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Association of Math Test Scores in Middle School to Different Teachers and Methods of Instruction Based on Gender, Ethnicity, and Socioeconomic Status

Is there a significant difference in scores based on methods of instruction and assignment of teaching among students based on gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status?

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine and decide whether there was a significant difference in students achievement based on their teacher’s style of teaching as well as gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. For this study, test scores were provided based on a student’s gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status to inform the researcher of the differences between the student and how they are being taught in the middle school math classes. The Elementary Classroom Observation Measure (ECOM) was developed for the study as well as teacher surveys and the P3 model (Preparation, Practice, and Performance). These methods revealed that students achieve significantly higher on math test scores if they are taught by the standard based method rather than direct instruction.

Association of Math Test Scores in Middle School to Different Teachers and Methods of Instruction Based on Gender, Ethnicity, and Socioeconomic Status

Introduction

Many students have more difficulty in the subjects of math and science than any other subjects in school. Many are struggling in math due to the teacher’s form of instruction. However, there are ways in which this can be combatted in order to help the students achieve better test scores as well as a better understanding of the subject.

Three teachers, Ms. Ruger, Ms. Smith, and Ms. Wesson, are all math teachers. Ms. Ruger uses the traditional way to teach math whereas the other two teachers depend on the standards-based methods to teach their students. During a teacher meeting, it is stated that all math teachers should be using the same teaching method in their classrooms. While Ms. Ruger believes that her approach is better, the other teachers disagree and like their styles of teaching. After the meeting, the Board President calls in reference to complaints. The main goal is to find a method that works where all teachers can use it in the classroom. Yet, the teachers disagree on the method that should be used.

Research suggests that students in the standards-based instruction (SBI) classrooms tend to achieve higher test scores, learn more effectively, and gain confidence in problem solving. The use of technology and manipulatives contribute to the student’s learning styles and help them learn more effectively in the math classroom. Research has also shown that many students who are taught by the traditional method gain procedural skills, but this form of instruction does not help students become better problem solvers.

In this paper, the test scores, implementation of specific teaching methods, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status will all play a crucial role in determining which teaching style would be best for these middle school students. It is hypothesized that the standards-based instruction will be more beneficial to the students regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic status.

Current Vision Statement

The current vision statement is to provide students with an education that will help them to continue to excel while in school and out of school. Teachers are responsible for providing education to the students that they feel helps and contributes to the student’s achievement within the classroom. There is no specific way in which teachers have to instruct their students as long as the students are learning and being prepared for higher level courses. The most important part of teaching is giving the students the opportunity to learn, engage, explore, and develop their skills. This vision statement should be revised as to give the students more structure and help them develop and gain knowledge based on their own learning styles. Regardless of ethnicity, gender or socioeconomic status, these students would be able to be taught in a classroom where their learning styles are valued, appreciated and utilized in order to help them achieve their educational goals. The best way to put this in place is to form a committee of four other individuals other than myself who feel that learning styles and education are important if combined. One of the individuals would be a school board director who agrees that learning styles are important. This individual has experience in the education field as a teacher and is also experienced in higher management of the educational field. Two other individuals would be parents of children within the school where one is for standards-based instruction and one who is against standards-based instruction and prefer the structural teaching. These individuals would be asked to join the task force committee so they can put in their input and so the committee can look at all information in a productive manner. These individuals would help formulate a plan for the revision of the vision statement by giving their thoughts and ideas. The final person on the task force committee would be another faculty member who has taught students using both methods. This person would be on the task force in order to provide feedback that may not be known by any of us. This person would help us evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using one program over the other.

Revised Vision Statement

            Based on the test scores of Ms. Ruger, Ms. Wesson, and Ms. Smith alone, it is clear that Ms. Smith’s and Ms. Wesson’s form of teaching creates a higher level of achievement. Ms. Smith and Ms. Wesson both had 8 students score 90 or above whereas Ms. Ruger only had 1 student. Ms. Smith had 13 students score between 80 and 89, Ms. Wesson had 23 students score between 80 and 89 and Ms. Ruger had 11 students score between 80-89. Ms. Smith had 20 students score between 70 and 79, Ms. Wesson had 15 students score between 70-79 and Ms. Ruger had 19 students score between 70-79. Ms. Smith had 16 students score between 60 and 69, Ms. Wesson had 15 students score between 60-69 and Ms. Ruger had 22 students score between 60 and 69. Ms. Smith had 8 students score between 50 and 59, Ms. Wesson had 10 students score between 50 and 59 and Ms. Ruger had 19 students score between 50 and 59. Finally, Ms. Smith had 6 students score between 40 and 49 and Ms. Wesson and Ms. Ruger both had 3 students each score between 40 and 49. This analysis shows that more students are excelling in Ms. Smith’s and Ms. Wesson’s classes, especially on test scores. Based on this information alone, it is my recommendation that standards-based learning should be used as much as possible; however, this does not mean that Ms. Ruger has to teach her classes this way. Students should be grouped in the classes in which they learn best in reference to their learning styles. This will be discussed in more detail in the next section.

