Title

Teacher Qualities that Attribute to Academic Achievement of African-American High School Students

Focused Area

Youth-At-Risk in Urban Settings

Relevance to Focused Area

The academic achievement of high school African-American students has been lower than the academic success of White, Latino, and Asian students. Eventually, this low performance contributes to the low graduation rate of African-American children. Since the academic status of students is determined by their performance in the classroom (Irvine, 1990), enhancing the effectiveness of the one person who controls the classroom environment should remain the focus for improving student achievement. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine the qualities and practices of teachers that play a role in the academic achievement of African-American high school students. To do this, the researcher explored the perceptions of African-American high school students and their teachers to identify what was perceived as the most effective instructional practices and teacher qualities that influence achievement among African-American high school students in an urban school district. The purpose for collecting the perspectives of students and their teachers were due to the fact that they both are a part of the teaching and learning process.

Primary Strand

Academic Achievement & School Leadership

Relevance to Primary Strand

One of the vital roles of school leadership is to build the capacity of teachers in order to ensure students receive a quality education. This study explored the perceptions of teachers and both high performing and low performing high school African-American students, regarding characteristics and practices of teachers that contribute to both the academic success experienced by high-performing students, and the below average achievement experienced by low-performing students. Since students and teachers actively participate and are at the core of the academic process, their perceptions are critical to improving the performance levels of these students. The findings reveal the powerful influence that teachers have in the shaping of students’ educational experiences. Their voices contribute to the body of literature on academic achievement of African-American students.

Brief Program Description

The academic status of students is determined by their performance in the classroom. Thus the goal is to enhance the effectiveness of the one person who controls the classroom environment. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to determine the qualities and practices of teachers that attribute to the academic achievement of African-American high school students.

Summary

Educators and researchers have been concerned for decades about the ethnic disparities in academic achievement in American education. The emphasis on improving African-American education continues. With student learning outputs being used as a measurement of teacher quality, it seems reasonable to assess which teacher attributes have the greatest impact on the academic success of students. Despite the research that has been conducted on the quality and effectiveness of teachers being linked to student achievement, little research has explored the perspectives of the teachers in comparison to those of both high performing and low performing high school African-American students. Since students and teachers are the two individuals who actively participate and are at the core of the academic process, their perceptions are critical to improving the academic performance levels of these students. This qualitative research study looked at the phenomena of the teaching and learning of African-American high school students through the multiple perspectives of those who have experienced the phenomena: the teachers and both high performing and low performing high school African-American students. The teacher characteristics and practices that contribute to both the academic success experienced by high-performing students and the below average achievement experienced by low-performing students were examined. Using the collective case study method categorized by Stake (1995), the researcher conducted one-on-one semistructured interviews and focus group interviews to explore the teacher qualities that African-American students attribute to their motivation to learn and academic behavior. Their perceptions were also compared to those of their teachers. The findings in this study discovered that the academic achievement of African-American high school students is attributed to lesson engagement, teachers’ attitude towards students, and teacher expectations.

Evidence

This study was framed within the attribution theoretical framework initially developed by Heider (1958) and later expanded upon by Weiner (1985). Weiner’s attribution theory of achievement motivation was appropriate in this study because the beliefs of students were analyzed regarding the teacher qualities or practices they attributed to their academic performance. More specifically, in this research study, the causal attributions of high performing students, low performing students, and their teachers were compared to provide greater insight on the external factors that shaped the academic beliefs that African-American students have regarding their high or low academic performance. Research include the roles of teachers, teacher qualifications (years of experience and certification), teacher characteristics (perceptions and expectations), teacher practices (instructional practices and classroom environment), and student-teacher relationships. This qualitative case study research design was based on the constructivist paradigm in which truth and reality are relative to one’s perspective (Searle, 1995). Based on the views of the participants, their stories informed decisions regarding the teaching and learning process of African-American high school students. In this study, the researcher utilized Stake’s (1995) collective case study approach, which examines a particular problem, person, or practice at multiple sites in order to generally understand the issue. For this case study, the researcher examined the process of the teaching and learning of African-American high school students with boundaries that included the perceptions of only African-American seniors and their teachers in the context of their high school English classes. Selecting these participants was appropriate due to the fact that these students are preparing to enter colleges and careers. Their voices regarding the quality of their educational experiences can reveal effective instructional practices and teacher qualities that could potentially increase achievement among African-American high school students. Additionally, the analysis of the qualitative data gathered in this collected case study first described the themes from each case from the different sites and then combined the findings across cases. The thematic analysis, conducted by following Schwandt’s (2007) process, required reducing the data and drawing conclusions based on the interpretation of the data. This method was appropriate for this qualitative study for many reasons: (a) analysis consisted of sorting of data collected from interviews and organizing it into categories; (b) coding the segments of the transcription were done to find patterns; (c) comparing and interpreting the data gathered offered an in-depth understanding of the common experiences shared by participants; (d) and the qualitative research design involved interviews with subjects that captured their experiences and permitted the voice to be heard of individuals who lived the experience. The researcher began the recruiting process by contacting the school principals of two different high schools and scheduled an appointment to discuss the possibility of using their school site for the research study. The researcher explained the interest was to study the characteristics and behaviors of teachers that influence the academic performance of African-American high schools students. The researcher requested that the principal allow a letter to be distributed to potential participants based on purposeful sampling asking for their willingness to participate in the study.

