Development of Learning Schedule for Mathematics and Literacy

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08/02/20 Teaching Reference this

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Executive Summary

The school-based internship project I will be endeavoring is to create a new master schedule to accommodate 30 minutes more of English Language Arts (ELA) and 44 more minutes of mathematics instruction. The rationale for the new schedule is to bestow upon the teachers more instructional time to focus on finer ELA skills, such as decoding, specific comprehension techniques, and specific writing techniques. As well, the extra period for teaching mathematics will allow the teachers more time, daily, to focus on the finer points of the mathematics curriculum, specifically, more time to focus on comprehending word problems.

Create an efficient, effective master schedule is an integral portion of a principal’s job. A well thought out schedule allows the school to run fluidly. The objective of the new master schedule is to allow for more instructional time in key subject areas. The extra time in the schedule allows for more time for the teachers to address the diverse need of the students in the classroom. A major complaint of the teaching staff is the amount of time allotted for both ELA and Math. This schedule can address their concerns a create an instructional environment that allows for more depth in the area of content and more breadth in order to serve the diverse needs in the classroom.

Project Description

Project Context

Monroe Township is a suburban school district in southern Middlesex County. Monroe has seen a tremendous population growth over the last 17 years. A significant contribution to the expansion of students is an influx of immigrants from Southern Asia or the subcontinent of India. This population has a very different perspective on education than the rest of the population of the school. In 2000, the population was 27,999. By 2010, the population had increased 39.8% to 39, 132. Seven years later, the population increased another 26.2% landing at its current population of 49,399 as of the 2017 Census Report. The school district houses 7,373 students. The district consists of 1 high school, 1 middle school, 3 kindergartens to 2nd-grade buildings, and 3 third to fifth-grade buildings. Many of the buildings are at or near capacity which impacts teacher and learning performance. I will focus my internship at Brookside School. Brookside is reflective of the population expansion in the district. The school consists of grades 3 – 5 with two self-contained classrooms (ABA classroom for students on the Autism Spectrum and a Multiply Disabled classroom for students with lower cognitive abilities than the majority of the population.

In 2014, The Monroe Township School District transitioned to utilizing the Workshop Model to educated the students in the school. This model is what is the expected model utilized in every classroom in every grade in the district. However, due the districts staunch belief in this model, gaps in the students’ foundational skill knowledge and abilities been created. The teachers have very little time to focus on basic reading (decoding and comprehension), writing (how to write a well developed sentence), and mathematics (place value, word problem vocabulary, basic computation, etc.). From a purely anecdotal perspective, this is a major source of discontent with the teaching staff. This project’s purpose is to create a master schedule that will apportion more time in ELA and Math to address the teacher’s discontent and give them them the latitude to address these needs in the systematic approach in which they need and desire.

Problem Statement

A major issue within Brookside School and the other schools within Monroe Township School District is the teacher’s ability to teach and reinforce the foundational skills needed to build student capacity in the areas of ELA and Math. Many teachers and administrators have grown frustrated with their inability to employ time to teach these concepts and integrate them into their programs. The new master schedule should be able to begin to alleviate the issue at hand. Time has been created specifically to address this problem area. The outcome of this new schedule should develop more effective programs that will enhance the teacher’s ability to teach these concepts to ensure that every student has the opportunity to excel in school. It also allows leaders to enhance their practice by researching the new methods and understanding how proper implementation of these skills will allow their schools to flourish under stricter state policies.

Project Purpose

This project was selected due to the frustration of the teachers and administrators alike in their pursuit of building a more effective reading and mathematics program. This new schedule will show the commitment of preparing our students to reach their full potential and to function in a global society through a preeminent education, as well as, ensuring that all students receive an exemplary education by well-trained staff. A major goal for the district is to make progress in student achievement in both ELA and Math. The new schedule will support this notion. In order for this to be effective, the school leaders must chart a clear course that everyone understands, establishing high expectations and using data to track progress and performance, provide teachers and others in the system with the necessary support and training to succeed, ensure that the entire range of conditions in the district and schools fully supports rather than inhibits teaching and learning (Anderson, et. al, page 3). The Action Plan in place will support the practice for effective leadership. Involving myself in this project will give me the exposure and experience of creating a master schedule as well as, build a greater capacity of how to create fluent and effective programs to enhance student development.

Project Design

Since I entered the school district as an LDTC, I have attempted to help the teachers in their pursuit of teaching foundational skills to their students. However, the same problem persists each time the issue was investigated. A major flaw in the development of these skills is the allocation of time spent on the subject matter. Prior to the 2018-2019 school year, I sent out a survey via Google Forms to investigate the teacher’s perception of the students’ foundational skills. The survey responses support my theory. After I received the surveys back, I researched the school’s PARCC and MAP scores to determine weaknesses in the curriculum as well as give us a starting point to view growth. I presented them to the building principal. He instructed me to create a tentative schedule based on our current schedule and develop research questions and an Action Plan to support our proposal. The Action Plan is in appendices ##. The research questions are as follows:

  1. What is the relationship between instructional time and student achievement—that is, does increasing instructional time increase achievement?
  2. What is the relationship between more time in guided practice, asking questions, checking for understanding, and error correction and teacher success?
  3. Does creating a new Master Schedule build student capacity for learning foundational skills?

