced lunch. Three reading and writing teachers and the principal of the school were selected, and data was analyzed following the three interviews that were conducted with each participant. The findings of the study revealed two primary factors in the school's increase in reading and writing proficiency: embedded professional development and instructional factors, specifically holding both teachers and students to high expectations, building relationships and building trust, modeling quality writing, encouraging student personal response, allowing student choice, requiring prewriting, and providing differentiated instruction. It is hoped that the results of this study will encouraged sustained professional development within schools and promote best practice in literacy instruction for all students. ( en )
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Thesis (Ed.D.)--University of Florida, 2017.
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by Lauren C Goff.

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2017 Lauren Goff


This study is dedicated to my husband, Chase. Without your constant support and encouragement, this would not have been possible. We make a great team.


4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS While the letters, Ed.D., will ultimately be placed only after my name as an outcome of this process, this accomplishment was the result of co nsistent encouragement from those who have loved and supported me throughout this four year journey. First, I would like to thank God for giving me the passion for equity in education and the compassion for all students. If my work as a practitioner schola r can in any way bring Him glory, my time in the classroom has been well spent. I would like to thank my family. To my husband, Chase: Four years ago, I had a crazy idea to pursue a doctoral degree without much justification outside of being passionate abo ut this profession. Most spouses would have hesitated without having a clear path to where this degree would actually take me, but you never even blinked. You have trusted me and supported me throughout this program, and I could not have done it without you leading our home as you do. I love you. To my sons, Maddux and Ryder: Your mommy has spent your entire lives thus far working toward this moment. While there is no doubt that you have had to make sacrifices at various points in order for Mommy to wor k or study, I hope you know that all the work I do is for you. You are too young to see it now, but one day I hope you will view this degree as motivation to pursue your passions and never stop learning. As proud as I am of myself in this moment, you are my greatest accomplishment. I love you, sons. To my late father in law, Cecil: You were always my biggest cheerleader throughout this process. Your dedication to hard work and excellence largely inspired me to pursue this degree, and even though it was f rom the wrong SEC school, you never once let me forget how proud you were of me for doing this.


5 To my parents, Leigh Ann, Kevin, and Kathy: You never let me forget how proud you are of me, especially throughout this process. You set the example of hard wor k and high achievement for me early on, and that is one of the reasons I am here today. To my principal: I can never thank you enough for welcoming me into your school and allowing me to pry into your work. DCMS has been my refuge and served as a reminder of why I I would also like to thank my doctoral committee. Dr. Elizabeth Bondy, committee chairperson: Without your support and expertise, this would not have been possible. I knew from the first moment I heard you speak about equity in education that I wanted you as a mentor. Your passion is contagious, and if I make a fraction of would consider my career a successful one. Thank you for your constant encouragement and unshakable patience with me throughout this process. Dr. Vicki Vescio: Your dedication to critical pedagogy is inspiring. I have been shaped by your wisdom and guidance m ore than nearly anyone else in this field. I am grateful for your support throughout this program and especially on this final leg of the journey. Your passion for equity is contagious, and I am forever grateful I caught the bug. Dr. Angela Kohnen and Dr Patricia Ashton: Thank you both for the support and encouragement in this process. I am grateful for your insight and expertise. Thank you for your willingness to support me in this endeavor and serve on my doctoral committee. And finally, th ank you to all of my students. Every single one of you have impacte d me in such a tremendous way. You are my inspiration, and I love you more than you will ever truly know.


6 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 4 LIST OF TABLES ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... 8 LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 9 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 10 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY ................................ ................................ ..................... 12 Background of the Study ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 13 Purpose of the Study and Research Question ................................ ................................ ......... 16 Significance of the Study ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 17 Relevant Literature ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 18 Effective Instruction for Struggling Adolescent Readers ................................ ................ 19 Word study ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 20 Fluency ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 21 Vocabulary ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 22 Comprehension ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 22 Motivation ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 23 Summary of effective reading strategies for adolescents ................................ ......... 24 Effective Instruction for Struggling Adolescent Writers ................................ ................. 24 Writing strategy instruction ................................ ................................ ...................... 27 Summarization ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 28 Peer assistance ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 28 Setting product goals ................................ ................................ ................................ 28 Word processing ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 29 Sentence combining ................................ ................................ ................................ 29 Summary of effective writing instruction for adolescents ................................ ....... 30 The Impact of Student Engagement on Literacy Proficiency ................................ .......... 30 Research Methods ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 32 Context ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................ 33 Participants ................................ ................................ ................................ ...................... 34 Data Collection ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 35 Interview 1: Establishing background ................................ ................................ ...... 37 Interview 2: Digg ing into instruction ................................ ................................ ....... 38 Interview 3: Digging into instruction of low income students ................................ 39 Data Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 40 Researcher Positionality ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 41 Enhancing Trustworthiness ................................ ................................ ............................. 42 Summary and Overview ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 44


7 2 FINDINGS ................................ ................................ ................................ .............................. 45 Finding #1: Instructional Strategies ................................ ................................ ........................ 45 Holding Teachers and Students to High Expectations ................................ .................... 46 Building Relationships, Building Trust ................................ ................................ ........... 48 Modeling Quality Writing ................................ ................................ ............................... 51 Encouraging student personal response ................................ ................................ ... 53 Allowing student choice ................................ ................................ ........................... 55 Requiring Prewriting ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 56 Providing Differentiated Instruction ................................ ................................ ................ 57 Finding #2: Embedded Professional Development ................................ ................................ 58 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ .............................. 63 3 DISCUSSION ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 65 Contributions to Literature ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 66 S etting High Expectations for All Students is an Important Predictor of Literacy Success for Students Living in Poverty ................................ ................................ ....... 66 Modeling, Choice, and Differentiation Are All Valuable Instructional Strategies in Improving Literacy Achievement ................................ ................................ ................ 68 Implications for Practice ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 69 Implications for School Administrators ................................ ................................ .......... 69 Implications for District Administrators ................................ ................................ ......... 72 Implications for Teachers ................................ ................................ ................................ 74 Next Steps ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................... 76 APPENDIX A ORGANIZATION OF DATA ................................ ................................ ................................ 81 B SCORING RUBRIC FOR KENTUCKY ON DEMAND WRITING ................................ ... 83 C EIGHT ENGAGING QUALITIES OF WORK ................................ ................................ ..... 85 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 89 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 94


8 LIST OF TABLES Table page A 1 Data organized by int erview question and participants. ................................ ........................ 81 A 2 Data organized by theme across participants ................................ ................................ ......... 82


9 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 1 1 DCMS state accountability scores for all student s, grade 8. ................................ .................. 13 1 2 DCMS state accountability scores for FRL students, grade 8. ................................ ............... 14 1 3 DCMS state reading and writing scores for FRL students, grade 8. ................................ ...... 15 1 4 State, district, and school reading and writing scores for FRL students, grade 8. .................. 16


10 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 Education DEFYING THE ODDS: A CASE STUDY OF A TITLE I SHARP INCREASE IN READING AND WRITING PROFICIENCY FOR FREE AND REDUCED LUNCH STUDENTS By Lauren Goff December 2017 Chair: Elizabeth Bondy Major: Curriculum and Instruction While all students can achieve at high levels, high poverty schools across the nation tend to be associated with low achievement. T his qualitative case study sought to identify the factors that led to one Title I students who received free and reduced lunch. Three reading and writing teachers and the principal of the school were selected and interviewed three times during a one month period in late spring of 2017 increase in reading and writing proficiency The first relevant and embedded professional development refers to the quality of professional learning offered to participants and its perceived impact on student achievement. The second instructional factors, refers to the practices the participants described as having the most sig nificant impact on student achievement in reading and writing. These included holding both teachers and students to high expectations, building relationships and building trust, modeling quality writing, encouraging student personal response, allowing stud ent choice, requiring prewriting, and providing differentiated instruction. The findings confirm the literature about the importance of setting high academic expectations, especially for students living in poverty. The findings also confirm the valuable i mpact


11 modeling, student choice, and differentiation have on student achievement in reading and writing, and suggest two instructional strategies that have not yet been examined. These include student personal response and requiring prewriting The study ha s implications for the ways in which school leaders and school districts enact professional development. The findings also have implications for effective instruction in reading and writing classroom. T he results of this study will hopefully encourage sus tained professional development within schools and promote best practice in literacy instruction for all students.


12 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY Schools that serve low income students tend to have lower standardized test scores than high income sch achievement (Bhattacharya, 2010). While there is a correlation between the socioeconomic status (SES) of students and their achievement on standardized tests, the relationship is not a causal one (Bhattacharya, 2010; Gorski, 2012; Gorksi, 2013). This indicates that children and families who live in poverty do not have inherent characteristics that make them less likely to achieve academic success. Rather, the decreased likelihood for ac ademic success can be attributed to other factors, including the practices within classrooms (Gorksi, 2012). While education is often seen as a way out of poverty, the inequities experienced by students from low income families in schools only continue th e cycle of poverty and its ill effects long after high school (Hughes, 2010). There are many examples of these inequities, including the likelihood that students from low income families experience little high level instruction that encourages critical th inking and problem solving, leaving them less prepared for the workforce which increasingly entails jobs that have not even been created yet (Darling Hammond, 2010; Gorski, 2012; Hughes, 2010). Students from low income families are also more likely to hav e teachers who are less experienced and less qualified (Gorski, 2012; Hughes, 2010). However, while high poverty schools tend to be associated with lower academic achievement, there are some high poverty schools that have broken the mold (Darling Hammond, 2010). It is imperative to find out what high performing, high poverty schools are doing to not only improve achievement for all students, but particularly the achievement of the students most at risk: those living in poverty.


13 Background of the Study Dove r Cove Middle School (DCMS) is one of the schools that has defied the odds and promoted high achievement among all students, especially those receiving free or reduced lunch. DCMS is labeled a Title I school with 43.9% of the students receiving free or re duced lunch in the 2014 15 school year, while also scoring in the 95 th percentile on state accountability assessments and being labeled by the commonwealth of Kentucky as a Distinguished school for the high achievement of its students. Dover Cove, howeve r, has not always had a history of success. As recently as the 2012 13 school year, DCMS scored in the 72 nd percentile. The increase in school performance on statewide accountability measures corresponds with the increase in student proficiency in both r eading and writing scores on state assessments. Eighth grade reading proficiency on state accountability assessments at DCMS rose from 59.1 % in 2012 13 to 71.3 % in 2014 15, and writing proficiency rose from 45.7 % in 2012 13 to 63 % in 2014 15. Figure 1 1. DCMS state accountability scores for all students, grade 8. This increase is even more significant when comparing the growth to other tested areas during the same time period. Math proficiency, for example, has decreased slightly from 61.9 % in


14 2012 13 to 61.3 % in 2014 15, while social studies proficiency only increased 1.6 % from 67.4 % in 2012 13 to 69 % in 2014 15. Students who received free and reduced lunch (FRL) experienced growth in all subject areas during that time, but their growth in reading and writing was remarkable as shown in Figure 1 2. DCMS state accountability s cores for FRL students, grade 8. Based on the data in Figure 1 2, the growth in reading and writing was more significant than other subject areas. From 2012 13 to 201 4 15, reading proficiency for FRL students grew 22.2 % and writing proficiency grew 23.4 % while growth was less than 10 % in both math and social studies. received free or reduced lunch (FRL) grew at a higher rate than their peers as shown in Figure 1 3 During the 2012 13 school year, only 33.3 % of FRL students were proficient in reading, but that number grew to 60 % during the 2014 15 school year, a 26.7 % increase. T heir peers, students from families with a higher income, only grew 4.6 % in reading moving from 76.4 % during the 2012 13 school year to 81 % in 2014 15.


15 Figure 1 3. DCMS state reading and writing scores for FRL students, grade 8. Writing scores at DCMS saw similar gains for FRL students. Figure 1 3 shows the improvement in writing scores for FRL students in grade 8 compared to non FRL students. During the 2012 13 school year, 25.6 % of FRL students scored proficient, but that number grew to 49.3 % in the 2014 15 school year, which is a 23.7 % increase. Their peers grew from 59.2 % in 2012 13 to 75 % in 2014 15, which is only 15.8 % growth. The success of these FRL students extends beyond the walls of Dover Cove Middle School. During the 2012 13 school year, only 33.8 % proficient in reading compared to 38 % of students in the school district and 39.4 % of FRL students in the state of Kentucky. However, these numbers significantly shifted by the 2014 15 school year as illustrated in Figure 1 4, when 56 % of DCMS FRL students scored proficient which was a compared to the 47.3 % of FRL students in the local district and the 42.9 % in Kentucky.


16 Figure 1 4. State, district, and school reading and writing scores for FRL students, gra de 8. The gains in writing for Dover Cove Middle School FRL students were even greater as illustrated in Figure 1 4 In the 2012 13 school year, only 25.6 % of FRL students scored proficient in writing at DCMS compared to the 40.5 % in the district and 33. 7 % in Kentucky. In the 2014 15 school year, however, 49.3 % of DCMS FRL students scored proficient in writing, which was significantly higher than the 35.5 % of FRL students within the school district and the 29.6 % of FRL students within the state of Kentuck y. Purpose of the Study and Research Question To experience such considerable gains in reading a nd writing, particularly among FRL students, is uncommon. As a new English Language Arts teacher at this unusual school, I was particularly eager to understa nd the classroom practices that explain the strong literacy gains of students who too often score on the lower end of the achievement continuum. Therefore, the focus of this study was to examine how Dover Cove Middle School defied the odds of a Title I sch ool and significantly increased reading and writing proficiency among FRL students.


