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What is it like to be a curriculum coordinator? The researcher uses a qualitative approach to answer this question. Conducting an interview with a curriculum coordinator is the qualitative method used for this project. According to the United States Department of Labor, a curriculum coordinator plays an important role in improving the quality of education in the classroom (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009). However, this project has one primary purpose. The purpose of this project is for the researcher to use fundamental interviewing skills to investigate the duties of a curriculum coordinator.
In previous studies, researchers' suspect that African American students are at a disadvantage because of language, social, and cultural factors (Lomax, 1995). Researchers suggest that standardized tests are developed from a Caucasian American or euro-centric perspective that does not give an accurate representation of what African American students really know. In the same study, researchers report, some teachers of African American students may focus their mathematics and reading curriculum on content precise to standardized tests, therefore limiting the range of instruction made available to African American students (Lomax, 1995).
Standardized achievement tests scores are used for informing teachers and parents about students' achievement relative to their peers. Standardized tests includes an examination of general intellectual abilities and achievement tests covering most basic subjects taught in primary and secondary schools (Henning, 2008). In addition, teachers evaluate students' performance in the classroom. Teachers are also required to give student informal feedback on their progress throughout the school year.
The Department of Education expects teachers to teach and make lesson plans according to the state's education curriculum. The selection of textbooks is used as a guide for teachers for what should be taught. Authors conduct yearlong case studies of analyzing standardized test curriculum to determine what should be included in textbooks. In a case study, teachers believed that the best way to satisfy district requirements was to use an individualized approach to teaching the objectives (Lomax, 1995). This means that some teachers rather teach using their own methods.
African American students are confronted by the stereotype threat. The "stereotype threat" is the risk of being perceived as a negative stereotype or the fear of poor performance in society (Steel & Aronson, 1995). According to recent findings, African American students labeled with a negative stereotype tend to underperform in the classroom, and standardized tests (Kellow, 2008). This may cause African American students to be ineligible for courses necessary for higher education (Lomax, 1995).
Researchers tend to believe that the African American students are more likely to drop out of school in enormous numbers because of lack of resources and family support (Lomax, 1995). The dropout rates among high school students are in cities that have a large African American and low-income populations (Alexander, 1997). Reading and mathematics dominate the curriculum in the primary grades and are the foundation of fundamentally all later learning. African American students that underachieve in these areas are reported to have lower self-esteem (Lomax, 1995).
Selecting the Interviewee
The interviewee is the curriculum coordinator for Whitaker Elementary School. The interviewer chooses the curriculum coordinator because she study standardized test results. She has knowledge about the data from the recent Palmetto Assessment of State Standards test. The interviewer believes this is interesting because it indicates how a predominately African American elementary school compares to predominately European American schools in the state. The interviewer was able to arrange an appointment with the curriculum coordinator a week prior to the interview. The interview was original schedule with my formal teacher, however was unable to participate because of medical reasons.
B. Opening the Interview
Prior to the interview, the interviewer shakes hands with the interviewee to establish rapport. The interviewer begins the interview by thanking the interviewee for participating in the project. The interviewee was informed that, a co-worker thought it would be an excellent idea to interview the school curriculum coordinator since I was studying schools standardized tests. Next, the interviewer explains the purpose for conducting the interview.
Closing the Interview
After the interview, the interviewer shakes hands with the interviewee to maintain rapport. The interviewer again thanks the interviewee for participating in the project. The interviewer informs the interviewee that a consent form with the participant's signature was a requirement for this project, however was not available at the time of the interview. When available, the interviewee will receive the consent form. Finally, the interviewer allows the interviewee to answer any questions or concerns.
Recording the Information
The information was recorded by writing keywords and quotes on a notepad. The keywords and quotes were transcribed into about three pages of notes. Then, the interviewer organizes the notes by topics. Finally, the interviewer analyzes the notes to develop the results section.
Tone and Process of Communication
The general tone of the interview was that the interviewee was eager to explain her duties as a curriculum coordinator. The interviewee was willing to clarify any questions or concerns during and after the interview. The interviewer was able to keep the interviewee talking by using several different probes. The silent and nudging probes were the most frequently used probes.
