Perceptions of Effectiveness the Mathematics Initiative Training on the Math Academic Performance of Elementary Students. Emmaundia Whitaker, 2011. Applied Dissertation Concept Paper, Nova Southeastern University, Fischler School of Education and Human Services. ERIC Descriptors: Mathematics, Mathematics Initiative, Math Academic Performance, Elementary Students
This applied dissertation was designed to ascertain identify teachers' perceptions of the effectiveness of the Mathematics Initiative Training on impacting the Math academic performance of elementary students.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents iii
Chapter 1: Introduction 1
Chapter 1: Introduction
Statement of the Problem
One of the purposes of education research-and one that has been increasingly stressed in recent years with the enactment of the Education Science Reform Act of 2002 and the establishment of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES)-is to develop and rigorously evaluate programs to assess whether they are effective in supporting students' learning and achievement. This research agenda includes an emphasis on measuring implementation fidelity and linking those measures to program impacts (U.S. Department of Education, 2006). According to Tomlinson (2003), research is needed to identify effective ways to educate and foster success among students.
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Elementary students in School District X have poor academic performance in Mathematics. Still, mathematics and reading are typically considered by the majority of society to be the fundamental subjects to know and are therefore what are most commonly used to measure a student's or school's success or failure. In particular, mathematics is said to serve as a "critical filter," or a gateway to many high-status occupations (Schoenfeld, 2004), as quantitative skills are crucial in such areas as commerce, medicine, technology and defense (National Mathematics Advisory Panel, 2008). In addition, mathematics achievement is considered to be a better indicator of school effects because it is thought to be less influenced by family background and home effects than other subjects (Heyneman, 2005). Therefore, the research presented herein focuses on mathematics achievement as a measure of school effectiveness.
The research problem. Progressive educational reform has been a small yet ever-present current in schooling in the United States (Wilson, Floden, & Ferrini-Mundy, 2001). As the discipline has grown and developed during the last twenty years, mathematics education in particular has been pushing on the boundaries of this ongoing movement (Cuoco, 2001). A particularly challenging issue with progressive mathematics education reform is that teachers are being asked to create for students experiences those teachers have never had themselves (Richardson & Placier, 2001). Naturally a critical question has emerged as many mathematics teacher educators, math educators, mathematicians, professional developers, and researchers alike have been working to make such progressive mathematics learning environments a reality: how do we best prepare teachers to teach a mathematics radically different from that which emphasized drill, practice, and memorization of isolated facts and algorithms? (Kilpatrick, Swafford, & Findell, 2001).
Background and justification. A teacher's knowledge is one of the biggest influences on classroom atmosphere and on what students learn (Hill, Rowan, & Ball, 2005). Elementary school teachers need professional development in mathematics because, most commonly, they have been trained as generalists. This means that elementary teachers may have been trained to teach all core subjects, such as reading, science, social studies and math; but the teachers have not developed specialized skills in the teaching of any one subject (Greenberg & Walsh, 2008).
"Improving the mathematics learning of every child depends on making central the learning opportunities of our teachers," (Ball 2003, p. 9). The work of Ball (2001) unveiled those teachers with increased mathematical knowledge for teaching produced significantly larger gains in student achievement. Due to its proven influence, the mathematical knowledge important for the work of teaching has become a significant issue in mathematics education (Stylianides & Ball, 2004). Considering the aforementioned, it is imperative understand how, why and under what conditions the Math Initiative is effective in improving the Math academic performance of elementary school students.
Currently, many students are not achieving state standards (Tomlinson, 2003). With this in mind, the current study attempts to conceptualize the perceived impact, by teachers, that participation in the Math Initiative has had on mathematics academic performance. To do this, the researcher will employ a program evaluation utilizing a summative approach.
According to Patton, evaluation has philosophical roots, such as formative, summative, and knowledge-oriented evaluations. Each evaluation approach has different goals and objectives and seeks to address different issues. A formative evaluation seeks to improve a program in some way through analysis of the program components, while a summative evaluation judges the program's effectiveness (Patton). A summative evaluation measures the success of the completed program. It is used to make decisions about the future of the program. Use the results of this evaluation to recruit new host sites, funding sources, and participants, and to publicize the program. The summative evaluation often turns up unanticipated outcomes, identifying aspects of the program that would be otherwise overlooked.
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Deficiencies in the evidence. As schools endeavor to keep up with national standards for improved programming for teachers' professional development, more studies are needed that take into account teacher perceptions of the types of professional development available (Ellis & Berry, 2005). In addition, Grouws and Cebulla (2007) asserted that studies are needed to assess the quality of the professional development teachers have attended and the views on the value of the professional development. Lastly, Kulm (2009) contended that more studies are needed to assess what students benefits are a by product from what the teachers have learned.