17 do teachers perceive to be the factors that explain the dramatic increase in reading and writing proficiency of s tudents receiving free or reduced price lunch at a Title I Significance of the Study There are many educators and administrators across the country who would love to know the secret to promoting reading and writing achievement for students who live in poverty. The opportunity gap remains a significant barrier to the success of schools serving low income students (Darling Hammond, 2010). Applebee and Langer (2009) found that although writing achievement across the United States has increase d, the opportunity gap has not narrowed and continues to negatively impact writing achievement among low income students. This lack of achievement, particularly in reading and writing, can have lasting negative effects on low income students, as well. The National Commission on Writing (2004) estimates that 90% of white collar jobs and 80% of blue collar jobs require employees to write, and businesses were spending an estimated $3.1 billion annually for writing remediation. Similarly, Kamil et al. (2008) r eport that improvements in reading proficiency across the nation are not keeping up with the increasing demands for literacy in the American workplace. It is imperative for educators and administrators to analyze schools that have defied the odds like Dove r Cove Middle School and have not only found success while also being a Title I school, but also have experienced significant growth in reading and writing achievement among their students living in poverty. The findings of this case study will serve as a guide for administrators within the local school district who have not experienced this kind of success within their own populations. Ultimately, the goal of this case study is to provide suggestions for increasing reading and writing achievement among a ll students, particularly students who receive free or reduced lunch.


18 As a first year grade 8 writing teacher at Dover Cove Middle School, the findings of this study will also enhance my instruction and help me to continue the high achievement my coworkers have cultivated in recent years. Ultimately, however, the results of this case study will most significantly benefit students who are typically marginalized. Because of the vital role literacy plays in our daily lives, providing educators insight on qual ity instructional practices in youth for future success. Relevant Literature The term literacy encompasses many modes of communication (Alvermann, 2002; Tor gesen et al. accountability systems, reading and writing proficiency is typically valued in our schools ab ove other types of literacy, such as speaking and listening. No Child Left Behind significantly increased pressure on schools to improve adolescent reading and writing proficiency which has brought some alarming trends in adolescent literacy achievement t o light. For instance, according to the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP, 2015) report, only one third of eighth graders are able to read on grade level in the United States. There is a significant amount of literature concerning re ading and writing strategies that are effective for children in early elementary grades (Foorman & Moats, 2004; Graham, McKeown, Kiuhara, & Harris, 2012), and this focus has seemingly impacted instruction in schools, which have largely concentrated on read ing and writing instruction in the early elementary grades but significantly dial back this instruction in middle and high school (Applebee & Langer, 2011; Kamil et al., 2008). While English language arts classes have been provided to adolescents, the ins truction is largely void of teaching students how to read and write. This trend may be the result of the commonly cited literature from Chall (1996) who


19 stages suggest that children learn how to read by the third grade, and from then on, their reading skills facilitate their content knowledge acquisition (Torgesen et al., 2007). However, adolescents can improve their literacy proficiency well past third grade ( Edmonds et al. 2009; Scammacca et al. 2007 ; Torgeson et al., 2007 ). In fact, Torgesen et al. (2007) claim ed that if students do not contin ue to acquire reading skills beyond the identified reading and writing instruction in middle and high school can also help students who are not proficient read ers to close the reading achievement gap between them and their peers (Torgesen et al., 2007). While the extensive research on literacy instruction in the early grades has been beneficial to the field, researchers have found the strategies used in lower gr ades do not have the same efficacy with older readers (Edmonds et al. 2009; Ma rchand Martella Martella, Modderman, Petersen, & Pan 2013). Therefore, middle and high school reading and writing teachers must find other instructional strategies outside of the elementary specific litera ture that do benefit adolescents. Effective Instruction for Struggling Adolescent Readers The current figures on reading proficiency in the United States are grim. According to the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), only 34 % of 8th graders in the nation read at or above a proficient level, and this number is lower than the previo us report only two years before (NAEP, 2015) Boardman et al. (2008) identified five general areas for effective adolescent reading instruction: word study, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and motivation. This list was formed largely based on a literacy instruction guidance document from the Center on Instruction


20 (Torgesen et al., 2007), as well as a meta analysis from Scammacca et al. (2007) in which fin dings from 31 studies on reading interventions for struggling readers are summarized. The five strategies for effective adolescent reading instruction were used as a framework for this brief literature review. Each of these strategies should be used in co njunction with one another; teaching them independently lowers the efficacy of each strategy because students benefit from instructional strategies that together look at reading from both a word level and a text level (Scammacca et al., 2007). It must als o be noted that for students who enter adolescence reading below grade level, quality instruction and significant practice in each of these areas are essential for closing the proficiency gap (Torgesen et al., 2007). Word study Word study refers to the ins tructional practices that focus on reading at the word level. Effective word study instruction includes orthography, which is the study of how letters and letter patterns combine to create words, as well as strategies for analyzing parts of a word to deco de the meaning of difficult or unknown words (Boardman et al., 2008). By instructing students on the meanings of prefixes, suffixes, inflectional endings, roots, and important vocabulary, students can break down words into meaningful parts so that the dif ficult or unknown word can be decoded. When students understand the construction and meaning of a word, their ability to comprehend text is improved, thus stressing the importance of word study. A structural analysis approach, such as multisyllabic chunki ng, is a common word study strategy that has been identified as being successful, although findings on the extent of its impact are mixed. Bhattacharya and Ehri (2004) found structural analysis to have a large effect on improved reading proficiency, but E dmonds et al. (2009) concluded that the effect is small to moderate based on the findings from two additional studies (Abbott & Berninger, 1999; Penney, 2002).


21 While Scammacca et al. (2007) agree that gains from word study intervention are small to moderat e, the instructional strategy is still highly recommended as part of successful reading intervention for adolescent readers who struggle with reading at the word level. The ability to decode words is essential for fluent reading (Boardman et al., 2008). F luency While findings on the impact of fluency instruction for adolescents is inconsistent with most suggesting small effect size (Edmonds et al., 2009; Scammacca et al., 2007; Torgesen et al., 2007), Torgesen et al. (2007) contends that the ability to rea d fluently is a significant determinant of reading comprehension, even for students in high school. Boardman et al. (2008) explain that students who read fluently spend less time and effort decoding words, which allows them to spend more time on what word s actually mean. Boardman et al. (2008) acknowledge that fluency does not cause comprehension; however, they contend it is necessary for reading proficiently. Edmonds et al. (2009) explain that the connection between fluency instruction and gains in compre hension may be a developmental relationship that decreases in efficacy with age. While fluency is mostly taught in younger grades, adolescents must continue to build their store of sight words in order to remain proficient on grade level texts, and this c an be done by having them read increasingly higher levels of text (Torgesen et al., 2007). Two recommended instructional strategies for improving fluency are repeated oral reading and non repetitive wide reading. Repeated oral reading is rereading the s ame passage aloud to improve sight word vocabulary, automaticity, and prosody (Rasinski, 2004). This learning instruction, frequent and varied exposure to newly learned words, and supervised pra Non repetitive wide reading exposes students to a variety of text types and vocabulary but should


22 (Boardman et al., 2008). Vocabular y Vocabulary knowledge is much more than simply knowing the meaning of a word. Proficient readers are word conscious, which means they understand the importance of learning s (Boardman et al., 2008). Word consciousness supports reading comprehension. struggling readers read less than proficient readers (Boardman et al., 2008; Scammacca et al., 2007). In order to develop the vocabulary of struggling readers, therefore, direct instruction in vocabulary is necessary (Boardman et al., 2008; Scammacca et al., 2007 ; Torgesen et al., 2007) and cannot be limited to looking up definitions and synonyms o f words, as is the most common form of vocabulary instruction (Ford Connors & Paratore, 2015). Definitions use language that is not easily understood by students and is uncommonly used as spoken language thereby contributing to lack of efficacy for adoles cent vocabulary instruction (Ford Connors & Paratore, 2015). Instead, multiple exposures and experiences with vocabulary words, both print and discussion based, over time is a beneficial instructional strategy (Boardman et al., 2008; Ford Connors & Parato re, 2015). By using knowledge of meaningful word parts (morphemes) and looking at the context in which the word is being used, students can infer meaning of new words as they are reading, and there is significant evidence from the literature that most new words are learned after third grade by this method (Torgesen et al., 2007). Comprehension Teaching reading comprehension strategies has a significantly large effect size (Scammacca et al., 2007). However, most 6 12 graders are not taught comprehension st rategies,


23 and this may be a result of teachers assuming students who can read the words fluently are also understanding them or teachers focusing more on the content of the reading passage than actually teaching students how to comprehend what they read (E dmonds et al., 2009). In a synthesis of effective reading instruction for middle and high school struggling readers, Edmonds et al. (2009) concluded that explicit comprehension instruction, such as question and re flect during and after reading and engaging students to become actively involved in monitoring their understanding and processing Torgesen et al. (2007) also conte nd that explicit comprehension instruction is essential for improving adolescent reading comprehension and cites specific strategies that have been found to be effective, including: up strategi es when comprehension fails; use of graphic and semantic organizers, including story maps; question generation; summarization and paraphrasing; and Motivation Motivation to read can come from either a genuine interest in the t ext, such as an intriguing novel, or a desired outcome that comes from reading the text, such as scoring well on an exam based on the content of a text (Boardman et al., 2008), but decreasing motivation to read in middle school students compared to element ary students has been widely cited (Guthrie & Davis, 2003). The more students are motivated to read, the more they read, and the more students read, the better they become at reading (Boardman et al., 2008). Struggling readers are even


24 more at risk for los ing intrinsic motivation to read (Boardman et al., 2008; Guthrie & Davis, 2003) which limits their access to content and vocabulary, as well as practice using comprehension strategies (Boardman et al., 2008). In identifying best practices for fostering rea ding motivation in the adolescent classroom, Boardman et al. (2008) cite the research of Guthrie and Humenick (2004) in which they identify goals for reading, which articulates a purpose for reading and fosters curiosity and interest in the text, 2) supporting student autonomy, which allows them to choose what they read and what activities they will participate in, 3) providing texts that are interesting to stud ents, which helps students remember and connect to what they read, and 4) increasing social interactions among students related to reading, which increases understanding of what is read. Summary of effective reading strategies for a dolescents Contrary to common beliefs about adolescent literacy, we know that not only can an adolescent increase his or her ability to comprehend texts, he or she will not graduate high school reading on grade level if reading instruction is not continued throughout middle and high school. The strategies that work with elementary students, however, may not be as effective with practice brief on effective instruction for adolescent struggling readers: word study, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and motivation. These instructional factors should be taught in conjunction with one another in order to be of the highest efficacy. Effective Instruction for Struggling Adolescent Write rs The National Commission on Writing (2004) estimates that 90% of white collar jobs and 80% of blue collar jobs require employees to write. Before Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were adopted in the United States, little emphasis had been placed on wri ting instruction


25 in previous education reform (Graham, Capizzi, Harris, Hebert, & Morphy, 2014; Graham & Harris, 2013), but with the increased focus on developing skills necessary for students to be ready for college and successful careers (Graham et al., 2014; Sundeen, 2015), a significant focus on writing appears in the current CCSS. While writing is certainly an important skill for success in both education and the workplace, the National Commission on Writing (2004) also reported that writing in the Un ited States is substandard and that businesses were spending an estimated $3.1 billion annually for writing remediation. The report claimed that writing was more neglected in American classrooms than reading and mathematics instruction. The National Ass essment of Educational Progress has further highlighted the poor quality of writing in America for over a decade by consistently reporting that well over half of the students in grades 4, 8, and 12 are below grade level proficiency in the United States (Na tional Center for Education Statistics, 2012). After the administration of a national writing assessment to 24,100 eighth graders in 2011, NAEP reported that only 27% of grade 8 students wrote at or above grade level proficiency ( NCES 2012). This was a significant drop from the previous report in 2007 that stated 33% of grade 8 students wrote at or above grade level proficiency. The results for students receiving free or reduced lunch (FRL) were even more troubling. Only 12% of students receiving FRL scored proficient or higher while 37% of non FRL students received those scores, and of the students scoring below the 25 th percentile, 67% received FRL. The National Center for Education Statistics found similar results after a national writing assessmen t was given to 24,100 eighth graders; only one in 4 students wrote proficiently based on those results (NCES, 2012). One reason for these less than desirable results is the lack of time devoted to writing instruction during a typical school day. To put it simply, students become better writers by


26 there is a 12 ample evidence middle sch ool students are not given much time to compose writing. Applebee and Langer (2011) observed writing instruction in 260 middle schools classrooms over a four year period and surveyed 1,520 teachers nationally and interviewed 138 students and 220 teachers a nd administration in five states. They found that an estimated 2.5 hours of writing instruction over a nine week period was all that took place in the average classroom in the US, and little of that writing included student composition. Instead, writing wa s reduced to short answer responses, fill in the blank activities, or copying responses from the teacher. While the teachers reported using research based instructional strategies, the students were rarely exposed to these strategies due to a lack of time devoted to writing instruction. As a response to these findings, Graham et al. (2014) conducted a more recent study in which 114 randomly selected middle school teachers responded to a survey, and the findings were similar; the researchers expressed conc ern over a lack of time devoted to writing instruction and actual student composition in the classroom. Considering these results, there is clearly a need for quality writing instruction in the United States; however, there is a shortage of research that c enters on strategies for adolescents as opposed to younger students. Graham and Perin (2007a) conducted a meta analysis of literature on writing instruction for adolescents, and they identified the following 11 instructional strategies and calculated an a verage weighted effect size for each (shown in parenthesis): strategy instruction (0.82), summarization (0.82), peer assistance (0.75), setting product goals (0.70), word processing (0.55), sentence combining (0.50), inquiry (0.32), prewriting activities ( 0.32), process writing approach (0.32), study of models (0.25), grammar instruction ( 0.32).