Research Base

Over the past 10 to 15 years, education has seen a tremendous shift in how instructional time is utilized. Instructional time is at the forefront of many politically-driven discussions about school districts. Understanding the impact and effect of instructional time on student achievement and standardized testing provides educational professionals with necessary information to encourage educationally sound decision making for students in the New Jersey public schools. With the main focus of improving student outcomes, instructional leaders must evaluate the current research to ensure that school and district decisions are grounded in empirical research findings.

Most of the current research suggests a positive correlation between increased instructional time and increased student achievement (Anderson et. al., Kukuchi,2014; Jensen VM, 2013, Jez & Wassmer, 2013). However, many do not understand the difference between the length of the school day and instructional time. Without understanding instructional time, many districts increase the length of the school day with expectations that student achievement will improve. The New Jersey State report card for each district delineates the distinction between the length of the school day and amount of instructional time by explaining each category.

There has been numerous research that has attempted to prove a positive correlation between instructional time and student achievement most research has been in the area of total school hours, not specific instructional time. However, there have been more recent studies that have been more focused on instructional time. It appears that even greater than instructional in isolation, it appears the increased instructional time must be paired with sound instructional approaches. Harn et al. (2008) found that students receiving the additional hour of intensive instructional time had more significant growth from the fall to spring than students receiving the additional 30 minutes of instructional time per day. As well, in Cattanoe et. al.’s (2016) Discussion Paper, they identified that there was a significant positive impact on learning outcomes when additional instructional time was implemented into the school’s instructional schedule. However, they also reported that the effectiveness of that additional hour of instruction was impacted by the alternative use of time. In other words, they are suggesting that although there are gains with increased instructional time, the gains are marginal if not coupled with quality curriculum and instruction.

Seemingly, there is a plethora of research that exists about the positive correlation of increasing instructional time, but it also appears that adding instructional time cannot be the only variable that impacts student achievement. Patall et al. (2010) asserts that an increase in instructional time is only as beneficial as the instruction students receive during that time. Phelps et. al. (2012); Harn et. al. (2008); Baker et al. (2005);Cattanoe et. al. (2016); Kikuchi, 2014; and Jensen (2013) all agree to a large extent that adding instructional time is only as successful on student achievement as the quality of instruction that follows the increased time.

Findings, Conclusions, and Recommendations

There has been numerous research that has attempted to prove a positive correlation between instructional time and student achievement most research has been in the area of total school hours, not specific instructional time. However, there have been more recent studies that have been more focused on instructional time. It appears that more beneficial than instructional time in isolation, it appears the increased instructional time must be paired with sound instructional approaches. The findings of the research closely correlates with the data collected from the teachers at Brookside School in Monroe Township.

The teachers at Brookside School were surveyed in order to probe their beliefs about how to improve student achievement in both ELA and Math. The initial question on the survey was, “In your opinion, what is more important? More time, Quality Curriculum and Instruction, or Both.” Of the 22 teachers that returned the survey, 17 (76.2%) teachers expressed that quality curriculum and instruction paired with more time would be the equally important in student achievement. This is exhibited in the Chart A:

Chart A

The following two survey questions (“What is the greatest hindrance in ELA(1)/Math(2)”) exhibit a slight contradiction of the findings of the above question probing the importance of quality instruction or time. The previous data findings (the above chart) suggest teachers place an equal importance on both areas. However, the data from the survey questions: “What is the greatest hindrance in ELA(1)/Math(2)” finds that teachers view instructional time as more important that professional development and/or materials (charts B & C). It is believed that the survey questions may not have been developed in a manner in which they correlate perfectly. Considering that the teachers do believe the both instructional time and program development are of equal importance, there choices for the ‘greatest hindrance” question may not have been worded appropriately. Nevertheless, it certain appears that instructional time and quality programs are what the teachers desire.

Chart B

Chart C

The next two survey questions probe what the teachers believe is the greatest instructional weakness within ELA and Math. Within both areas, the teachers were most concerned in the areas of the student’s basic skills. In ELA, 57.1% of teachers believe that basic skills is greatest programmatic problem. In Math, 66.7% believe that basic skills is greatest programmatic problem. The data collected here does correlate with the idea of adding instructional time and quality instruction to the classrooms. The data is expressed in Charts D – G.

Chart D

Chart E

Chart F

Chart G

Given that research exists in regards to the positive correlation between instructional time and student achievement it is imperative for the school district to ensure a greater systematic approach to these issues.