Audience. According to Dooley (2001), program evaluations help administrators, school boards, and personnel make informed decisions regarding curriculum content or direction. By combining quantitative data related to program effectiveness and qualitative data related to individual teacher's perception regarding program strengths and weaknesses, this study will contribute to the body of existing knowledge related to the Math Initiative as a whole. Additionally, the results of this study have potential to aid collegiate mathematics educators in understanding the common and specialized content knowledge that pre-service teachers should obtain from mathematics content courses. This understanding can assist those responsible for developing appropriate curricula for pre-service teachers' mathematics content courses.
Definition of Terms
Academic performance. Academic performance refers to a child's performance in academic areas (e.g., reading or language arts, math,Â science, and history) (71 Fed. Reg. at 46662).
Effectiveness. Effectiveness is the degree to which an educational program or personnel yields the desired outcomes of achievement or specific requirements (Sammons, 1999).
Elementary School Student. A child in kindergarten through fifth grade (GaDOE, 2011).
Math strategies. Multiple paths in Math that enable students of different abilities, interests or learning needs experience equally appropriate ways to absorb, use, develop and present concepts as a part of the daily learning process (Faivillig, 2001).
Perceptions. Perceptions involve the process of acquiring, interpreting, selecting, and organizing sensory information (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary).
Professional development. Professional development is the activities teachers participate in to inform or improve the job-related knowledge, skills or attitudes of school employees or a process of growing and becoming a professional (Cooney, 2001).
Traditional textbooks. Traditional textbooks refer to commercially generated textbook materials that reflect a learning perspective focused primarily on procedures and direct teaching methods (Ball, 2001).
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this program evaluation is to show how the various levels of implementation and fidelity to the Mathematics Initiative Training affect student academic performance in the area of mathematics. Specifically, the purpose of this study is to identify teachers' perceptions of the effectiveness of the Mathematics Initiative on impacting the Math academic performance of elementary students. Considering the aforementioned, a program evaluation will be a useful tool for determining the effectiveness of the Mathematics Initiative.
A summative program evaluation of the Mathematics Initiative will provide a method for collecting, organizing, analyzing and reporting data for multiple audiences. According to Babbie (2007), summative program evaluation measures the success of a curriculum in achieving learner objectives for all targeted learners, its success in achieving its process objectives, and/or its success in engaging, motivating, and pleasing its learners and faculty. In addition to quantitative data, summative program evaluation may include qualitative information about unintended barriers or unanticipated effects encountered in program implementation (Denscombe, 2007).
A review of the literature resulted in the following research questions/hypothesis, which will guide the current study:
R1. What are the teachers' perceptions of the effectiveness of the Math Initiative Training?
Focus Group Questions
In what ways is the Math Initiative Training effective or ineffective in impacting the Math academic performance of elementary students?
What evidence supports the effectiveness of the Math Training Initiative?
What are the most effective components of the Math Training Initiative?
What are the most ineffective components of the Math Training Initiative?
What do you see as the educationally related future of the Math Training Initiative in elementary school settings?
R2. Is there a difference in the Math academic performance of students in the 2006-2008 school years before the Math Initiative Training compared to the 2008-2010 school years after the Math Initiative Training?
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HO1: There is not a statistically significant difference in the Math academic performance of students in the 2006-2008 school years before the Math Initiative Training compared to the 2008-2010 school years after the Math Initiative Training
Educational and societal stakeholders want to know if professional development is a worthwhile investment (Clotfelter, Ladd, & Vigdor, 2006). Opportunities have to be in place for follow-up, review, and monitoring of implementation of the teachers new knowledge from professional development (Ball, 2003). Claims of effectiveness or ineffectiveness may be unwarranted and invalid unless the degree to which programs are implemented as intended by the developers is defined and assessed (Rivkin, Hanushek, & Kain, 2005). Puma and Raphael (2001) argued that evaluation of any initiative or training should be viewed as part of the process of building local capacity reform. Documenting the connections between the aforementioned professional development opportunities and teacher learning is crucial for the improvement of student learning.
Following this introduction chapter is Chapter 2, which will present a review of related literature. Chapter 3 will discuss the research design and methodology for the research study. Selection of subjects, instrumentation, data collection and assumptions will be detailed in this chapter. The chapter will conclude with the procedures utilized for conducting the research and the data processing and analysis and the appropriate statistical procedure for testing the hypotheses. Chapter 4 will present the data collected for the research as well as the data analysis employed to answer each research question and the findings from the data analysis. Chapter 5 will conclude the research with a discussion of the findings, conclusions, implications for professional practice, and implications for future research. Additionally, recommendations for implementation will be presented.