27 Graham and Perin (2007b) acknowledge that there may be other strategies that work but have not been studied thoroughly. They also stress the importance of imple menting these strategies together to achieve maximum efficacy instead of using them in isolation. For the purposes of this study, the six instructional strategies identified as having the highest efficacy will serve as a framework for quality writing inst ruction for adolescents. Writing s trategy i nstruction Graham and Perin (2007a) found that explicitly teaching adolescents strategies for planning, revising, and editing their writing is most effective in improving writing proficiency. These strategies can either focus on specific writing tasks or be used more broadly for all writing purposes (Graham & Perin, 2007b). For example, brainstorming is a strategy used to plan in the writing process, while a commonly taught strategy for revising is peer revision (Graham & Perin, 2007a). Ultimately, the goal is for students to eventually use the strategies independently. Most notably, Self Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) has a strong impact on 3; Graham & Perin, 2007a) and has been found to be an effective instructional strategy for both young students and adolescents, as well as students with or without learning disabilities (Hacker et al., 2015). Low income students have also experienced sign ificant growth in writing proficiency after the implementation of SRSD in writing instruction (Hacker et al., 2015). SRSD is an explicit instructional model with six stages. First, the teacher aids students in activating prior knowledge to assist understa nding of the new writing strategy. Second, the teacher discusses the strategy with students and explains why it is being taught. Third, the teacher models the strategy for the students. Fourth, the teacher asks students to memorize the steps in the writ ing strategy. Fifth, the teacher provides support on the strategy when needed as


28 the students write. Sixth, the teacher gradually removes support and students use the strategy independently (Hacker et al., 2015). Summarization When students summarize in writing what they have read or heard, they are required to think about what was most important about the information presented and have opportunities to construct new understandings of the information (Graham & Harris, 2016). Graham and Perin (2007b) foun d that both rule governed and intuition driven methods are effective when writing summaries; what is important is the practice of summarizing texts. Producing summaries allows students to practice writing concisely and accurately, thereby improving their overall writing skill (Graham & Perin, 2007a). ). Peer a ssistance Students can work collaboratively on all parts of the writing process, including planning, drafting, revising, and editing (Graham, Gillespie, & McKeown, 2013), and utilizing this instruction al strategy has a significant positive impact on the quality of adolescent writing (Graham & Perin, 2007a). In studies where the members of collaborative groups aid one another in at least one aspect of writing were compared to the work of students writing independently, the quality of writing in the collaborative group far exceeded the quality of writing of independent individuals (Graham & Perin, 2007b). Setting product g oals As with any other domain, setting goals in writing is an important step in reach ing meaningful objectives. A product goal can detail the type of writing the student is expected to produce, as well as its purpose (e.g., to inform), but it can also provide sub goals related to the structure of the text or specific details (Graham & Perin, 2007b). For example, a sub goal for a


29 product. Word p roces sing CCSS (Graham et al., 2014; Graham Gillespie, & M c K e own 2013), and the ability to use twenty first century writing tools has many advantages, especially for low achieving writers ( deleted, moved, or rewritten. It is uniformly legible and easy to read. Built in features such as spell checkers or even speech synthesis provide the writer with var (Graham & Harris, 2016, p. 364). Although word processing can aid in the writing process, Graham et al. (2014) found in a national survey on teaching writing to middle school students that many teachers do not incorporate technology as part of their writing instruction because of a lack of hardware and software in the classroom and schools. Sentence c ombining writing compared to traditional grammar instruction ( Graham Gillespie, & M c K e own 2013; gradual release of responsibility model (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983). When using this model, a teacher demonstrates how to com bine simple sentences to create more complex sentences and then instructs students to practice combining sentences before eventually being expected to apply this strategy to their own writing ( Graham Gillespie, & M c K e own 2013).


30 Summary of effective w riting instruction for a dolescents Writing proficiency is important for success beyond high school, yet schools across the nation are failing to prepare adolescents for the writing demands of the American workforce. With only one third of grade 8 students writing on grade l evel, it is imperative that effective instructional strategies for teaching writing be considered and applied in classrooms. Though there is a lack of research on this particular area of instruction, Graham and Perin (2007a) have identified several instru ctional strategies that have been found to have a positive effect on writing proficiency. The five with the highest efficacy are: writing strategy instruction, summarization, peer assistance, setting product goals, word processing, and sentence combining. The Impact of Student Engagement on Literacy Proficiency An additional factor that researchers have found to increase literacy achievement among students is student engagement (Applebee, 2002; Bhattacharya, 2010; McCarthey & Mkhize, 2013; Taylor, Pearson, Peterson, & Rodriguez, 2003). While this is not in itself an instructional strategy, it is so heavily cited in the literature, especially for its impact on the reading and writing proficiency of low income students, it must be mentioned in this review. E ncouraging active engagement in literacy instruction is a strategy critical to student achievement in both reading and writing. In fact, the literature supports cognitive engagement as being a most important factor in student literacy success, even over t he actual content that is taught (Taylor et al., 2003). Applebee (2002) cites six ways to improve student engagement in reading and writing: 1. Using higher order talk and writing about the disciplines of English 2. Ensuring cohesiveness of curriculum and instr uction 3. Using diverse perspectives to deepen discussion and enhance learning 4. Aligning curriculum with assessment 5. Scaffolding skills and strategies needed for new and difficult tasks 6. Providing special help to struggling readers and writers


31 Using higher order talk and writing as a way to engage students is especially cited in literature as a way to engage low income students and improve their success in the English classroom (Gorski, 2013; Taylor et al., 2003). However, low income students are far less likely to be assigned tasks requiring higher order thinking than other students. Although g aps in writing achievement between students living in poverty and their peers exist (Applebee & Langer, 2009) we know that students who live in poverty can still achieve under the right conditions (Bhattacharya, 2010; Gorski, 2012) When McCarthey and Mkhize (2013) specifically asked teachers how they determine what and how they will teach, they found that teachers considered their student population first, which included a consideration of the SES of their students. Unfortunately, in the classroom, teachers are often driven by implicit bias and stereotypes that go unnoticed but carry significant vels of achievement. Many attribute the low achievement of students living in poverty to a lack of interest in literacy or a lack of ability to achieve at high levels (Gorski, 2012). This, in turn, can cause teachers to lower standards for low income stu dents. Teachers who serve low income students tend to focus solely on the instruction of basic literacy skills because they assume their students cannot learn skills that require higher order thinking, such as lessons on analyzing voice and elaborating id eas (McCarthey & Mkhize, 2013). Many of these schools are also given scripted teaching materials that lack higher order thinking in lessons and learning objectives. Pressure to raise test scores and improve on accountability measures can also distract te achers in low income schools from making engagement a top priority in their classrooms (McCarthey & Mkhize, 2013). The literature reviewed stresses the importance of quality reading and writing instruction for adolescents because of the increased demand fo r reading and writing proficiency in


32 on students from low income families, it is important to identify ways schools can increase achievement for students who ar e often marginalized. While nationally, students who receive free and reduced lunch tend to lag behind their peers in reading and writing proficiency, Dover Cove Middle School seems to have found the secret to reversing this negative trend. The school ha s experienced a sharp increase in the reading and writing proficiency of all its students, but the reading and writing proficiency of students who receive free or reduced lunch has increased at an even higher rate than that of other students. With such a sharp increase in reading and writing proficiency at DCMS, the school provides the perfect setting for me to take a deeper look into what potentially could have influenced such a positive change. We know that all students can learn and achieve at high lev els regardless of income; therefore, we must look closer at the external factors, such as the instructional strategie s, that are impacting FRL students for better or worse. By reviewing literature about best practices in both reading and writing instructi on, I will be able to approach data collection and analysis with a framework that will help me to understand and interpret the strategies reported at DCMS. Research Methods Dover Cove Middle School is a Title I school with 43.9% of students receiving free or reduced lunch, yet the school ranks in the 95 th percentile in the state for student achievement. Since the 2012 13 school year, DCMS reading and writing state accountability scores have improved significantly unlike the scores in other subjects, which have not experienced significant growth during that time period. Students receiving free and reduced lunch experienced a greater increase in reading and writing achievement on accountability measures than their peers. As a new teacher at this unusual sc hool, I wondered what instructional factors


33 explained the dramatic increase in reading and writing proficiency of students receiving free or reduced price lunch at DCMS. A case study is a qualitative research methodology that seeks to explain a phenomenon in a bounded system, or case, using various sources of information (Creswell, 2013). This methodology was chosen because increased scores were limited to the students at DCMS on reading and writing standardized assessments. This case study sought to gai n insight into the instructional strategies used in reading and writing classrooms between 2011 and 2015 when the re was a notable increase in standardized test scores in both subject areas I did this by collecting and analyzing data from the ELA teachers and administrators at DCMS. Particular low income students in this Title I school. Context Dover Cove Middle School is one of four middle schools in the school district in Kentucky. During the 2014 2015 school year, DCMS was home to 625 students, 304 grade 7 students and 321 grade 8 students. The student population was mostly White at 74.7%, while 10.2% were Asian, 6.6% were Hispanic, and 4.5% were African Amer ican. Dover Cove is identified as a Title I school, and during 2014 2015, 38.9% of students received free lunch, and 5% received reduced lunch ; the teachers have no knowledge of which individual students receive these services. The school attendance rate was 96.3%, and no students were retained in grade level. There were 61 students (9.8% of the population) who were identified as English Language Learners (ELL), 52 (8.3%) students who received special education services, and 198 (31.7%) who were identifie d as Gifted and Talented (G/T), which largely includes students who have solely been identified as G/T in creativity and leadership, so this is not an accurate indicator of the students identified as specifically gifted in a content area, like reading or w riting.


34 Information on students who fit into more than one category is not available. Therefore, it is not known how many students who received free and reduced lunch also received other services (G/T, special education, or ELL). There were 39 teachers a nd seven were certified by the National Board for Professional Standards though only one of those teachers taught English content. The average student to teacher ratio was 16:1. Eight teachers were responsible for teaching reading and writing classes. Each student at DCMS was required to take a separate reading and writing class every day, so teachers were assigned only one of those content areas. A ll other middle school teacher s within the district were responsible for teaching both reading and writing standards in one class period each day Participants The findings in this case study relied heavily on interviews with participants. Here I describe the participants targeted for the study. In order to have the best informants for my research during the time period being explored, I specifically chose teacher s who taught either reading or writing during the period of improved student achievement and still work at DCMS at the time of the study. My goal was to gain their informed consent to participate in the study to gain insight into the instructional factors that they perceived account for the dramatic improvement in the literacy achievement of their low income students. The principal had served at Dover Cove Middle School for five years, beginning in t he 2012 2013 school year. He worked as a public and private accountant until 2002 when he high need area while finishing the required classes to obtain his teachi ng certificate. He taught middle school math for seven years, two of those at DCMS, before becoming an assistant principal and curriculum coordinator at a low income middle school in a neighboring town.


