Beyond the Test Scores: A Retrospective Study of One School's Efforts to Promote Teacher Competence and Confidence in Fourth Grade Writing.

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Title: Beyond the Test Scores: A Retrospective Study of One School's Efforts to Promote Teacher Competence and Confidence in Fourth Grade Writing.
Author: Gainey, Paul Barrow
Advisors: Lance Fusarelli, Committee Chair
Patrick Bizzaro, Committee Member
Ruie Pritchard, Committee Member
Kenneth Brinson, Committee Member
Kevin Brady, Committee Member
Abstract: This study focused on how one elementary school undertook improving writing instruction during the time period from 2001-2006. The study was conducted in a retrospective study approach to determine whether or not the work done to improve teacher competence in the area of writing instruction actually produced improved student test scores on the North Carolina writing assessment for fourth grade. Another part of the study concentrated on the role of the school's administration in supporting the efforts of the fourth-grade teachers, as well as those at other grade levels in the school, in promoting strong writing instruction geared toward student mastery. This study was undertaken using data collected from state writing assessments during the time period as well as instructional calendars, data compiled from student prompts given throughout the school year, school district expectations, student population demographic data, state testing data, school accreditation reports, the school's writing performance expectation plan, and school improvement plans. Data was also collected through individual and focus group interviews with former fourth grade teachers in the school, teachers at other grade levels still working in the school building, and the school principal. Interview and focus group data was analyzed to ascertain common trends in responses, teacher perceptions of the school's efforts to support writing instruction from 2001-2006, and teacher expectations for administrative support and the effectiveness of that support. Overall, this study revealed some important results. While there was improvement in test performance over the five-year period, it was apparent that the efforts made in fourth grade writing by the teachers working with those students were not met with the same instructional efforts at the grades below fourth grade. Further, there was perceived to be a higher frustration level when it came to teaching writing at the non-tested grades suggesting a need for more relevant in-service training to all members of the faculty. Another result of the study revealed a lack of instructional leadership on the part of the school principal. Finally, the issue of how to teach content-rich composition to the males in the student population demonstrates a need to improve instruction to reach this group of students.
Date: 2007-11-09
Degree: EdD
Discipline: Educational Administration and Supervision

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