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Elementary School Effectiveness in Mississippi Schools

Achievement gaps have always existed with high minority and high poverty schools. Research has been limited on high performing schools. Prior research has been unable specifically explain the gap in achievement or explain high poverty schools that perform well in reading and math. Data has indicated a correlation between schools with higher minority enrollment and a low test scores. Then the question remains what are the “high flying schools” (Jerald 2001) doing to close the achievement gap? Background of the Study There are hundred forty-nine school districts in Mississippi.

A hundred forty-five school districts are accredited, three are on probation and four are advised. Mississippi has 437 elementary schools, 178 middle, 184 high school and sixty combination elementary and secondary schools. Four hundred eighty six thousand people live in poverty and 10% of children belong to families that are not able to meet their needs. Of those living in poverty 51% are African American and 47. 3% are Caucasian (Mississippi Department of Education, p. 6). The delta region of Mississippi is considering the poorest area in the state.

It has been called the “Third World Country in America” (United States Commission on Civil Rights, p. 1). This study will focus on the Leland School District located in the delta region. There are two elementary schools in this district: Leland Elementary School and Leland School Park. Both schools are public schools and both are high performing schools in the top 50% (The Education Trust, website). Mississippi use the Mississippi Curriculum Test (MCT) for elementary grade level administered in grades two through eighth.

The MCT measures student mastery of skills and content which is outlined in the Mississippi Curriculum Frameworks (Mississippi Department of Education, p. 12). The Mississippi Board of Education identified eight priorities: reading, early literacy, student achievement, leadership, safe/orderly schools, technology, and parent/community involvement. The ultimate goal is to increase student achievement and the number of teachers. In 1994 the legislature requires the Mississippi School Board to issue a stricter minimum standards and a stricter accountability.

In 2002 the accountability standards accreditation was reflective at school level than district level. Schools that were failing were labeled priority schools (Mississippi Department of Education, p. 9). Several strategies have been suggested to improve a school performance such as creating a more challenging curriculum, making sure teachers are proficient in their field, and increasing parental involvement (Mississippi Department of Education, p 26). Statement of the Problem Mississippi schools are below the nation in reading and math.

These schools struggle to meet educational standards and students fall through the educational loophole. This research will focus on The Leland School Park and Leland Elementary who have seem to contradict norms about high poverty, high minority schools with low test scores. The research will use qualitative and quantitative study to prove that schools of this type can raise test scores and maintain the high achievement. Prior research has failed to adequately determine what has caused many Mississippi schools to close the achievement gap.

Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study is to identify variables that are in direct correlation to increase reading and math scores at schools with 50% or greater poverty levels and minority enrollment. This study will be invaluable in identifying specific criteria that improve the educational level of schools that are failing. Research Questions National Level: The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 reinstated two prior acts: Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and the Improving America’s School Act of 1994.

The parts of the act are stronger accountability, the states have more leeway, more scientifically based educational programs, and parents can choose to remove their children from failing schools (Mississippi Board of Education, page 10). How has this program worked in improving a school’s academic performance in the Leland School district? State Level: On May 1, 2002 Governor Musgrove approved a bill to give teachers a 30% pay raise. The condition for the pay raise is for the state is to raise their revenue by 5%. However, because of past promises, most teachers do not see that pay rise becoming effective.

Poor salaries and deplorable schools have caused many teachers to leave the profession. This has created a severe teacher shortage. The teachers needed to fill this need strong professional development programs to ensure that quality teachers are placed within the school system. Teachers must be knowledgeable of their subject area (United States Commission, p. 7). What kinds of professional development programs are needed to ensure quality teachers and how has the money been allocated for such programs? District Level: High performing schools have noted that it takes a combination of many variables.

What are the high minority, high poverty schools implementing to close the achievement gap? Is there a specific type of criteria to help all schools or is each school unique? Hypothesis The Leland School district’s elementary schools have been successful in closing that gap by implementing strong academic programs that focus on student-centered learning and a strong parental involvement. Nature of the Study The research will use a study design that will focus on methodology and associated variables used in determining what criterias are needed to increase the reading and math scores of elementary schools in Leland school districts.

Significance of the Study This study will prove that high minority; high poverty schools can close the achievement gap. Not only can they close the gap but can raise the test scores in those areas or normal low achievement (reading and math). This study will also provide foundational literature for other schools to research to implement improvement plans in other struggling schools. Definitions of terms The schools that meet a certain criteria such as high minority in a poverty area are entitled to Title 1. Title 1 was enacted in 1965 provides funds to local school districts to educational poor schools (United States Commission, p.

5). George Bush passed the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 to give parents a choice, to provide more scientifically lead programs and give more freedom to states and school districts (Mississippi Department of Education, p. 10). Parents of children in low achievement schools have an option removing their child from that school and placing him or her in a better school. Assumptions and Limitations Methodological Assumption T his research study assumes that all variables will be similar. The variables are school size, majority/minority ratio, type of standardized tests, and student-teacher ratio.