35 After serving in that role for two years, he became principal of that school, served for one year, and then accepted the principal position at Dover Cove Middle School. This was his fifth year at Dover Cove Middle School. LeAnn started teaching at DCMS in 2010 when she moved from Connecticut where she had taught high school. In the 2010 2011 school year, she taught reading and writing to grade 8 students but the following year she started teaching grade 8 reading only, which is what she still taught at the time of the study. Kasey started her teaching ca reer at DCMS and had taught there for five years. In the 2012 2013 school year, she taught grade 7 reading. From 2013 2016, Teacher B taught grade 8 writing. Tom, like Kasey, started his teaching career at DCMS and had served there for nine years He had spent the majority of his time as a writing teacher. His first three years were spent as the grade 8 writing teacher, and then he transitioned to the title one math teacher for two years. In the 2012 2013 school year, Tom transitioned back into the grad e 8 language arts classroom and served there until he transitioned to the grade 7 writing classroom during the 2015 2016 school year where he served during the study. Data Collection Interviews are an integral part of a qualitative study when the situation being researched is impossible to recreate as this one is (Merriam & Tisdell, 2016). My primary source of data was one on one interviews, which can be difficult to conduct if the interviewee is hesitant to speak or share ideas (Creswell, 2013). Asking a teacher questions about his or her craft can be sensitive, even when you are acknowledging their successes as I was in this study; therefore, I considered ways to make sure the interviewee was comfortable to share his or her ideas and perceptions. The re lationship between the interviewer and interviewee must be considered


36 before beginning the data collection (Creswell, 2013), so conducting research within my own school while being a newcomer to the staff required me to build relationships with colleagues and earn their trust before conducting interviews. Therefore, the interviews did not take place until after I had worked with the participants for at least one semester. To facilitate a comfortable environment for the interviewee in an effort to encourage participation, I conducted the Data collection in this case study relied heavily on the perceptions and insights of the study participants, so the interviews were semi structured and open ended, allowi ng the possibility for participants to bring new insight to the analysis while ensuring the focus remained on the research question (Merriam & Tisdell, 2016). I was careful to generate open ended questions in an effort to yield descriptive data from the i nterviewee while avoiding questions that no. encourage the participant to answer the way they think I wanted them to or in a way that did not represent their sincere belief (Merriam & Tisdell, 2016). While interviewing is certainly a valuable data collection tool in qualitative research, there are many considerations that had to be made concerning the goal of the interview and the challenges that could arise. In this case s tudy, I had both professional and personal relationships with the participants, and this could have caused the interviewees to be hesitant when providing details. However, Merriam and Tisdell (2016) describe a typology from Strauss, Schatzman, Bucher, and Sabshin (1981) that was particularly useful in eliciting information from reticent ideal position, and interpretive (Strauss et al. 19 81). I especially found the hypothetical question stem to be beneficial because it allowed me to establish myself as an interviewer instead of a


37 be my first i mpres This question enabled me to separate myself from the setting and establish my role as an interviewer who could not assume I already knew the answers to the questions. fs about impoverished f low income students were an important topic in the interviews. In speaking briefly with teachers at DCMS on similar topics to what was discussed in these interviews, it seemed as if there was little focus specifically placed on the test scores of students who receive free and reduced lunch. Because of this, I was careful not to bring up this specific topic until halfway into the third interview because I wanted to provide the teachers opportunities to mention this before I pointed out the significant (barriers) do you face to helping all students reach proficiency about the impact of poverty on academic achievement and how that shaped their practice. Considering all of these criteria for eff ective questioning, I chose the following questions probing questions as needed to encourage descriptive, detailed, and specific data. Interview 1: Establishing backgr ound Thank you so much for agreeing to sit down with me and help me understand reading and but reading and writing scores on the K PREP assessment significantly increase d during the 2013 2014 and 2014 2015 school years for eighth graders at your school, and because you played a role in that, I am hoping to gain insight on some of the great things that went on during that time. Today I just want to learn more about you as a teacher and DCMS in general.


38 Tell me about your professional background, including your education, the subjects you have taught, and the number of years you have worked at Dover Cove Middle School. Suppose it were my first day as a staff member at DCMS. What would be my first impression of the culture and climate here? Has the culture and climate changed at all during your time here? If so, how? Tell me about a time when you felt really great about your work at this school. Tell me about lesson planning expectations during your time at DCMS. Are there curriculum guides or other required resources that you use? Why those? Have you always used these since you have taught at DCMS? If not, do you know why you changed? Tell me about PLC expectations during your time at DCMS. What has been the primary focus of professional development opportunities for staff members at DCMS since you began teaching here? What is PD like at this school? How has it impacted y our instruction? Tell me about the K PREP assessment for your content area. What skills are the students assessed on, how are they assessed, and has this test changed at all since you have started teaching at DCMS? How did you react when DCMS received the sharp increase in test scores after the 2012 2013 school year? How did others at the school react? Interview 2 : Digging into i nstruction Today we are going to dig into instruction at DCMS, particularly in your classroom. Because I am asking you to refer back to prior school years, I gave you these questions a few days ago to give you time to reflect. I hope you had an opportunity to look over them. Walk me through some of your best reading/writing lessons. What were they like? What did they look like? Sound like? Recreate for me what a really good day would look like in your classroom. What would you be doing? What would your students be doing? What role has administration played in classroom instruction since you began to work here?


39 Tell me more abo ut the instructional strategies you think are most important in a reading/writing classroom. Middle school students are typically far less motivated to read than other age groups. How do you motivate students at DCMS to read? Tell me about any prewriting tools you use. Are these used in all DCMS classrooms? Have you always used this tool at DCMS, and if not, what did you use before? In the 2013 2014 and the 2014 significantly in both reading and writing while s taying relatively stable in all other subjects. (Show graphs.) Tell me what happened during those years that you think attributed to this significant increase. If you could give advice to an underperforming middle school, what would you recommend they do to improve student achievement in literacy? Interview 3 : Digging into instruction of l ow income s tudents Today is our last interview, and we are going to look specifically at instructing students from all backgrounds. Many schools with similar demographi cs have not been able to reach achievement levels that DCMS has, so today I want to ask you specifically about why you think that is. At the end of our last interview, we discussed the increase in reading and writing achievement on K PREP during the 2013 2014 and 2014 2015 school years. What specifically in your teaching practice do you think attributed to the increase in achievement on K PREP in reading and writing? What kinds of challenges (barriers) do you face to helping all students reach proficiency in reading and writing? What is even more notable about the increase in achievement during that time period is that the scores of students receiving free and reduced lunch increased at a much higher rate than the scores of students who do not receive thos e services. Were you aware of this? Did you and your colleagues target that particular group during those years? Why do you think there was such a dramatic increase in the literacy scores of students who receive free and reduced price lunch? I approache d potential participants individually to invite them to participate in the study. Once I obtained their informed consent, I scheduled all interviews to take place within a one month period. My goal in doing so was to keep the questions fresh in the partici facilitate their ability to elaborate on responses from an earlier interview. To encourage them in


40 this regard, I reviewed each interview before conducting the subsequent interview. This enabled me to tailor specific questions for each par ticipant. Because the second interview was largely focused on instructional practices and school wide expectations in previous years, the participants received the interview questions for the second interview two days before the actual interview took plac e to give them an opportunity to look back at past lesson plans and professional development notes. I also conducted a pilot test for each interview before it was conducted with one of the participants to ensure the questions built appropriately on one an other and none were leading the participant to answer a certain way. The results of the pilot test led me to make changes to two questions so that the participants could first identify me as a researcher instead of a colleague. In both questions, I had a cknowledged that I was a colleague and wanted the participant to answer as if I were not one. I felt this would only have the adverse effect and so these sentence stems were removed Also replaced a question in the third interview in which I asked whethe r the participants thought poverty was a barrier to student achievement at DCMS; I instead left the question open, allowing them to independently identify barriers to achievement. This prevented me from leading the participant and instead allowed me to se e whether poverty was even considered by the participants. Data Analysis I prepared the interview data for analysis by transcribing the interviews. I also organized the participant responses by question in a table for easy comparison. Most responses plac ed in quotes were used as needed. A sample page from this table is provided in Table A 1 Next, I started coding the data based on the coding process outlined by Tesch (1990). After carefully reading through the transcripts, I made notes about my initial thoughts on emerging themes in the margins. Then, I read through one interview at a time with the intention


41 of identifying the answers in the margin. After completing this with several participant interviews, I made a list of all the topics that emerged and clustered similar topics. Next, I abbreviated these top ics as codes, returned to the data, bracketed sections of text, and labeled the sections with the codes (Tesch, 1990). I finally assembled the data in each category so that my data analysis could begin. A sample of the table I used to organize the data i nto categories is provided in Table A 2 I compared the information organized in the themes to the literature on effective instructional strategies for reading and writing to determine whether the data aligned with previous fin dings or diverged from them by organizing the codes into three categories as the that aligns with the major findings in the literature), surprising (a topic cit ed in literature but not anticipated in this context), and unusual (a topic not cited in literature). I was particularly attentive to data that did not align with the existing research, i.e., the surprises in the data, so as to present a trustworthy repre categories based on their significance in the study, which was determined by the importance placed on the data by participants and the number of participants who mentioned the data. Researcher Positionality The beliefs and opinions of a researcher will always impact qualitative research, whether it in the questions we ask, how we gather data, or what problems we seek to solve (Creswell, 2013), and this study is certainly no different. While con du cting this study, I served as a grade 8 writing teacher at Dover Cove Middle School. In my six years as an educator, I have viewed my teaching position as a calling, not just a job in which I receive a salary to pay my bills. In fact, the choice to con duct this study as a practitioner scholar instead of a full time researcher was made because of my dedication to this calling and to my students. Therefore, I am passionate


42 about quality curriculum and best instructional practices for the wellbeing of my students, especially those who are marginalized. This passion has also led me to pursue this particular teaching position at DCMS, so while I was certainly interested in the benefits the study could provide key stakeholders in education, I was even more a nxious as an educator to learn and improve my own practice from my research. I must stress that the professionals I interviewed were my coworkers and supervisors. This was my first year teaching at Dover Cove Middle School, and so not only was I colleague s with the participants in the study, I was also new to their staff. This required me to work before my research began to build trusting relationships with each of them and to stress that this study was meant to celebrate and highlight their accomplishmen ts rather than expose weaknesses in their practices. As a writing teacher, I brought my own experiences with literacy instruction to this study, and the beliefs formed by this experience could have biased my interpretations of data if I were not vigilantly guarding against this. There are certainly instructional strategies that I favored and valued over others. For instance, I believe that effective literacy instruction predominantly includes explicit instruction of strategies through modeling. Therefore I took several steps to guard against the intrusion of my perspectives on the collection and interpretation of data. Enhancing Trustworthiness I was aware of the underlying biases that were present due to my current teaching position and my working relati onships with the teachers and administrators involved, and I also knew that who I was would impact how I interpret ed the data I collected (Creswell, 2013). When considering my biases and how they would affect this study, I was primarily concerned with the interview questions and analysis of the data collected from those interviews. I relied heavily on


43 guidelines set by Merriam and Tisdell (2016) in order to yield detailed and descriptive data from the participants that were not guided or dri ven by my perce ptions or ideas. There are three additional steps I took to bolster the trustworthiness of my findings. One, I collected data from four participants on three occasions. Two, I kept a journal in which I record ed my thoughts and concerns throughout the stud y. I made every effort to record hints of my own bias when I saw it arise. The journal helped me to monitor my bias and consider carefully its potential impact on the study. I especially realized the importance of this step when I started analyzing the stu dy data and saw how my own bias could have potentially influence d the findings. As a teacher at DCMS, I entered this study with my own hypothesis, and I acknowledged this in my journal before interviews started. At the conclusion of the interviews, I fel t confident that the data supported my initial hypothesis, and I identified it early on as being a significant factor. However, as I analyzed the data, I realized that this factor had not been mentioned by participants nearly as much as I had originally f elt it had. After reviewing my journal notes, I realized that I had placed more of an emphasis on this factor being significant to my research than the participants actually had. The journal helped me realize I had carried this assumption into the study with me, and that the data collected during the interviews did not support it like I had originally anticipated. Three, I conducted member checks with my participants toward the end of the analysis process to determine whether I had accurately represented their views of the explanation for the remarkable improvement in the literacy achievement of low income students The member interview data had accurately repre sented their beliefs.


44 Summary and Overview The purpose of this case study was to explore the instructional factors that explain the dramatic increase in reading and writing proficiency of students receiving free or reduced price lunch at a Title I middle s chool. Through the use of interviews with experienced teachers and the school principal practices implemented during the years of the increases in achievement. The study yielded findings that can help me to tailor my instruction to strengthen the literacy learning of my students. In addition, it can provide insight to other schools that are striving to increase the literacy achievement of their students.


45 CHAPTER 2 FINDINGS Fo r this study, I interviewed three reading and writing teachers along with the principal at a Title I middle school to gain insight into the dramatic increase over a three year period in reading and writing proficiency of students receiving free or reduced price lunch. Specifically, do teachers perceive to be the factors that explain the dramatic increase in reading and writing proficiency of students receiving free or reduced price lunch at a Title I terviews were conducted with each participant for a total of 12 interviews during the period between March and May. As the new ELA teacher at Dover Cove Middle School, I was particularly interested in gaining insight into instructional strategies that have been effective with this particular population for which achievement too often lags. Analysis of the interview data revealed two findings. One is related to the instructional strategies ng proficiency. The other is related to the focus and implementation of school based professional development that appeared Finding #1: Instructional Strategies In a school where lesson plans are not require d and there are no school wide or district wide curriculum maps, I went into the interviews expecting to gain unique perspectives on quality literacy instruction from each teacher; however, they responded similarly to all questions related to instructional practices within their classrooms. In particular, participants described the following seven strategies as key to the success of their students: holding themselves and students to high expectations, building relationships and building trust, modeling qual ity writing, encouraging student personal response, allowing student choice, requiring prewriting, and providing differentiated instruction.