Problems during the Interview
Overall, the interview went generally well; however, a few problems occurred during the interview. The interview was postponed two days after the original schedule date. Another, problem was the constant interruption of the intercom. The interviewer was able to reschedule the interview accordingly to the interviewee schedule. The interruption of the intercom was not a serious problem.
The interview takes place at Whitaker Elementary School in the conference room. The conference room limited the distraction from students and other staff members. The interviewer believes, from observation that the interviewee was relaxed being in the conference room. The interviewer believes having the interview in the conference room was helpful because it haves a round table and comfortable chairs.
The interviewer will make a few changes for the next interview project. First, the interviewer will become more familiar with the questions. This would limit the time reading the questions from the paper. Next, the interviewer will become a better listener. The interviewee was speaking briskly made it difficult for the interviewer to write down keywords and quotes. Most importantly, the interviewer will continue practicing interviewing skills.
The interviewee has been a curriculum coordinator for five years. Before the interviewee became a curriculum coordinator, she earned a degree in Administration and five years teaching experience. According to the interviewee, she works multiple positions such as supervise the curriculum form Pre-School through fifth grade, administer tests for students, observe teachers performance, review teachers' lessons plans, work with students and after school programs. The interviewee said, "It is mandatory to attend statewide meeting at least twice each semester."
Teachers have no discretion in determining the curriculum. The school district board members along with the school's curriculum coordinator are responsible for determining the curriculum for students. The interviewee said, "Teachers differentiate instructional practices by using their own teaching methods. All students are different but all are capable of learning." Teachers would tend to re teach a lesson if a majority of the class does not fully understand the concept. The curriculum coordinator selects texts books for teachers as a resource. However, the curriculum coordinator advises teachers to make lesson plans interesting for students.
According to the interviewee, "In 2009, each classroom, with the exception of two, have advance technology. A few of the advance technology are more computer interactive software, math tools, and the smart board." The smart board is an interactive white board that allow student to solve math problems by touching the white board to select answers. The interviewee said, "Since installation of the smart board students classroom participation has increased." The interviewee encourages teachers to post up works of students on the bulletin board. This may inspire students to excel in the classroom.
Standardized testing determines how well students are performing. The curriculum coordinator facilitate the standardize testing at Whitaker Elementary School. Several things are done to prepare students for standardize tests. The curriculum coordinator meets with teachers every Tuesday to review previous tests scores, students' trends of failure and success, and lesson plans. The interviewee said, "Afterschool tutorial sessions are mandatory for the students who did not met the standards on the PASS (Palmetto Assessment of State Standards)." The PASS test is the replacement for the Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test. The interviewee said, "The only difference between the two tests is that the PASS test is composed of only multiple choice questions on the math, reading, grammar, science, and social studies sections. The PACT was a combination of multiple choice and open ended responses." The interviewee also said, "One major benefit of the PASS test is the students' results are available two to three weeks after testing. From last year's results, Whitaker Elementary School ranked either one or two in the areas of science, reading, and social studies among other elementary schools in the district."
After conducting the interview, more information was collected about the duties of a curriculum coordinator. What was discovered from the interview was that a curricum coordinator is responsible for multiple of tasks. The curriculum coordinator is responsible for; advising teachers with the school's curriculum, analyzing previous standardized test scores, attending district and statewide meetings, and making sure information is properly recorded, and sent to the district office. Prior to becoming a curriculum coordinator, one must earn a degree in administration, and have taught for five years.
Overall, the interview was very informative. However, the interviewee was unable to give the interviewer a report on how the school compare to other schools beyond the school district. The interviewee was supportive and eager to talk about what it is like being a curriculum coordinator. As a continuation for this project, the interviewee suggests that the interviewer may return to do observation. The researcher learned that preparation is important in becoming an interviewer. For future projects, the researcher will use more probes because for this project only the silent probe and the nudging probe were used the must.