Within mathematics, remediation of these skills are much easier to address. This is because the program in which the district utilize (Envisions 2.0) contains materials and systematic approaches to address the foundational needs. The teachers have not had success implementing and utilizing the resources the program affords them due to time constraints. In the context of math at Brookside School, the teachers simply need an allotment of time to focus their teaching practices on these skills.

Within ELA the issue is more complicated and involved. In order to create greater student success, the teachers require knowledge and support in the foundational areas of comprehension, decoding, and basic sentence development. To address the decoding deficiencies, we will train the entire staff and implement Wilson Reading Strategies in a Daily 30 minute period. The district had begun training all staff members in this systematic approach in 2017-2018 school year. The district is currently training many staff members with this approach and have plans to train much of the elementary grade level staff over the next two-year period.

In regards to teaching comprehension and basic writing, the district will need to implement systematic approaches that will marry seamlessly with the workshop model. The Workshop has one inherent flaw. It does not allow the teachers to isolate comprehension and writing strategies. It requires the teachers to only address these needs in the application. So the teachers currently address these needs while the student is reading or writing, instead of isolating the foundational skills, building on each individual concept, then generalizing into the students application. This can be remediated utilizing modified versions of Visualizing and Verbalizing for comprehension and The Hochman Writing Program for basic writing skills. Given that the project is simply to adjust the Master Schedule to create more time in ELA and Math for foundational skills, a fully defined action plan and explanation of the program implementation is explored in depth within my Action Research Project.

Application to School Leadership Practice

Applications

My research for this project has addressed many areas of professional growth as it pertains to the standards in the four leadership areas. From an organizational perspective, the new master schedule and the product that follows promotes the success of every student by facilitating the development, articulation, implementation, and stewardship of the district’s vision of learning. It has also allowed me to be exposed to the structured behind the scenes development of novel district ideas and how to navigate the political environment within the district. Championing district movement into a more effective instructional approach has propelled me into deeper research which has not only added to my foundational instructional knowledge, but has given strength in my beliefs to advocate for instructional methods that I view as beneficial. Aside from delving deeper into the instructional approaches, my understanding of strategic management has evolved. Developing and implementing an Action Plan has bestowed upon me a greater knowledge of the importance of strategic management and how to create an organization that promotes a strong organizational and operational structure to create more effective learning environments.

Dissemination

The outcomes and products will be disseminated to the District building principals, vice-principals, reading specialist, ELA and Mathematic supervisor, Director of Pupil Personnel, Superintendent, and Board of Education. Beyond the immediate district administrators it can be brought to both Superintendents and Directors county Round Tables sessions. The implementation of the the Action Plan and results can be published ASCD: Educational Leadership magazine, Education Blogs (i.e. Edutopia, Connected Principals, etc.).

Implications and Recommendations for Future Study

This project was to simply create a new master schedule to allow for more teacher-student time in Mathematics and ELA, which is not a new or novel idea. However the foundational impetus of this project could have a potentially positive impact on both subjects. Over the course of the past few years, education has been very concerned about how to effectively and efficiently educate the students utilizing the state standards to increase their State Testing scores. Due to this, many teachers and administrators alike, do not feel like they have the time or resources to effectively teach the foundational skills of the two subjects. This project could be a building block of how to effectively and efficiently teach foundational skills in isolation and apply them over the content matter being taught.

In regards to the research that was reviewed for this project, when examining instructional time, it is necessary to evaluate the type and quality of instruction taking place rather than simply equating any form of additional instructional time with an increase in student achievement. It would be imperative for researchers to develop more in-depth studies to address this issue.

References

  • Anderson, S., Leithwood, K., Seashore Louis, K., & Wahlstrom, K. (2004). How Leadership Influences Student Learning. Learning from Leadership Project.
  • Baker, D. P., Fabrega, R., Galindo, C., & Mishook, J. (2005). Instructional time and national achievement: Cross-national evidence. Prospects 34(3), 311–334. doi.org/10.1007/s11125-004-5310-1
  • Cattaneo, M., Oggenfuss, C., Wolter, S., (2017) The More, the Better? The Impact of Instructional Time on Student Performance: Education Economics, 25(5), 433-445
  • Harn, B. A., Thompson, S. L. & Roberts, G. (2008). Intensifying instruction: Does additional instructional time make a difference for the most at-risk first graders? Journal of Learning Disabilities, 41(2), 115-125. doi:10.1177/0022219407313586
  • Jensen, VM. (2013) Working longer makes students stronger? Journal of Educational Research. 55(2):180–194.
  • Jez, S. J., & Wassmer, R. W. (2013). The Impact of Learning Time on Academic Achievement. Education and Urban Society. doi: 10.1177/0013124513495275
  • Kikuchi N (2014) The effect of instructional time reduction on educational attainment. Journal of the Japanese and International Economies. 32: 17–41.
  • Patall, E. A., Cooper, H., & Allen, A. B. (2010). Extending the school day or school year: A systematic review of research 1985-2009. Review of Educational Research, 80(3), 401-436. doi:10.2102/0034654310377086
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