46 Holding Teachers and Students to High Expectations I had originally anticipated the data to center on the efforts m ade by teachers to influence students in the classroom; therefore, I was surprised to find that one of the strategies most strongly emphasized by participants involved shaping both student and teacher performance. The interview data show the importance of set ting high expectations for students and teachers at DCMS. The administration expected teachers to set high expectations for all students by or demogra phics, were expected to produce proficient work and perform to the best of their ability. When asked why he believed reading and writing achievement had increased in his school, the principal said: Accountability for teachers and students. Teachers were h eld account able for teaching the right standards and setting high expectations and the students were held ores really just come down to acc ept less than a good effort. T he principal further explained this emphasis: I think you have to hold your students to high standards, and you hold them accountable to it because honestly there are other schools that are 50% free and reduced lunch th at but they are convinced they t. And it is because their t, happen. That goes a long way because t accept less than proficient work, and if you go all year for cing them to proficiency then they eventually get there. K asey stressed her commitment to holding students to high expectations when she said: p on a kid. I will drive you crazy, and if a kid would turn something in and I knew that they are capab le of more, I would make them rewrite it. I try to learn what their ability is and then onc e I have a good grasp on what ng to settle for less than that. L eAnn also spoke about the importance of high expectations for students and credited this as


47 high. Make the expectations clea Both LeAnn and Kasey held students to high standards by only allowing proficient work from all students based on the state writing assessment rubric which is provided in Appendix B If their s meet all the requirements necessary for proficiency, both teachers would require their students to redo the assignment until it was considered proficient work. Holding students to such high standards is not always easy. While the administration certainly expected teachers to give their best effort in the classroom every day, Kasey acknowledged that the responsibility ultimately rested with the teachers themselves. When asked about her biggest obstacle to student proficiency in lite racy, Kasey mentioned the teachers not the students. She explained the importance of teacher mindset in holding students accountable to these high expectations and the responsibility of teachers to ensure rigorous instruction regardless of student demograp hics: a teacher is the mental side really think lack of support at home is an obstacle like most people because I accept responsibility for the job that they signed up to do because we went into it and holdi ng myself accountable is more important than keeping them motivated, I B ecause the test scores of free and reduced lunch students increased significantly in both reading and writing c ontent areas, I asked if the teachers and principal had targeted that specific population. Each teacher said that not only did they not target that population, they were also unaware of the achievement increase in that particular population, as indicated below by LeAnn and Kacey Researcher: Did you know that the increase in scores was significantly impacted by the increase in the test scores of free and reduced lunch students? Kasey : No.


48 Researcher: Did you target that group? Kasey We have a pretty high free and reduced lunch number, right? Researcher: Yes. Kasey LeAnn hink about that when I was teaching. Everyone is held to a high scores of students who received free and reduced lunch] were so different from The princip and the classroom that holds them accountable and gives them authentic tas authentic tasks or tasks that teach skills needed for success in the real world, is one way teachers can build trust between themselves and their students, and building trust was another key strategy mentioned by the participants. Building Relationships, Building Trust Setting high expectations for students without also building a trusting relationship with building relationships that foster t rust between the students and teachers was the other shared commitment that I found to be most apparent throughout the interviews. mentioned student relationships as being an important part of classroom culture and instruction. The emphasis on student relationships is especially apparent in Tom instruction is al


49 Kasey echoed this when she told about a time she felt really good about her work as an educator in this excerpt: I haven if I see them out in public talking to me and telling me how much I helped them. So I guess usually I feel really good about my work when it comes to the personal stuff more than the so I think that may be they feel they can relate to me more than they can others. I off girls as much the girls who have the Brady Bunch home life, but the kids who live in cars I guess, which is the main reason I wanted to be a teacher any way, not because I wanted to teach kids how to read and write really. K asey later identified quality personal relationships with students as being one of the best pieces need to following excerpt, she details the impact of building relationships and creating a safe learning environment: If you can get the students to see the valu e of writing for expression, then they like writing. All of the kids like telling their stories, especially the low income kids. Some of our illegal students like writing narratives about coming to the United States, but all that goes back to climate and culture in your classroom. Like I had a student who wrote about coming to the United States illegally from about that. K asey continued by explaining her background and the im pact teachers had on her success: Most kids who are free and reduced lunch I mean this is stereotyping but o know me and want to talk about but I could write about it. L eAnn specifically stressed the importance of building trust within her classroom when asked how her past experienc es teaching at an urban school in Connecticut had impacted her teaching at DCMS:


50 When you see students who tend to be less interested in reading and writing, those are the students that I them to do wh at I needed them to do was something I had to master in the past or So I think as our clientele has changed at DCMS, it has been fairly easy for me to adjust because tha t was my standard student in my classroom in the past. L eAnn went on to explain one particular way the trust she builds with her students can motivate them to read: One of the biggest ways that I choose to motivate students is by reading their books. It i s a bit boring at times, but having the ability to recommend books based on having actually read them in a great motivator for students. This tends to make them want to read it more. T om explained the primary method he uses to build trust with his students in the following excerpt: You just have to be honest with them. You know, most of them don poetry either, but there are a few that I think are really gr eat, and those are the motivated to read it and do the work. I t seemed as though trust was modeled by the administration toward teachers, as well. Perhaps the most powerful requirement that teachers submit lesson plans. LeAnn explained: It's the only school I've ever worked at that I did not have to turn in my lesson plan. Every other school has always supposed to be visible on the desk, and if an administrator comes in they should be able to see it on your desk, but it's never been asked for here. W hen I accepted the job at DCMS, the lesson planning expectations surprised me, because like LeAnn it was the only school I had ever been in that had not required them. During the first interview, I asked the principal for an explanation: Researcher: Why not take up lesson plans?


51 P rincipal : I want teachers to feel like they have autonomy in their classroom. I feel like daily lesson planning and collecting those -I feel it is a form of micromanagement. I don't operate that way. I think if you have a good, planned unit, that unit is going to change. Rarely is a teacher going to plan a unit for fourteen days and those fourteen days have gone exactly how they scripted it. I want them to have the freedom to where if day two didn't go well, we may need to good learning target. I want there to be a purpose for every class and I want to be able to see that when I walk into a classroom. That is a piece of my walkthrough docume nt. The teachers appeared to notice this sign of trust. In this excerpt, Tom explained his relationship with the principal of DCMS: I remember [the principal] came up to me [after the increase in state test scores were announced] and said, uld do it if I put you back in the like he has always supported me. W hile building trusting relationships was mentioned as being an important step in holding students to hi gh expectations, the teachers also had the responsibility of providing instructional supports to ensure these high levels of learning were possible for all students regardless of ability, socio economic status, or race. The remaining instructional factors presented here are specific strategies found in the data that may explain how teachers provided that instructional support. Modeling Quality Writing When asked which instructional strategy was most important in the reading and language arts classroom, all three teachers had similar responses: LeAnn : Modeling, modeling, and more modeling. Kasey : Modeling and mentor texts. Tom : Modeling, modeling, modeling. Modeling what is good writing. Modeling is the practice of giving a student an exemplar to show what success on the assigned task looks like. As Kasey stated, this can be done by reading a mentor text, a text selected by the


52 teacher where the writing strategy being taught is clearly modeled, or by the teacher modeling the particular writing strategy in r eal time in front of the students. Kasey detailed this process: Some of my best writing lessons would be where I wrote with the kids. I would turn on my Active Board and walk them through the process. Then I would edit my own writing in front of them. I like we would write a piece together. Then I would have them write not the same prompt though a prompt with the same style though, like narrative or informative. T om also stressed the importance of showing st udent examples that are exemplary. The Kasey went on to explain the impact modeling has on student motivation to read in the following excerpt: In language arts, the writing lessons were separate from the reading lessons, so most of the reading we did was so I could show them examples of good writing. I think that motivated [the students] because I let them know exactly what I wanted them to model, so it ga ve them a reason to be engaged in the text. L eAnn explained why modeling is so important when asked what advice she would give to u nderperforming middle schools: you are looking f a what good writing looks like. T om explained the importance of modeling while still keeping the lesson student centered in this excerpt: Tom : I think my best lessons are student centered and not teacher centered, which can be difficult when you are modeling good instruction. Researcher: How so? Tom important sometimes you have to come up with some way to include them in the modeling process.


53 Researcher: What are some ways you do that in your classroom? Tom : Well, I mostly let them come up with the ideas and examples as I write them out. That way they are taking part in the modeling process by essentially coming up g how to put their ideas together in a meaningful and effective way. Of course, I always have them copy what I write, too. That way they can practice writing effectively. While student centered instruction can easily be overlooked while using the modelin g technique, there were two specific strategies mentioned by participants that were incorporated into their instruction to promote student engagement in the reading and writing classrooms: encouraging students to personally respond to content and allowing them to make choices about what they read and the products they created. Encouraging student personal response Since research has shown that student motivation to read can be very low at the middle school level, I was very interested to hear how the teache rs kept their students motivated in the classroom. Each participant mentioned the importance of engaging students through activities that require personal response, and they explained three ways this strategy was used in their classrooms. The first was t hrough the use of open ended questioning. The principal explained his belief that personal response was one of the most important instructional strategies in a reading and writing classroom: With reading and writing especially, [students] have to be inter ested in the topics, and I think that is a lot of work on the language arts teachers because it is hard to create a writing scenario where kids are interested in that topic at that time. One engaging strategy that helps and that I think is most important is personal response. That is where there is more than one right answer to the same question so students have the ability to make their opinion count in an assignment. Assigning work that allows for this instructional strategy helps with engagement, I th ink. And for reading and writing, it is all about engagement. A nother method of using personal response in the classroom was allowing opportunities for students to write for expression. Kasey explained the impact of stressing personal response in


54 writing c its academic impact when asked what advice she would give to an underperforming middle school: I think in writing because of the culture of lower income students and the music they listen to you know, all that is poetry. So, if you can get low income kids to see the value of writing for expression, then they end up liking writing. A lot of those kids like to tell their stories, and it is important that they do. Expr essing yourself, especially in middle school, is important. So you show them the song lyrics, you connect it to poetry in the classroom, and they start to value it more. K asey state test to the value they placed on writing for expression, and she shared an example of a specific activity her students did using this strategy: I think teaching them that writing is more than just boring personal narratives and letting them have a v oice is what during [the week of the state test], and I would let them write raps and let them have rap battles. I called it Free Write Friday, and they called it Free Rap Friday. something. Most of them would write raps and a lot of times, they would have battles. We even got [a reading teacher and a math teacher] to have a rap battle one day, so I think that just showing them that writi ng can be fun and their music comes from writing making that connection is what made them better writers. T he third form of personal response mentioned by participants was interacting with a text through annotation, which allows the students to write on th eir text as they have ideas or questions about what they read so that they can later expound upon those ideas in writing or with peers. LeAnn described her best reading and writing lessons: Good reading lessons would include interacting with the text ng them share their ideas with the class as a whole. Students would be involved in analyzing and annotating things that they read. It involves sharing ideas out loud. It involves students producing something written each day. N ot only did the teachers s ay that encouraging personal response increased engagement in reading and writing classes, they also highlighted the importance of allowing their students to make meaningful choices in the classroom.


55 Allowing student choice Allowing students to choose what they will read or the product they will create to show mastery of a learning target was mentioned throughout the interviews. In fact, Tom described lessons that incorporated student choice as being more student driven, and he attributed choice to making his best lessons successful: Most of my best writing lessons have been student driven where I will give the students a project and I will let them go can choose the topic, for example. Like last year, we did March Ma dness. It was a writing assignment where they would have to draft their topics for an argumentative essay. We would put all the topics in a bracket, and the students competed for different topics. You know, anytime I step away, [my lessons] seem to be mo st effective. T om also explained his belief that choice creates buy in from his students. He explained this along with the importance of students being engaged in what you are reading and writing: I think reading and writing can be the most difficult for students to buy into. It the most important skill, so they do it all day. Like in social studies and science, you are reading and writing, too. So, I spend a lot of time just trying to get them to like the subject. I work hard to keep the atmosphere l ight and let the students feel like they have input into what we do. Is that even an instructional strategy? I read what they like, you know. So you have to create buy in and let them have a choice on some things. L eAnn also mentioned the importance of allowing students the freedom to choose what works [prewriting strategy] they want based on what they feel comfortable with. That is important to Kasey took this strategy a step further by allowing her students to choose what they wrote about, which she explains here: The students lo ve to write prompts, so there were times I would let them write the prompts and then give them several of them to choose from. This motivated the students to write a little more because they like feeling like they have control over what they do.


56 T he parti cipants allowed students to make choices about their learning while still setting clear instructional expectations based on state mandated learning standards. One strategy the students was whether or not to outline a plan for their writing before they responded to a writing prompt. Requiring Prewriting I ask ed specifically about prewriting in each interview after seeing the emphasis placed on this instructional strategy in my review of l iterature. Kasey mentioned in her second interview the emphasis placed on prewriting in her classroom and the impact that setting that clear expectation had on her students, especially when it was time for the students to take the state test at the end of the school year: I didn Abell (Abell & Atherto n Educational Consulting, n.d.) ], Venn diagrams, and free writes . I would introduce them and then [the students] would practice using ut I always required prewriting . I just wanted to see that they had some kind of thought turn it in. I think that benefitted them for things like the state testing where the scores went up so much because it was ingrained in them that they had to prewrite. You know, the week before they did it. Some of them would literally just jot down a bulleted list, but they did something . Students need a process. T hen, once they master the process, they can get creative. But they have to have a foundation first. S imilarly, LeAnn and Tom they both valued and required prewriting as evidenced in th ese excerpts: LeAnn : I introduce a variety of different [prewriting] tools. Students may choose to use whatever tool they want based on what they are comfortable with. Tom : Prewriting is essential to good writing for a middle schooler. Every single piece of writing in my classroom has to have prewriting. I definitely require it, t have a specific chart or anything that I require. They have to have something that helps organize their thoughts . Prewriting sets the student up for success.