Literature Review

            Based on the analysis and literature review, I would organize the math instruction for the middle school based on the student’s learning styles. Their socioeconomic status, gender, or ethnicity would not matter when organizing this as they would be put into the classes based on their learning styles. Some students are visual, aural, or social learners who prefer to learn by using pictures or images as well as sounds and music and generally like working in groups (“Overview of Learning Styles,”2013). These students would be place in Ms. Smith or Ms. Wesson’s class as these teachers use these types of methods in order to teach their students. Carla J. Thompson (n.d.) states that “SBI classroom strategies include student self-assessment, inquiry-based activities, group-based projects, hands-on experiences, use of computer technologies, and the use of calculators” (p. 53). These are very good for the visual, aural and social learners. However, there are the solitary and logical learners that tend to want to work alone and learn better when using logic, reasoning, and systems (“Overview of Learning Styles,” 2013). These children would be best suited for Ms. Ruger’s classroom. Therefore, they would be placed in her classroom in order to achieve success in math. The study completed by Thompson (n.d.) states the following:

This study provides evidence in support of standards-based practices such as inquiry, problem solving, co-operative learning, and use of hands-on and technology in math and science classrooms as significant contributors to student achievement. Results add some evidence to the need for females and minorities to utilize self-assessment, hands-on materials, and co-operative projects-based activities as effective standards-based practices in both math and science education (61).

In addition, due to the low test scores in math, many students are at a disadvantage themselves. Steven M. Ross, Lana J. Smith, Linda Lohr, and Mary McNelis (1994) state that many students are not benefiting from many of the interventions that schools have made such as reduced class sizes, pull-outs (which remove the lower achieving students from the regular classes and attempt to use remedial classes), and tutoring and remediation (106). In this study, the research model consisted of three major components which include:

  • Assignment of students to “regular” or “remedial” classes based on test scores and teacher recommendations, (b) reduction of class size in the remedial classes, and (c) emphasis on basic skills in the remedial classes so that students received double instructional time in reading and mathematics (106)

Ross et al. (1994) states the following in reference to the results of the study:

On the basis of the multiple sources of data obtained, the overall conclusion from this study is that few, if any, substantive differences existed between the remedial and regular first-grade classes in classroom structure and environment, instructional methods, teacher attitudes, teacher effectiveness, or instructional time usage (116).

All in all, these two studies show that standards-based instruction plays a huge role in the educational achievement of students in math and that remedial courses do not specifically help lower achieving students. In this case, I have decided, based on the conclusions of these studies, that the children in my middle school do not need to be grouped by ethnicity, socioeconomic background, or gender; these students should be grouped in classrooms where they are going to learn best based on their ways of learning. In thinking about Ms. Ruger’s suggestion to group students by ethnicity and ability, there are many questions that could be raised. A lot of those questions deal with discrimination. How is it that she can discriminate against these children based on their ethnicity when we aren’t allowed to do so anywhere else? Just because they are achieving lower scores does not mean that we can put them in classes where they are familiar with their surroundings. In order for children to grow and learn, they must experience things other than their normal surroundings. According to the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (2013), “National origin discrimination involves treating people (applicants or employees) unfavorably because they are from a particular country or part of the world, because of ethnicity or accent, or because they appear to be of a certain ethnic background (even if they are not).” This source also states the following in reference to gender:

Sex discrimination involves treating someone (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of that person’s sex. Sex discrimination also can involve treating someone less favorably because of his or her connection with an organization or group that is generally associated with people of a certain sex (1).

These are very serious crimes whether they are being used in a work atmosphere or an educational atmosphere. Parents and legal guardians could fight Ms. Ruger’s suggestion based specifically on discrimination and could allow for a lot of controversy for the school.

 Analysis of Costs

            With implementing the new method of instruction, the district will not have to pay out anything for additional textbooks. The main thing that the new method is doing is putting the students in classrooms where they will learn best. Therefore, new textbooks will not be needed. If at all, the cost may come from the purchase of puzzles or specific sorts of games in which wouldn’t cost any more than $100, if that. These aren’t even a necessity. The purchase of these tools would be at each teacher’s discretion depending on how they are going to use the standards-based methods. Cost should be a major factor in the decision to use a specific method as it either helps the teachers and students or it hurts them. If we spend more money on textbooks, we lose that money that could go to other projects or classes that are actually important for a child’s development in other areas such as music and art. It wouldn’t be good to cut these programs, so minimizing the money we spend on some things will help in aiding these other courses.

Summary

It is important that all children have the opportunity to learn based on their own specific needs just as it is important for teachers to be able to teach their students the way they feel fit as long as the students are excelling and achieving in the classroom. It is important that the Board understand that children, as well as teachers, (individuals in general) learn by different methods. Some are auditory learners, others are visual learners, and others learn by having structure and a fixed way of doing something. If we place children in the classrooms in which their learning styles are accustomed, we will see that test scores as well as education level will be exemplary. We must work for the children. What works for the children is having the opportunity to learn in an atmosphere where they feel comfortable no matter their ethnicity, gender or socioeconomic status.

References

Overview of learning styles. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.learning-stylesonline.com/overview

Ross, S. M., Smith, L. J., Lohr, L., & McNelis, M. (n.d.). Math and reading instruction in tracked first-grade classes. (1994). The elementary school journal, 95(2), 105-119.

Thompson, C. (n.d.). Preparation, practice, and performance. Research in education, 81, 53-62. U.S Equal Employment, O. C. (2013). Discrimination. Retrieved from http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/index.cfm