Since purposeful sampling is selecting specific individuals based on their experience of the case under study (Creswell, 2012), letters requested participation from grade 12 English teachers, students who had a GPA of 3.0 or higher, and students who had achieved a GPA lower than a 2.0 according to a 4.0 grading scale. The letter introduced the researcher’s role as a doctoral student and high school principal who was interested in the various characteristics of teacher quality that impact the academic performance of African-American high school students. The researcher also explained to the principals that once two teachers per school had agreed to participate in the study, a recruitment packet that included a letter, parent consent form, and student assent form had to be distributed to all the students in each of their classes. Based on the returned signed parent consent and student assent forms, four students were identified based on the following criteria: two students who had at least a 3.0 GPA and two students with a GPA lower than 2.0. An additional four students were selected based on the same criteria for participation in focus group interviews, one group of 3.0 GPA and above students and one group with students who had a GPA below 2.0. The selection of students also included an equal representation of male and female. Also, indicated on the student assent form, the students had the option to identify a familiar adult to silently participate in the interview process. The silent adult was their parent or any staff member who was present during the interview to increase the comfort level of students. If a student identified a staff member to participate, then recruitment letters and familiar adult consent forms were distributed. The method for collecting data was in-depth interviews that included 30-minute one-on-one interviews and two student focus group interviews. In this study there were two small focus groups that represented the student participants. One focus group included five high performing students and the other had five low performing students. The site for this study was two high schools within a predominantly African-American school district in the Mid-Atlantic Region of the United States. The high schools selected for the research site represented the highest performing schools of African-American students in the northern and southern parts of the school district. Triangulation (Creswell, 2012) was used in this study to examine evidence and verify repeatability of perspectives from three different participants: high performing students, low performing students, and teachers. Member checking was also used to validate the data. Participants had the opportunity at the conclusion of the interview to review their responses to check accuracy.

Format

Poster Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Tracie Miller has been and educator for twenty-two years in Prince George’s County Public Schools. After graduating from Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Maryland, she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Howard University in Washington, D.C. After teaching for 6 years, she earned a Master’s of Science Degree in Curriculum and Instruction and Administration and Supervision. Dr. Miller’s classroom experiences included teaching grades Kindergarten through Sixth on the elementary level and English on the secondary level. She has also served as a resource teacher for four years in the areas of Math/Science Coordinator, Instructional Resource Teacher, Testing Coordinator, and Talented and Gifted Coordinator. Her first administrative position was being an Assistant Principal on the Elementary level for one year and then a High School Assistant Principal for five years. Dr. Miller has now been the Principal of Gwynn Park High School for the past six years and graduated with her doctoral degree from Howard University in Educational Leadership and Policy in May 2015.

Start Date

10-23-2016 10:00 AM

End Date

10-23-2016 11:00 AM

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Oct 23rd, 10:00 AM Oct 23rd, 11:00 AM

Teacher Qualities that Attribute to Academic Achievement of African-American High School Students

The academic status of students is determined by their performance in the classroom. Thus the goal is to enhance the effectiveness of the one person who controls the classroom environment. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to determine the qualities and practices of teachers that attribute to the academic achievement of African-American high school students.