57 L eAnn al so detailed some of the tools she has modeled. For instan ce, One [prewriting tool] is identifying quotes and pulling them out before they can even begin writing. When we p rewrite in class, I use a traditional outline format that looks more like a list. But I encourage them to use whatever works for them. W hile the school did not require from students a specific type of prewriting strategy or graphic organizer each of the teachers required that student s prewrite. The participants acknowledged that while there were many expectations for students to meet, such as the prewriting requirement s there were also ways the teachers could differentiate instruction to accommodate students of all ability levels. Providing Differentiated I nstruction Another instruc tional strategy that was mentioned during the interviews was differentiation, or the act of providing varied content and pedagogy in response to the needs of individual students. The principal explained one of the best reading lessons he had observed: On e of the best reading lessons was differentiated better than I had seen it done ever before. Students came in and everyone had a common purpose but they had different texts. The teacher had prearranged their text and as students walked in, they go to cert ain cool cards and based on that there were three levels of texts and students never knew which one was lower or higher. And the kids went to different places but had the same information they needed to get from those texts, so I felt that was differentia ted well. K asey and Tom described the importance of individualizing instruction for students: Kasey : We would walk through example texts together, and they would write their own. I would walk around and help them with the actual writing part, not just gi ving them ideas on what to write. It would give me an opportunity to be specific with each student instead of generalizing my instruction. That would be the best day. Tom : A good day in my class would be the students working on an assignment and me being a ble to walk around and teach individual instruction if someone needs it. They could also be in groups working so I could do a little mini lesson with this group and then move to the next group and teach a mini lesson to them based on what they need.


58 L eAnn incorporated differentiation into her classroom through the books she assigned for extra credit: I also offer some books as extra credit. They can read it and take a comprehension test that they must score better than 80 % on to earn the extra credit. Thes e books tend to be high interest but more challenging for the individual students based on their reading level. M any of the previously described instructional strategies also served to differentiate instruction. For instance, both choice and personal resp onse allowed the content and the product of the find that their instruction was responsive to individual students while also holding students to high expectations by expecting proficiency of all students regardless of socioeconomic status Finding #2: Embedded Professional Development In every interview conducted duri ng this study, the change in demographics of Dover Cove Middle School instruction. Without prompting by me as the interviewer, the participants explained that their school district opened a new middle and high school during the 2010 2011 school year resulting in a sharp increase in the percentage of the student body at DCMS who received free and e and According to the principal, the change i n student demographics caused noticeable concern among DCMS teachers about the potential impact on the historically high achieving school. A s a result, the principal took two steps toward supporting the professional development of his faculty, and the focus and extent of this professional development helps to explain the shift in student achievement.


59 First, the principal invited an organizatio A Framework for Poverty to DCMS for professional development during the summer of 2010. The principal registers of language, priorities for teachers interviewed all cited this training as having an impact on their approach to teaching from that moment on. The following excerpt of an interview with Kasey illustrates the impact this pro fessional development had on the school. Kasey : My first year here we did a Ruby Payne thing and that one has had a bigger impact on me than a lot of the other [professional development] stuff that we have done. Researcher: How so? Kasey : Well, I enjoyed i t more for one thing because I thought it was relevant to what we were going through at the time. It also opened my eyes to how students in poverty need to be taught differently like with a different approach. opening of the new middle and high school in the district? Kasey : Yes. Our students just changed a lot after that. Researcher: Did the Ruby Payne training impact your instruction? Kasey I just think it made us more aware of what it was like to live in poverty. I think it taught us empathy more than anything. The principal echoed the impact the Ruby Payne professional development had on the st aff, and he said his biggest takeaway was the importance of cultivating engagement in the classroom for students who live in poverty. The principal then sought an organization that specialized in student engagement and found the Look 2 Learning framework, created by Antonetti and Garver (2015). The training received by DCMS staff focused on the nature of student engagement which the developers


60 claimed can lead to higher student achievement. In the following excerpt, the principal explained the impact of Lo ok 2 Learning. P rincipal : [The Ruby Payne professional development] naturally moved to the Look 2 Learning student engagement system [from Antonetti and Garver] that we implemented after that. That program is where we learned about the eight qualities of engaging lessons. Now, student engagement has really driven everything we do here. That is where our mission statement came from. Researcher: What is your mission statement? P rincipal : Engage and connect for success. And that mission statement has really guided everythin g else that we do here. In that [professional development], we talked about how we can incorporate one or two of those strategies weekly into our lessons. Then we created a walkthrough document to help monitor that. The principal further explained the purp ose of the walkthrough document and how he uses it with teachers: P rincipal : Well, the walkthrough document is just like a checklist that I use when I go into classrooms throughout the day. It allows me to focus my observations on what we believe qualifies as go od instruction. Basically all of items on the document are from that engagement training, like having a learning target posted or incorporating personal student response into lessons. Researcher: And what happens to that document after it is filled out? P rincipal evaluation tool or anything like that. Just like a checkup it helps me make sure the classroom is running smoothly and instruction is effective. The teacher can see the way for me to decide what professional development the teachers need in the future. Unfamiliar with this framework and not having heard it mentioned by the teachers in prior interv iews, I had not taken much note of Look 2 Learning after the completion of the first round of interviews. However, the principal continued to mention the Eight Engaging Qualities of Work identified by Antonetti and Garver (2015) when answering questions a bout instruction in the second interview and the free and reduced lunch population in the third interview. The Eight Engaging Qualities of Work, outlined in the Look 2 Learning framework, are described in


61 Appendix C The qua He believed student motivation stemmed from engagement in instruction, and he outlined varying levels of student engagement while also suggesting instructional strategies for improv ing student engagement. Antonetti and Garver (2015) observed classrooms across the United States and looked for the strategies suggested by Schlechty. Then, they identified eight specific strategies they had observed, the Eight Engaging Qualities of Work that they attribute to improving student engagement which they contend leads to higher student achievement. These qualities include: personal response, clear/modeled expectations, emotional/intellectual safety, learning with others, sense of audience, c hoice, novelty and variety, and authenticity. In addition to the focus of the professional development at Dover Cove Middle School (Ruby Payne and Eight Engaging Qualities of Work), the manner in which the professional development was implemented appeared achievement. In particular, the principal and leadership team embedded the student engagement framework into their interactions with teachers throughout the year. Embedded professional development, or profes sional development that is carried on throughout the school year and tightly connected to teaching practice, is not commonplace in this school district. However, after the Look 2 Learning professional development, the principal incorporated the eight enga ging strategies into many facets of the school, including classroom The principal and curriculum coordinator have addressed each of the Eight Engaging Qualities of Work in faculty meetings, unit plan expecta tions, emails, and staff trainings. One of the most obvious ways they have done this is by setting a focus engagement strategy schoolwide


62 each quarter since the implementation of the walkthrough tool at DCMS. This excerpt from Tom shows how professional l earning is embedded into daily school operations. Tom : I think the administration holds us accountable to what we learn in professional Researcher: How so? Tom : Well, they send us emails to constantly remind us of effective strategies and what they want to see in our classrooms. Like this quarter is personal response. So they tell us what [the strategy] is, and they tell us that they expect our lessons to incorporate this strategy as much as possible. They t ell us that they will look for that strategy when they come in to observe. Faculty meetings are limited to one per month at the most; therefore, email is utilized as the primary form of communication between administration and the staff. In nearly every e mail sent by the administration updating the staff on important dates and information, the focus engagement strategy for the quarter is given as a reminder for the teachers. Tom elaborated: [The principal] sends us emails with everything we need to know ab out the school like it. And it always tells me what our teaching focus is for the qua rter, which is nice because reminders are always good. W hen asked if professional development had impacted the quality of their instruction, all three teachers interviewed said that it had not. However, after researching the Look 2 Learning program, and t he Eight Engaging Qualities of Work in particular, I found that many of their responses to questions about instructional strategies detailed in Finding #1 aligned with the Antonetti and Garver (2015) framework. Interestingly, none of the teachers mention ed this framework or this professional development in their interviews, and while each teacher claimed professional development was irrelevant to what actually happens on a daily basis in their classroom, it appeared that the Eight Engaging Qualities of Wo rk were embedded in their instruction. A possible explanation for this


63 is the focus the administration placed on this framework since the professional development opportunity. While most professional development opportunities are administered in isolation and are rarely, if ever, mentioned again, this one was embedded into various parts of the school and its culture: the mission statement, walkthrough tool, and school wide instructional focus for each semester. After learning of the importance of engagemen t in a Title I school through the Ruby Payne organization, the principal investigated models of student engagement strategies, and he found the Look 2 Learning Framework. The principal then invited the organization to provide professional development for his staff. Believing this was the key to providing quality Qualities of Work into the school, and the data suggest these strategies have impacted instruction whether the teachers were aware of it or not. Conclusion The findings revealed several common instructional strategies valued among the participants, including: holding themselves and students to high expectations, building relationships and building trust, model ing quality writing, encouraging student personal response, allowing student choice, requiring prewriting, and providing differentiated instruction. Differentiation was cultivated by several of the other strategies, especially building relationships and bu ilding trust, which allowed the teacher to better tailor instruction to students. While each of the teachers interviewed claimed professional development had little impact on their instruction, the data revealed a shared value in the same strategies. This may be due to the fact that the core of the initial professional development session on providing engaging instruction was embedded throughout the school through email reminders and the frequent use of the explicit attempts to embed the engagement


64 strategies in the life of the school, it is not surprising that many of the instructional strategies the teachers described are found in the Look 2 Learning framework (s ee Appendix C )


65 CHAPTER 3 DISCUSSION The purpose of this study was to examine the factors that caused a sharp increase in student achievement in both reading and writing at Dover Cove Middle School during the 2013 2014 and 2014 2015 academic years. Not only did over all proficiency increase, but it especially increased for students receiving free and reduced price lunch at this Title I middle school. I interviewed four participants -three language arts teachers and the principal -who worked at DCMS when the increase in literacy achievement occurred. The following research question guided the study: What do teachers perceive to be the factors that explain the dramatic increase in reading and writing proficiency of students receiving free or reduced price lunch at a T itle I middle school? Data were collected in the form of three separate interviews with each participant over a month long period. Data revealed that the language arts teachers shared common values and practices about quality literacy pedagogy despite wor king independently to plan instruction. The strategies mentioned by the participants included: holding themselves and students to high expectations, building relationships and building trust, modeling quality writing, encouraging student personal response allowing student choice, requiring prewriting, and providing differentiated instruction. The study also revealed that the genesis of these values and practices was a professional aging Qualities of principal incorporated the Eight Engaging Qualities of Work into various parts of the school, terly focus on an engagement strategy for instruction, and a walkthrough document. By embedding the professional development into the


66 life of the school, the principal appeared to shape an instructional culture in which student engagement was at the cente r. Contributions to Literature As noted in the literature review, very little data exist concerning the improvement of adolescent literacy achievement, especially for students who live in poverty. With two common misconceptions permeating much of our inst ructional planning in the United States the ideas that literacy instruction only matters in the elementary grades and that students who live in poverty are unable to achieve at high levels inadequate reading and writing instruction is taking place in middl e school classrooms across the country (Kamil et al., 2008; McCarthey & Mkhize, 2013). The findings of this study support the literature that contradicts these misconceptions and highlight the nature of high quality literacy instruction for all adolescent s, including students who receive free and reduced lunch. Setting High Expectations for All Students is an Important Predictor of Literacy Success for Students Living in Poverty work in A Framework for Understanding Poverty (200 5 ) has been a point of contention within the educational equity community because of its lack of scholarly merit (Gorski, 2008; Osei Kofi, 2005) and its roots in in A Framework for Understanding Poverty her presumptions about those living in poverty seemingly originated published and lacked peer review which was a significant concern for scholars who focus on educational equity (Gorksi, 2008). Payne (2002) based her framework on a presumed culture of poverty in which generalizable traits are


67 ascribed to all people who live in poverty, and she suggested the solution to the achievement gap l factors that other scholars believe ultimately lead to their oppression (Gorski, 2008; Harris, 1976; Ortiz & Briggs, 2003). Educational equity scholars widely agree that a culture of poverty does not exist (Abell & Lyon, 1979; Billings, 1974; Briggs, 20 02; Gans, 1995; Gorski, 2008; Gorski, 2007; Harris, 1976; Jones & Luo, 1999; Ng & Rury, 2006; Ortiz & Briggs, 2003; Rigdon, 1988; Sherraden, 1984; Van Til & Van Til, 1973; Villemez, 1980), and to assume that one does only distracts attention from the work that could be done to address injustice by altering features of education and other systems that cement injustice in place. students can achieve academically while living in poverty (Gorski, 2008). While gaps do exist between the achievement levels of students who receive free and reduced lunch compared to other students (Applebee & Langer, 2009), the increase in academic achievement for students at DCMS who receive free and reduced lunch has confirmed the literature that says students can excel academically when provided the appropriate learning environment and instructional strategies (Bhattacharya, 2010; Gorski, 2012). The findings from this study also suggest that th shared commitment among the participants to holding every student to a high standard of academic achievement. Profi ciency was expected of all DCMS students regardless of ability, race, or socioeconomic status. to stimulating their awareness of challenges faced by students living in poverty and the need f or a different approach in the classroom in order to engage the changing demographics at DCMS