Theoretical Assumption The Leland School district has implemented several different programs to improve the achievement gap and at each level promoted a strong parental involvement. Limitations The limitations include the type of methodology used and study design. For example if the methodology used is a survey. The data from the survey is dependent on the participants truthfully answering each question and completing the survey. The research can be tainted if the participants misrepresent the information. The Remaining chapters of the proposal Chapter 2 Review of Literature relevant to the research question

Chapter 3 Overview of Methodology Chapter 2 Literature Review There are many studies documenting the correlation between education and high minority, high poverty schools. Most have concluded that high minority; high poverty schools perform below nation standards on most tests especially in the areas of reading and math. As mentioned in Chapter 1 this achievement gap has always existed. Those schools who beat the odds serve as model programs for failing school districts. Most researchers are drawn to those schools who are failing and extensive literature has been done on why these schools are failing.

However, literature is limited on high performing schools and what they are doing to close the achievement gap. The purpose of this literature review is to highlight research that show that poor schools can compete with the rest of the nation in the areas of reading and math. The purpose of each paper, the comparison of each paper and the limitation of each study will be discussed. The following literature focuses on how schools in the Mississippi School district and nationwide are implementing school improvement plans and closing the achievement gap.

In School Improvement and Closing the Achievement Gap Report 2003-2004 discuss the accountability history in Mississippi Schools. Historically, Mississippi schools located in the delta region have fit the normal profile of high poverty, high minority schools that have below average math and reading scores. However, there are those school districts that are making changes and improving their achievement scores. The paper outlines several key points to ‘close the achievement gap’ such as a challenging curriculum and more parent involvement.

Those school districts that have implemented some of these key points have made great strides in improving test scores especially in reading and math. Craig Jerald discusses how nationwide high poverty, high minority schools have high achieving students. The researcher wanted to know “How many high-poverty and high minority schools nationwide have high student performance. The study used the education trust database to identify certain criterias. Over 4500 schools were analyzed. Each meeting the criteria set and performing well above the expectation.

The paper’s goal was to show that there is a nationwide trend with low poverty, high performing schools. Both papers discussed the achievement gap and statistical what areas are seeing the greatest improvement. The School Improvement Paper focused on the Mississippi school districts. It gave an accountability report on those school districts that have been struggling, but also it outline strategies to close the gap and specific schools that have made great strides in improving test scores. Craig Jerald in Dispelling the Myth focused on school districts nation wide.

It did not give reasons why these school districts performed well, but did state that none of the schools were magnet schools. The report stimulated that most schools with high poverty, high minority students live in urban areas. However, based on the data from the School Improvement Plan, some of the poorest schools are in rural areas. Dispelling the Myth looked at specific criteria for the study, whereas, the Mississippi School Improvement Plan did not specific schools used in the data. The limitation of both studies failed to look at specific schools and detail specific strategies used in improving the achievement gap.

The Mississippi school achievement plan made suggestions on how schools can improve, but a greater detail is needed to truly understand what each school did to improve scores. Model schools or a model program can be established based on greater research. It is easy to see why poorer schools fail. It is easy to understand the need for better research and solutions to why minority students struggle in the areas of math and reading. It is also easy to make a correlation between the best schools with better programs, better technology and a better location with students who are in the majority.

What is difficult to understand is how schools with every thing stack against them can beat the odds. Greater research is needed to understand how these schools are closing the achievement gap. What are the programs they are implementing and how are the classrooms structured. George Bush wanted no child left behind, in order to see that happen it is imperative to understand the structure of a high achieving school. Chapter 3 Methodology This research design will include a hybrid methodology which will include both qualitative and quantitative research methods.

Surveys will be used gather information on the school dynamics. Interviews will be conducted with administration and teachers to gather strategies implemented to raise test scores and how parents are involved in the curriculum structure. The interviews and surveys will be conducted during the first three months of the school year. Next an individual profile will be set up by shadowing a particular classroom and teacher. Information will be written down about how the teacher is conducting his or her classroom and what strategies are being used to raise test scores.

Lastly, school comparison will be conducted in the form of a case study to describe a low achieving school structure and compare that with the Leland Schools. An assessment of the data will be conducted and each result will be compared with the hypothesis. It is important to describe in detail what specifically is being implemented in the Leland School District and why the low performing schools are not doing similar actions.

References

Jerald, Craig D. (2001). Dispelling the Myth Revisited: Preliminary Findings from a Nationwide Analysis of “High Flying” Schools. Retrieved May 8, 2006, from http://www2. edtrust.org/NR/rdonlyres/A56988EB-28DE-4876-934A-EE63E20BACEE/0/DTMreport. pdf#search=’Dispelling%20the%20Myth%20Revisited’ html. Mississippi Department of Education. School Improvement and Closing the Achievement Gap Report 2003-2004. Mississippi Department of Education, 1-40. Racial and Ethnic Tensions in American Communities: Poverty, Inequality, and Discrimination-Volume VII: The Mississippi Delta Report. (2001). United States Commission on Civil Rights. Retrieved on May 8, 2006, from http://www. usccr. gov/pubs/msdelta/pref. htm The Education Trust. Retrieved May 11, 2006, from http://www2. edtrust. org/edtrust/dtm/.

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