68 success, they also encourage engagement in the content (Applebee, 2002), and engagement has been cited as more important to literacy instruction than the content itself (Gorski, 2013; Taylor within the classrooms at DCMS had a positive impact on literacy achievement for students who receive free and reduced lunch. Modeling, Choice, and Differentiation Are All Valuable Instructional Strate gies in Improving Literacy Achievement The findings concerning instructional strategies used in the classroom confirmed much of the available literature on adolescent literacy. For example, the findings showed that the teachers placed a high value on mode ling during literacy instruction. This finding confirms the research on the benefit of scaffolding reading skills (Applebee, 2002) and modeling proficient writing (Edmonds et al., 2009; Hacker et al., 2015). Modeling exemplary writing and reading strateg ies ensures students see quality performance in both areas and allows them an opportunity to recreate the practices that were modeled. The findings also showed that the participants encouraged student choice by allowing them to select the activities they c ompleted and the texts they read. This finding confirms research about the relationship between choice and motivation in the reading and writing classroom. For example, Boardman et al. (2008) explain that teachers can increase student motivation on liter acy tasks by supporting their autonomy and allowing students to make choices that matter to them. significant finding in this study. Tomlinson (2001) defines differentia


69 avenues to acquiring content, to processing or making sense of ideas, and to developing products Applebee (2002) that claims the positi ve impact of providing intentional support for struggling readers and writers on student engagement in literacy. Effective differentiation does not only support struggling readers and writers, however; advanced learners still need help developing their lit eracy skills. Providing differentiation to advanced learners can prevent a student from becoming mentally lazy by challenging them to work to their potential and continue to advance academically (Tomlinson, 2001). Implications for Practice The results of this study yielded implications for the practice of school administrators and teachers, especially myself as a reading and writing teacher at DCMS. In this section, I discuss these implications. Implications for School Administrators The results of this impact on the student achievement at DCMS. When the student population changed after a new school was built in the district, the principal responded to the resulting concern of his teache rs by strategically selecting professional development opportunities that he believed would help to shift teacher concern to a more productive perspective. During the principal interviews, nearly every one of his comments centered on the importance of stud ent engagement and high expectations for teachers and students. Both of these were clearly a priority for him as the instructional leader of the school. Fullan (2011) stressed the importance of remaining resolute as a principal and maintaining a clear vi sion for faculty by focusing on a few core priorities and developing them toward the same end. The principal at DCMS did this by setting a clear focus


70 on engagement and incorporating that focus in various parts of the school as well as setting high expect ations for his staff and students. The results of this study support the impact of embedded pro fessional development as well. Although the teachers did not believe professional development had influenced their teaching, the results suggest that they may have been mistaken. During the interviews, teachers repeatedly mentioned instructional strategies that align with the Eight Engaging Qualities of Work from Antonetti and Garver (2015) especially personal response, modeling expectations, choice, and emoti onal/intellectual safety. Considering the research on the professional development from the Look 2 Learning organization may have positively contributed to the increa se in literacy achievement for students who received free and reduced lunch. The literature also stresses the importance of this type of embedded professional intensiv e professional development is more likely to have an impact, as reported by teachers, It is likely that the teachers at DCMS did not realize the impact of this professional learning experience because it is uncommon for professional development to be carried throughout the school year. Most professional development in this school district and at DCMS term application and follow up are rarely considered. Therefore, the teachers may not have recognized the engagement strategies they were using as being linked to the Look 2 Learning professional development because of its unique, embedded nature throughout the school day and the school year.


71 The fact that the princip al chose the professional development for DCMS based on the changing student population also indicates the importance of being intentional and timely when choosing professional learning opportunities for a staff. Coherent professional development that cor the importance of selecting relevant professional development based on school data and embedding that professional learning throughout the school, such as in the mission statement and minds and makes the professional learning au thentic experience. These actions taken by the principal at DCMS demonstrate his role as the instructional leader at DCMS. Fullan (2014) refers to this role as the lead learner, and explains that the principal must s et an example for his or her staff by consistently being willing to learn about new pedagogies and instructional strategies that could work for the particular student population. The principal must then be able to motivate his or her staff to continually seek out best practices and new strategies while implementing the ones they have discovered. The principal at DCMS assumed the role of lead learner because of his eagerness to not only seek out professional learning opportunities that would best serve his staff and students, but by also embedding that professional learning into various aspects of the school and returning to it repeatedly throughout the year. The results of this study also support the importance of the school leader modeling behaviors and c ommitments for staff. Fullan (2011) detailed a case study in which a principal of a school with similar demographics held many of the same beliefs as the principal at DCMS,


72 including the beliefs that all students could learn and excellence should be expec ted from everyone, including teachers and students. The principal Fullan described led his school to strong academic success, and one reason for this was his commitment to modeling the values and practices that he expected his staff to hold. The principa l at DCMS similarly modeled high expectations and relationship building, and this is likely one of the reasons the teachers highlighted the importance of these principles in high quality literacy instruction. One way the principal ensured this focus was b y providing descriptive feedback to teachers on their effectiveness in the classroom, particularly on the engagement strategies he encouraged them to use. By conducting walkthroughs using the Eight Engaging Qualities of Work as a guide, the principal was a ble to provide meaningful, individualized feedback to his instruction an d use of the strategies advocated in the professional development and embraced by the principal. The walkthrough tool and feedback appeared to play important roles in holding priorities. Implications for District Administrators and instructional focus had a significant impact on the increase in reading and writing scores for students rec eiving free and reduced lunch at DCMS. score also improved (+6.5%) during the 2013 2014 school year, the increase was considerably less than at DCMS (+16%). This trend was also true with writing proficiency. Fr om the 2012 2013 school year to the 2014 2015 school year, the writing proficiency scores of students receiving free and reduced lunch at DCMS nearly doubled with a 24.3% increase, while the district writing proficiency scores for students receiving free a nd reduced lunch decreased by 5%


73 during that time period. These numbers along with the findings from this study suggest that district administrators c ould improve reading and writing proficiency in the other three middle schools within the district by fol lowing the example set by DCMS. One implication for district administrators based on this study is the importance of embedded professional development. Professional development in this school district is often administered as a district wide training in w hich all teachers gather in one location and listen to speakers talk about instructional strategies or district wide initiatives. There is usually little to no follow up from these trainings, however. Based on findings from Garet et al. (2001) as well as the apparent impact of the embedded professional learning at DCMS, district administrators should look for ways to support school administrators and teachers in successfully implementing the strategies presented during these district trainings through sus tained and intensive professional development. Desimone, Porter, Garet, Yoon, and Birman (2002) explain that districts such as this one often administer less focused and sustained professional development due to lack of funding. Because of budget restrai nts, Desimone et al. (2002) contend that districts must make the choice to continue to offer less effective professional development to all teachers within the district or to offer high quality, sustained professional development to fewer teachers ; they su ggest the latter would be more effective. District administrators should also consider professional development that is more specific to the needs of an individual school as opposed to administering the same professional development to all 26 schools withi n the district. The findings from this study suggest that specific needs of his staff when selecting a professional learning focus for the school. Professional developme nt must be strategic and systematic in order for it to be considered high


74 quality (Desimone et al., 2002); therefore, district administrators must carefully plan their professional development while addressing the needs of individual schools in order for t he professional learning opportunities they offer to be most effective. Implications for Teachers The most significant implication for teachers is the importance of having a healthy belief based on fact (rather than opinion) about the academic ability of s tudents who receive free and reduced lunch. Both the literature and the data from this study reveal that students who live in responsibility to assess his or her assu are based on this fact and not on faulty assumptions. This self reflection and ongoing self vigilance will assist teachers in holding all students to high standards and expecting proficiency from all because they are capable. Another important implication concerns building relationships with students and creating a safe learning environment in the reading and writing classroom. The idea that teaching content is almost secondary to these fundament als is found in both the literature (Gorski, 2013; Taylor et al., 2003) and the results of this study. Therefore, teachers must consider ways they can nurture the positive and safe environment in their classrooms. Based on both these findings and the lit erature, a research based instructional strategy is only as effective as the relationship between the teacher and his or her students. Thus, teachers and other educators would do well to consider carefully the dispositions and practices that would support a relational pedagogy. In addition, teachers must also consider the instructional strategies found to be valuable at DCMS, including modeling quality writing, encouraging student personal response, allowing student choice, requiring prewriting, and providi ng differentiated instruction. Modeling quality writing was cited as one of the most effective practices, and by scaffolding instruction and


75 providing mentor texts to students, teachers enabl e their students to master the complexities of literacy. Encou raging student personal response is not only a way to engage students in the content, but it also lends itself to building relationships in the classroom. By encouraging personal expression and dialogue in the reading and writing classroom, teachers learn more about students personally and academically which enables them to be responsive to students needs. Choice is also an effective way to encourage trust between the students and teacher while also increasing engagement. As the findings suggest, an eff ective way to empower students to make choices in the classroom is through the selection of a prewriting tool. The participants of this became a crucial componen t of writing instruction at DCMS. Therefore, as long as the process preferences, effectively incorporating both student choice and a supportive instructional s trategy. Finally, differentiation in the literacy classroom can be achieved by utilizing texts at various Lexile levels so that the material can be available to students at all levels of proficiency. Ensuring literacy concepts are attainable for students who do not read on grade level while keeping instruction challenging for students who are at proficiency requires careful planning and is imperative to the academic progress of all students. While there are many effective ways to incorporate each of these strategies into the ELA classroom, the literature suggest s they are more effective when used together as opposed to just choosing one or two (Graham & Perin, 2007b). Therefore, it is important for teachers to find ways to incorporate each of the suggested instructional strategies into the literacy classroom in order for them to have the most impact possible.


76 Even though the practices of encouraging student personal response and requiring prewriting are not supported by literature, Graham and Perin (2007b) a cknowledge that there are likely other strategies that are effective but have just not been adequately researched yet. Their conclusion and my findings stress the need for more research on improving adolescent literacy and studying the successes of school s like DCMS, which is an important consideration for my future as a practitioner scholar. The strategies that were proven to be effective in the literature but were not mentioned by participants of this study are also worth considering and should not be n eglected in came as a result of the questions presented in the interview; therefore, further research on these specific strategies at DCMS should be considered before concl uding they were not used during this time of academic growth at the school. Finally, although the participants did not mention it, the amount of time DCMS students participate in writing instruction is likely to play an important role in their achievement and should guide future instruction, as well. The students at DCMS received twice the amount of time in an English language arts class than the rest of the students in the district; therefore, the teachers were able to devote more time to writing instruct ion which often is less valued across the nation than reading instruction (National Commission on Writing, 2004) Next Steps As a practitioner researcher and an English Language Arts (ELA) teacher, this study has significant implications for me moving for ward. I will begin this section by explaining how my personal practice will be impacted by these findings. I will end the section by summarizing questions I still have about the increase in test scores for free and reduced lunch students at DCMS.


77 Improvi ng my practice While I entered this experience with respect for research on a professional level, this study has enabled me to internalize the value of the inquiry process on a personal level. As the old adage suggests, experience truly has been the best teacher. I knew the benefits of this process, but I did not truly understand its potential in our field until this study. The opportunity to shift my perspective from ELA teacher at DCMS to teacher researcher forever changed my perspective of my school, m y content, and especially my practice. I admit that I formerly held a glass half empty view when it came to the potential for change on issues of equity in my school system. Continually reading about the failures of the system in the news or accountabili This study has revitalized my enthusiasm for my field as both an educator and a researcher by not only providing me with solid evidence of success in a Title I school and remindi ng me that change is possible, but by also identifying specific strategies that can impact literacy instruction and giving me a clear path to improv e my own practice. Prior to my research, I believed that building relationships with students was the key to academic achievement, especially for students living in poverty, and I would often neglect considering the impact of nearly anything else, including instructional strategies. In fact, I have written many times that my philosophy of education could be sum most important components to academic achievement in literacy, they also suggested it is not the only necessary component. My findi ngs have improved my practice by providing me research based instructional strategies that should prove to be beneficial in my ELA classroom, especially through the use of mentor texts. Before, I would frequently model quality writing to my students, but I had not consciously used mentor texts as a means of modeling writing strategies.


78 Since the completion of my study, I have spent a considerable amount of time searching for sources that would serve as good models for various writing strategies I will tea ch, and I plan to begin using these mentor texts in my writing lessons. I have also made a significant change in my practice with respect to student choice. I have been leery of choice in my classroom in years past because I feared that by allowing studen ts to make choices about products and texts I might relinquish my instructional control of the classroom. However, through my research, I have learned that there are effective ways to provide students opportunities to make choices about instruction without sacrificing the academic integrity of an assignment. One of the best examples of this is with prewriting. Before, I only shared one type of graphic organizer with my students and had not required any prewriting prior to completing a written assignment f or fear that the writing tool I gave them would not be helpful to each individual student. The study helped me to realize the value of providing multiple types of prewriting tools and allowing students to choose a prewriting tool that works best for them, and I have already started researching various tools to use in my classroom. I also have realized the importance of a prewriting requirement for middle schoolers, and I have already incorporated this practice into my teaching. By making both of these cha nges in my classroom, I was able to incorporate choice without sacrificing the academic integrity of an assignment. While many of the instructional strategies cited in the literature were not mentioned by the participants in this study as being used in the ir classrooms, I also understand the limitations of my study and respect the findings of others in the field. Therefore, I intend to look for ways to incorporate the reading and writing instructional strategies presented in the literature review,


79 such as vocabulary instruction through the use of word parts. I intend on continuing my work as a practitioner scholar by evaluating the impact of these strategies within my own classroom. Remaining q uestions While the data provided valuable insight into the pra ctices of successful ELA teachers, there are important questions that still need to be addressed. One is whether or not the strategies discussed were particular to ELA classrooms. Because significant achievement gains were only experienced by students in reading and writing, I am left wondering how the classes of ELA teachers differed from other classes. Research supports the benefit of the strategies the participants mentioned, but it is unknown whether teachers in other content areas were using the same strategies. Because engaging students in instruction was a school wide focus, it is likely these strategies were used in other classrooms, as well. If they were, why was the impact in student achievement greater in ELA than the other subject areas? What might be missing from the instruction in other subject areas? Because the data showed a significant increase in the student achievement at DCMS compared to the other schools within the school district, another question I have is whether the strategies rev ealed in the study were being used to the same degree in other schools. With insight into this matter, district administrators could gain direction as to the kind of professional development that might be necessary for district teachers. Perhaps district a dministrators would like to invest in the walkthrough accountability tool that appeared to serve DCMS teachers and students so well. Ultimately, I believe my responsibilities extend beyond my classroom now that I know the results of this study. I respect the role of teacher leader that has been bestowed on me as a result of being a practitioner scholar, and I feel it is my responsibility to inform others in my school of my findings in order to encourage best practices throughout our school. As a teacher


80 l eader, my job is to do everything I can to serve all students. Therefore, in addition to the improvement of my own teaching practices, I will seek opportunities to train others in my content area, particularly new teachers. I will also look for future inq uiries to take on within my teaching context and continue the fight for equity in our schools through this invaluable tool of practitioner scholarship.


81 APPENDIX A ORGANIZATION OF DATA Table A 1. Data organized by interview question and participan ts. Interview Questions Principal LeAnn Kasey Tom Q 16 Tell me about any prewriting tools you use. Are these used in all DCMS classrooms? Have you always used this tool at DCMS, and if not, what did you use before? My Notes: Teachers do not require a s pecific tool in their classrooms. Prewriting is required in each classroom. Teachers believe prewriting is important. A specific tool used to be required but not in recent years (including the years being studied) Prewriting tools mentioned: three column method, glyph chart, SPAM, TAP, and a graphic organizer Teachers make the prewriting tools meaningful for their content No school wide prewriting tool three column chart know, do, answer for open responses. You pick out the verb, wha t do I know about that, and from the text, what is my responses are only used in Reading. Writing state assessments require expository essays only,) Uses a variety of prewriting tools quotes and pulling them out before t hey can even Different tools are introduced and students can choose to use whatever they are most comfortable with Allowing students to choose their own important to me since I forced to use in class, I use a traditional outline format that looks more like a list. But I encourage them to use whatever works for Provide students will different prewriting strategies Specific strategies taught: glyph charts, Venn diagrams, and free writes Student would have practice using each type of prewriting Did not require students to use a specific type, but prewriting was always required Prewriting was always stapled to assignments when turned in d I just wanted to see that they had some kind of thought bunch of randomness down literally just jot down a bulleted list, but they did Believes that requiring prewriting hel ped improve state testing Prefers the glyph chart; uses it in his class most of the time Also uses a spider web prewriting chart The state department sent teachers the glyph chart Prewriting is required on every writing assignment to good writing for a middle They have to have something that helps Prewriting sets the 81


82 Table A 2. Data organized by theme across participants Emerging themes Principal LeAnn Kasey Tom Buildi ng Relationships with Students Attributes success of the school to everyone have kids. We have our Talks mostly about building relationships with students through trust Moments she feels best about her work are the moments where a healthy and meaningful relationship with the student is apparent Stressed the importance of creating a safe environment for students so that they feel comfortable opening up to the teacher Says her background helps h er relate to the students who live in poverty Believes the best advice for schools struggling with literacy achievement is to build quality personal relationships with students almost secondary. The culture of the classroom is what Believes the best advice for a struggling reading teacher is to get to know the students Building Trust with Students N/A Her past experiences in an urban school taught her the importance of building trust Explains that her students a re motivated to read because she has read all the books she recommends and they trust her because of tha t Said that creating a safe environment means that students are able to trust their teachers with things that make them vulnerable, especially in their writing Says his students are more motivated to read and write when he builds their they respect that, and that makes them more motivated to read it and do Building Trust with Teachers Does not require teachers to turn in lesson plans because he says he wants them to feel like he trusts them Says this is the only school plans to be turned in or visible while teaching lesson plans b ecause he trusts his teachers Felt like the principal trusted him with a tested 8 2


83 APPENDIX B SCORING RUBRIC FOR KENTUCKY ON DEMAND WRITING Scoring Rubric for Kentucky On Demand Writing 4 Points: Writers at this score point level display consistent, though not necessarily perfect, writing skill, resulting in effective communication. The writer establishes and maintains focus on a udience and purpose and effectively engages the audience by providing relevant b ackground information necessary to anticipate its needs. The writer consistently develops ideas with depth and complexity to provide insight, support, and clarification of the topic. The writer consistently develops ideas using appropriate and effective ex amples, details, facts, explanations, descriptions, or arguments. In grades 5 and 6, writers may address counterclaims in support of opinion and argument; in grades 8, 10 and 11, counterclaims are addressed effectively to help support arguments. The writer may use a variety of techniques or approaches. The writer consistently organizes the writing by using a logical progression of ideas that flows within and between paragraphs. The writer consistently uses a variety of sentence lengths and structures. The w riting includes a variety of transitional words and phrases that connects ideas and guides the reader. The writer uses appropriate organizational techniques (e.g., comparison/contrast, cause/effect, order of importance, reasons/explanations). The writer ma intains an appropriate voice or tone. The writer consistently chooses words that are appropriate to the intended audience and purpose of the writing. The writer consistently uses correct grammar, usage, and mechanics (e.g., spelling, punctuation, capitaliz ation) to communicate effectively and clarify the writing. 3 Points: Writers at this score point level display adequate writing skill, resulting in effective, though not consistent, communication. The writer adequately establishes focus on the intended a udience and purpose but may not consistently maintain this focus, losing sight of audience or purpose on occasion. The writer provides adequate background information that generally anticipates audience needs. The writer develops ideas with adequate suppo rt, and clarification of the topic through examples, details, facts, explanations, descriptions, or arguments. In supporting arguments and opinions, the writer in grades 5 or 6 may address counterclaims; the writer in grades 8, 10 and 11 addresses or consi ders counterclaims. The writer may use different techniques or approaches, but some are less successful than others; one technique may be prominent. The writer adequately organizes the writing by using a logical progression of ideas that generally flows fr om idea to idea, though connections between some ideas are less clear on occasion. The writer displays variety in sentence lengths and structures. The writing includes transitional words and phrases that generally guide the reader. The writer generally mai ntains organizational techniques, but organization and connection of ideas may become less clear on occasion. The writer may have occasional lapses in language that cause voice or tone to weaken. The writer chooses words that are generally appropriate for the intended audience and writing purpose. The writer adequately demonstrates correct grammar, usage, and mechanics (e.g., spelling, punctuation, capitalization) to communicate A few errors may occur that do not impede understanding.


84 2 Points: Writers at this score point level display developing writing skill, resulting in less effective communication. The writer identifies a generalized purpose or audience but does not maintain focus on both. Instead, the writer focuses more on the task (creating a lette r, speech, etc.) than the actual purpose or intended audience. Irrelevant or inconsistent background information demonstrates a general lack of awareness of audience needs. The writer demonstrates inconsistent development of ideas often presenting facts (s ometimes in isolation from one another) with little insight, interpretation, or clarification. The writer provides minimal or irrelevant examples and/or details for support. The writer in grades 8, 10, and 11 may attempt to address counterclaims in support of arguments or is unsuccessful in the attempt. If the writer attempts to use different techniques or approaches, their relation to the writing purpose may be unclear. The writer demonstrates some attempt at organization but often places ideas in an uncl ear order that disrupts the natural flow or cohesion. The writer occasionally uses varied sentence structures, but these appear alongside mostly simple sentences Transitions are simple and infrequent. The writer may use organizational strategies inappropr iately or ineffectively, such as attempting to use a comparison when it is not warranted. The writer often uses language that causes voice or tone to weaken or emerge only on occasion. The writer occasionally chooses appropriate words but these appear alo ngside language that is simple or inappropriate for the intended audience or purpose. Frequent errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics (e.g., spelling, punctuation, capitalization) appear alongside occasional control of these features and may impede unders tanding of the text. 1 Point: Writers at this score level demonstrate little or no writing skill, resulting in mostly ineffective communication. The writer may identify a general topic but demonstrates little or no awareness of purpose or audience The w riter does not provide background or show awareness of the needs of the audience. The writer gives little or no purposeful development of ideas, interpretation, insight or clarification. The writer provides no examples and/or details for support or the sup port is inaccurate or irrelevant. The writer in grades 8, 10, 11 does not address counterclaims in support of argument or opinion. The writer offers little or no organizational structure placing ideas in no logical order. The writer uses little if any var iety in sentence structures. Ineffective or absent paragraph divisions create a lack of cohesion. Few, if any, transition words or phrases are used. inappropriate words Errors that appear in grammar, usage, and mechanics (e.g., spelling, punctuation, capitalization) impede understanding of the text. ONGL:CP:OAA:re:v.2.0 KY on demand writing rubric 04/16/2012


85 APPENDIX C EIGHT ENGAGING QUALITIES OF WORK Look 2 Lear ning Learning was created by Antonetti and Garver (2015) to serve as a framework for gathering data schoolwide. The purpose behind this research based tool is to highlig ht the importance of the day to day instruction that takes place in classrooms in an effort to provide feedback on teacher performance outside of standardized test scores alone. The creators also cite that research supports the benefit of informal observa tions that are not linked to performance reviews or official evaluations of the teacher but instead focus on students. The Look 2 Learning framework also allows instructional conversations that are nonthreatening which will promote more dialogue about ins effectively monitor patterns within the classroom, it must be used frequently by the administration and teachers. Eight Engaging Qualities of Work One of the key components of the Look 2 L earning framework is the Eight Engaging Qualities of Work, and this has served as the model for quality instruction at DCMS. Antonetti and Garver make a distinction between entertaining lessons and truly engaging ones. They stress the importance of high (2002) book, Working on the Work, and are summarized here.


86 Personal Response: The premi se of the first engaging quality is that teachers must provide instruction that warrants more than one right answer. When the product of the instruction is a prediction, opinion, analogy, or connection to other material, the student is required to not onl y provide an answer, but to support it with logic and evidence, as well. Personal response is most effective when every student responds, not just a few during a class discussion. Therefore, the creators suggest that written personal response may be more engaging and effective than oral personal response. Clear/Modeled Expectations : In order for students to be engaged in what they are learning, they need a clear picture of what is expected of them and why it matters. This can come through modeling, clearl y communicated learning objectives, and the use of exemplars and rubrics. Detailing the quantity and quality required in personal response activities is another way to help students understand the expectations. Emotional/Intellectual Safety : Students who tend to be disengaged for fear of embarrassment, punishment, or the assumption they are inadequate. Therefore, instruction that allows for more than one correct answer will promote emotional and intellect ual safety in the classroom and encourage students to take risks with answers that may be unpopular or less obvious. One effective strategy for promoting emotional and intellectual safety is to encourage reasoning first and answers second so that the focu s is on the process and not strictly a right or wrong answer. Learning with Others : Lessons that require students to work interdependently are more engaging than independent work or simply classic group work where a group grade is assigned. Engagement hap pens when cooperative learning takes place. Learning with others can take many forms such as think pair share, reciprocal teaching, or peer


87 revision. It is important to distinguish true cooperative learning and classic group work if engagement is expecte d. Group work in which each student can work independent of the group if they choose to is not an authentic example of learning with others. Sense of Audience : Students are more engaged in an assignment if they know it will be available for review by more than just the teacher. By providing students authentic assignments that will be shared with others, students tend to be more motivated. There are a variety of ways a teacher can provide an audience for students, including through student exemplars, profi cient work posted in the classroom, and letters or editorials actually being sent to authentic recipients. Choice : Students are much more apt to commit to their learning if they have some control over what they have been assigned. This does not mean that s tudents have the option to opt out of learning certain standards or can choose their curriculum. Instead, allowing students to choose what they read or what product they produce for the assigned standard allows the students to have a degree of control ove r their work and makes it more meaningful for them. Novelty and Variety : If work is new and involves different methods than usually required, students tend to be more engaged. This does not simply mean providing technology to complete the same task as usu al but through a different channel. Instead, a variety of teaching methods and products should be utilized in order to keep students engaged in would only bring cha os and distraction. Protocols and expectations should still be present and clear in novel activities in order to maintain the effectiveness of the lesson.


88 Authenticity : Students must be assigned work that is meaningful to them both inside and outside of t he classroom. Assignments must be completed with purpose and reviewed by a teacher or outside entity. Lessons must also work together to teach a standard and not be taught in isolation from one another. This is especially relevant in English language art s classes. For example: a common literacy practice that has proven ineffective is teaching vocabulary in isolation. It is far more effective to teach vocabulary in conjunction with other materials and lessons being taught in the class. Current events, a uthentic workplace activities, and the reference to other real world issues and activities are also effective methods of engagement in the classroom.


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9 4 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Lauren Goff has been a classroom teacher for seven years, working with students of all socioeconomic s tatuses and cultural backgrounds in the Warren County Scho ol District in Bowling Green, Kentucky She has taught English Language Arts to students as young as 5th grade and as old as 10th grade, but she has primarily served middle school students in her t eaching career. p olitical s cience and m iddle g rades e t eacher l eadership from the University of the Cumberlands. In 2017, Lauren ea rned her Doctor of Education in curriculum and instruction from the University of Florida.